FOR teachers looking to avoid election duty what better way than to produce a medical certificate terming them unfit. Of late, several doctors in the city admit to receiving such ‘unusual’ requests and being under pressure to sign sick leave certificates.
On condition of anonymity, several orthopaedic surgeons said not only during election duty, but also at the time of paper assessment, many teachers urge them to issue certificates advising rest. “Some people are genuinely not well even though they have undergone surgeries months ago. Travelling to far-off polling centres like Solapur becomes difficult for them,” an orthopaedic surgeon from Kalyaninagar said.
Among the major reasons for seeking sick leaves is lower back pain. “While the percentage of people with lower back pain is high, how is it possible for us to attest that they require a month’s leave?” said another orthopaedic surgeon, who said this often leads to arguments with patients.
Dr Nitin Bhagli, member of the managing committee of the Indian Medical Association, said patients had approached him too with requests for issuing medical certificates. “But I do not give certificates unless the person is genuinely ill,” he said.
Prof Hemlata More, president of Pune University Teachers’ Association, did not comment on the rise in leave applications, but said teachers have been put on poll duty despite a Supreme Court order.
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The SC had held that teachers cannot be asked to skip classes and undertake non-academic activities, like election duty and census work. According to the order, the teaching staff can be put on roll revision and election duty only during holidays and on non-teaching days. “We will meet polling officers in a day or two to seek clarification on training during duty hours,” said More.
Deputy Collector Sachin Kalantare said there is a requirement of approximately 40,000 polling staff. “If each returning officer (RO) has to deal with a staff of 2,000, he/she gets 40-50 leave applications,” he said.
The 21 ROs have been instructed to deal with such cases at their level. “Leave applications for medical reasons do increase ahead of elections, but many people also apply for leave for family functions,” added Kalantare.