Poll staff in quandary in South Kashmir

SRINAGAR: Uncertainty and fear loomed large in hundreds of government employees in south Kashmir’s Pulwama, Shopian, Anantnag and Kulgam districts as polling day approached. On Monday afternoon, most of the employees received messages on phones to report at designated places on Tuesday morning before their further deployment to the polling stations. However, in the backdrop of large scale violence on the polling day in Srinagar-Budgam constituency on Sunday, the employees and their families were indecisive on whether to report to the polling duty or boycott it.
“You are directed to report at food godown Lethpora on 11-04-2017 at 7 am for poll day duty,” a college employee read out the SMS to Kashmir Reader sent to him by district election officer, Pulwama. “How can we proceed to the venue in absence of transport when a complete shutdown is being observed in the area? Who will provide security to us when the anti-election people are going to dominate the streets?” asked Muhammad Ashraf, an employee from south Kashmir’s Tral area.
The situation that emerged in Srinagar-Budgam constituency on the poll day on Sunday has sent shivers down the spines of employees. They say that the south Kashmir region is more volatile with presence of militants, which poses a greater threat to the lives of common people, especially the polling staff.
Sources said that most of the presiding officers and sectoral officers did not report to the central offices. They were supposed to report to the respective district headquarters on Monday afternoon.
“The employees are in a quandary. This is the worst situation we have ever faced regarding the election duty,” Maqsood Ahmad, another employee said.
“The tension is writ large. Our families are not allowing us to move out. The best way out for the government is to cancel the elections,” he said.