Class IV staff assigned on poll duty

It is normal for school and college teachers and government officials to be drafted in for election duty, but allegations have been levelled at the Election Commission for appointing fourth-class employees during the city polls.

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 17 April 2015, 08:07 AM
Updated : 17 April 2015, 08:59 AM

Formerly termed MLSS or Member of Lower Subordinate Staff, the class comprises of support staff like sweepers, night guards, ayah, peon and gardeners.

The principal of the Hazrat Shah Ali College in Mirpur said 11 of his ‘MLSS’ employees has been enlisted for deployment during the Apr 28 city polls in Dhaka.

However, those assistants are trying to get excused from the duty, saying they are 'barely literate'. They have allegedly told the commission in writing that they were incapable of delivering on the responsibility.

But the EC has refused to accept their applications.

"Neither the office of the returning officers nor the EC officials accepted our applications," said Shahjahan, one of those seeking to avoid poll duties.

But Principal Moyez Uddin wants their applications to be favourably considered. "These employees are barely literate and it will be difficult to use them for election duties," he said.

The panel of poll officials including presiding officers have already been finalised for the Apr 28 polls for Dhaka North and South and Chittagong city corporations.

A presiding officer and an assistant for him are assigned at each poll centre along with polling officers.

The presiding officers are tasked with managing the whole centre while two polling officers are assigned to every booth to avoid false voting.

They verify identities of voters and ensure proper casting of votes.

Training of the selected officials have already started.

The Election Commission is grooming them on how to use the voter list with pictures, identify the voter, use electoral equipment, keep stock of used and unused resources, scrutinise ballots, and deliver poll materials to the office of the returning officer.

Shah Ali Women’s College Principal Moyez Uddin said the 11 enlisted as polling officers are all Class IV personnel.

“We had given a list of 64 employees  of our institution including me as the EC wanted. They were appointed according to it. The problem is that lecturers have been made polling officers, so have been MLSS.”

The principal also raised question about why 11 of his teachers were left out. “How were 11 teachers exempted from the duty? They found 53 eligible and left 11 of their colleagues out?”

However, Dhaka North Returning Officer Md Shah Alam denied appointing the 11 MLSS personnel. “It is a baseless claim. Our list does not contain any MLSS. We could have appointed someone from below the second class, but no MLSS were selected.”

The EC official also said he received no such complaints. He went on to say that there are many groupings in private schools and colleges. “Why would the list contain MLSS when we would appoint teachers? There is no legal bar. If needed, I can always appoint them. Even masters graduates nowadays join as MLSS, have training on computers. They are good options.”

But an Election Commission document collected by bdnews24.com, which announces the appointments and alerts the selected officials listed for duty at Paikpara Government Primary School, shows ten Shah Ali College class IV employees in the list.

EC officials have said they keep 'some extra people' in the poll panels so that the returning officer face no problem in giving the appointments and that they are not final until the presiding officer receives signed declaration from those tasked.

Election Commissioner Abdul Mobarak confirmed to bdnews24.com: “The returning officer can appoint MLSS or any employee for poll duties. There is no legal bar.”

Law hands down six-month to a year’s prison term for anyone avoiding government duty without logical reasons. 

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher