PUDUKKOTTAI: Every election duty brings its own set of worries for government school/college teachers and government staff about which place they would be posted, how far it would be from their homes, and how the conditions would be. However, the pandemic has caused additional worry over safety and hygiene. Several officers were asked to report to duty on Monday 3 pm itself and had to stay overnight at respective booths. TNIE visited certain booths in Manganampatti, Kalabam, Alangudi, Karambakudi and Aranthangi and was witnessed to poor facilities and cramped spaces.
The small rooms which barely had place for four people to sit were the rooms were these officers had to sleep on Monday night. With the temperatures soaring, and Covid, officers say they spent a wistful night.
"The rooms weren't even cleaned properly. We came in the afternoon on Monday and had to first clean all the rooms. The machines were then brought in. We have two police officers, ITBP officers, and teachers, both male and female. This school where the booth is set up has just few big rooms. The 4 police & ITBP officers shared a room. The 3 male polling officers shared a room and the three female officers shared a room. It was an absolute nightmare. The rooms had no ventilation and the fans barely worked. Isn't the election commission supposed to make arrangements? Due to Covid, there is a constant fear in our minds about contracting the virus too," said a polling officer in a booth in Alangudi.
Another issue was transportation. "I have been posted more than 30 km away from my house. Our duty will get over post 11 pm probably. I don't know how I will go home. I don't have any vehicle with me. I will have to take a lift from someone, or stay here again tonight," said another polling officer.
Poorly Maintained Toilets
Sanitation for women, as always, remained a hassle. Even when this reporter visited the washrooms in few of the booths, the experience was far from pleasant.
For women officers on their periods, it was a nightmare.
"The condition of the toilets is deplorable. We had a hard time taking a shower in the morning. There is no facility for disposal of napkins and this is a problem faced in several booths. We expected the Election Commission to make better arrangements," said a woman officer.
With several people not wearing masks and maintaining social distance, officers had a tough time controlling voters. "The fear of Covid is dancing on our heads. We had to spend half the time making people wear their masks and maintain distance. Many wanted to take the gloves off as it was sticky. We also had Covid positive voters in the evening. We feel that was an unnecessary step and could have been done through postal ballots. We are risking our lives," said an officer.
Officers said that food isn't even an issue compared to the others and they have gotten used to bad food over the years.