india

Lactating mothers, pregnant women chosen for poll duty

Some complain that exemption denied citing shortage of personnel

Lactating mothers and pregnant women are exempted from COVID-19 vaccination. They are not to be deputed for Assembly election duty as well. But government orders in this regard are honoured more in the breach, claim some government staff.

A woman employee in the Animal Husbandry Department in a southern district, whose child is only seven months old, said on Sunday that senior officials had declined her request for exemption from election duty. She alleged that they forced her to attend the training session for poll officials. Another woman employee in the Revenue Department, who has a nine-month-old child and hails from a Malabar district, said she had a similar experience.

“We were told that the number of polling booths have gone up across the State in view of the pandemic. They said if government staff are exempted from poll duty on one pretext or the other, it would lead to a shortage of personnel. Since we have already attended the training session, we have no other way now than join election duty,” the women claimed. It is learnt that the staff in a vaccine production unit too have been marked for election duty. Though there are similar but isolated complaints from different parts of the State, these women are not willing to go public fearing official reprisal.

Work from home

According to a government order on February 2, pregnant women, lactating mothers with children aged less than one, cancer patients, and those about to undergo organ transplant can opt for ‘work from home’. The Disaster Management Department had on October 8, 2020, issued an order saying that they are exempted from directly appearing in the office.

The government has made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all those who will attend poll duty. “Lactating mothers and pregnant women cannot be vaccinated, but they are being chosen for election work. Isn’t there a contradiction? The poll process is supposed to be in line with the pandemic protocol and the voters who are lactating mothers and pregnant women are supposed to get special care. But similar attention is lacking when it comes to the government staff,” a senior Health Department official said. This is a violation of human rights and child rights, he added.

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