Following strong opposition from teachers, the electoral office has exempted those “who have been working as Booth-Level Officers for a long time and do not wish to continue anymore”.
A circular from the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) issued by Deputy Secretary Nitin Acharya on September 9 states that “those teachers and employees who have been doing Booth-Level Officer (BLO) work for a long time and do not wish to do it anymore can be replaced by other teacher or employee as per Election Commission’s rules depending upon their availability”.
The discretion on whom to exempt has been left to the District Electoral Officers, based on applications from teachers. The collectors of each district serve as District Electoral Officers.
Several complaints and representations were submitted by the Gujarat State Primary Teachers’ Association regarding the BLO work and the difficulties they face in using the mobile phone application launched on September 1 for the job.
“We received representations from teachers that many of them have been doing the BLO work for years and keeping their age in mind they should be exempted. So, we have issued this circular,” CEO S Murali Krishna said.
Besides, the teachers have also expressed their unwillingness to download the BLO app. “We have received complaints from teachers across the state that they do not wish to download the app and undertake the work on their personal mobile phones,” one such representation submitted by Digvijaysinh Jadeja, president of Gujarat State Primary Teachers’ Association, and secretary general Satishbhai Patel stated.
Pertaining to the teachers’ reservations about the app, the circular states, “At present, the BLOs are working under Electors Verification Programme (EVP). Under this, voters have to verify their details themselves and the BLOs just have to confirm if they (voters) have updated these details during their home visits. This way, the work of BLO would be easy.”
CEO Murali Krishna said, “There are various options for an electorate to update and verify their records. There are some 14,000 e-gram centres and 11,000 common service centres across the state apart from voter facilitation centres and the official website. Once the voters update their details, it will reflect in the BLO app which the officer has to confirm.’
The teachers, in their representation submitted to the CEO, also stated, “To achieve 100 per cent quality education, various programmes are arranged everyday. On top of that, for the BLO work, the teachers are asked to stay back after school hours which affects the quality of education. Since majority are female teachers, you can very well understand how difficult it gets to work after 5 pm in the rural areas.”
They also suggested that the CEO involve unemployed youths in the villages for the job. “There are so many graduate unemployed youth in the villages. I request you to involve them so that the education in schools does not suffer and at the same time the youth also get to do some job. In such cases, our teachers will guide them in the BLO work,” the representation suggested.
The issue was discussed at length during the meeting of the teachers’ association held in Gandhinagar on September 1 that went on for over six hours. After deliberations, the association passed an order for teachers not to download the app on their mobile phones to update voter details.