New Delhi: With members in Rajya Sabha expressing concern over deployment of teachers on poll duties, government on Friday assured that the matter will be conveyed to the Election Commission as part of the electoral reform process.
The assurance by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad came during a discussion on a private member bill, moved by Tiruchi Siva (DMK). Convinced by Prasad's assurance, Siva decided to withdraw the Constitution Amendment Bill 2015 (Amendment of article 324).
Earlier, the DMK member had made a passionate plea that teachers should not be enrolled for poll duty and asked the government to consider deploying unemployed youth for this purpose.
"Tiruchi Siva has articulated a very serious concern. I do appreciate his concern that teachers must be put to maximum use for teaching the students only...I want to assure that these concerns shall be conveyed to the Election Commission (EC)," Prasad said, while intervening in the debate.
Stating that holding polls was in the domain of the EC, he said the poll body "should do the best while upholding the majesty of free and fair elections" and hoped that the EC would take pro-active measures in this regard.
He assured that the views of DMK member will also be included in the all-party meeting on electoral reforms with the Election Commission. "We need to further improve the electoral system. These are in the pipeline," he said.
Prasad said that elections are not held in any state during the examination period.
Earlier replying to the debate, Minister of State for Law and Justice P P Chaudhary said teachers were being deployed for poll duties on holidays and non-teaching hours as per the directions of the Supreme Court.
Moreover, he said it was not only teachers, but officers from other departments, local authorities and government companies who are also enrolled for poll duties. "It is wrong to say that it is a wastage of time," Chaudhary said.
He noted that there were lakhs of polling booths across the country and hence "teachers alone are not enough" to conduct free and fair polls.
Stating that participating in the election process was a national duty and service, Chaudhary ruled out outsourcing this job to private parties.
He also suggested that "not only teachers, but students should also participate in the process of elections" for a healthy democratic process.
V. Vijaysai Reddy of YSR Congress supported Siva and said teachers should only teach and guide the young.
The bill got similar support from V. Thakur of the Congress.
"Teachers are being used as potatoes. As potatoes could be mixed with any vegetable. They too are being used for everything," she said.
The bill was supported by most MPs of opposition parties but was finally withdrawn after Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the DMK MP's concerns were "well-taken" and they would be addressed.