RD National College chemistry professor Indu Shashtri doesn’t the like election time. Although she is not linked to politics, elections are stressful and full of nightmares for her.
Shashtri was one of the 60,000 teachers in the city selected for election duty on April 30. Her nightmare began on April 22, when she was pulled out of her paper correction duties at Mumbai University to attend training sessions for poll officers. She wasted her mornings waiting for the training sessions to start. Sessions scheduled for 9 am would start at 3 pm.
A day before the poll, the 50-year old asthma patient was made to wait in a makeshift ‘tent’ at a returning office in Jogeshwari for six hours to collect the EVM machine and stationery. No water, food or toilet facilities were provided. On the same day, she travelled to Goregaon to set up the poll booth she would be presiding. “I was asked to spend the night there, but I put my foot down.” Instead, she returned at 5 am the next day to take charge of her booth.
The election day which winds up at 5 pm for voters, ends at 2 in the night for poll officers, as these teachers await their turn to return their EVM and poll papers. On Monday, she will return to her paper correction duties.
Other teachers report similar complaints. Neha Israni, head of department (plastics engineering), Bhagubhai Mafatlal Polytechnic with her training centre at Rajdha High School, Borivili said that 1,400 teachers including her were made to sit on kindergarden (KG) benches made for children during training. “No heed was paid to the discomfiture and time wasted,” said Israni.
Moreover, the sessions did not prepare them for the polls. “During the training conducted at BPM School Borivili, we were not taught how to handle paperwork that is done at the poll booths,” said Savita Desai, lecturer at NM College.
Presiding officers have to fill 26 different forms. “In the five polling booths at Sai Baba Nagar, Borivili, there was chaos because we were not familiar with the forms,” she said.
What irked the teachers most was that they did not get to exercise their franchise. “We were not given any instructions to fill form 12(A) to request for the Election Duty Certificate,” said Desai.
Form 12 (A) allows presiding officers to vote at any poll.
But teachers don’t have a choice other than just grin and bear it poll after poll. “If you do not report for poll duty, your teaching posts will be suspended and you will be jailed, is how they threaten us teachers,” said a professor from MMK College.