Andhra Pradesh High Court. Image Source: IANS News

Amaravati, Jan 21 : Andhra Pradesh High Court's green signal to conduct the rural local bodies elections drew an immediate response from the government employees associations, who highlighted that their lives are more important than the elections amid the Coronavirus pandemic on Thursday.

"Whatever be the judgment, it is our lives. The Governor should use his discretionary powers to temporarily postpone the elections. We have already said that there will be many judgments but the lives are ours," exhorted an employee.

Employees are demanding that they should all first receive the Covid vaccine than have elections.

"We also would like to tell the state election commissioner and the state government to sit together and discuss to be on the same page. Please wait until we get the vaccine, after that you can conduct the elections," he said.

He reminded that this is not the time for the government and the SEC to file cases against each other as employees are the ones who actually go into the field amid the pandemic to conduct the elections.

As these are panchayat elections, employees are reasoning that a whole host of departments have to work together, right from the village revenue assistant onwards, requiring a lot of back and forth on ballot papers, which could pose a risk to all the people involved in the process.

"These are unlike the Parliamentary elections. Every voter has to be touched. Political parties contact all their voters, striving for 100 per cent voting. Please note, how much inconvenience people will be subjected to? Can panchayat elections be conducted wearing PPE kits?" observed the employee, hinting at the pandemic conditions.

He reminded that many government employees are already busy in distributing and vaccinating the frontline warriors.

"Should we stop the vaccination. Even the Court said cooperation is needed. Please postpone the elections, we request the government to work towards it. We request the chief secretary, SEC and the governor as well," he said.

Likewise, another employee, representing the deputy collectors across the state demanded that the elections should be conducted only after vaccinating them.

"We heard that the judgment said both vaccination as well as conducting the elections is important. We are not against the elections. Since our lives are important to us, please give us vaccination first after that we are ready for the elections," said the employee.

He made it clear to the government that without vaccination they will not participate in election duties.

Incidentally, on Wednesday, representatives from the deputy collector employees association met with Governor Biswa Bhushan Harichandan over this issue to request him to use his discretionary powers.

He said that the SEC is unnecessarily going ahead with the elections, risking their lives.

Similarly, another employee representing the VRAs association clarified that no VRA is ready to take up election duties amid the pandemic.

"In a village, starting from protocol duty, all the work burden will be on VRAs. During panchayat elections, there will be cases of old people being brought to the polling booth by us," he said.

He said the government and the SEC have to rethink and postpone the elections.

Conduct of the rural local bodies' elections has emerged as a major bone of contention between the government and the State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar.

These elections were originally supposed to have been held in 2018 when the tenure of the local bodies expired back then but were not held.

However, Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy thought of going to the polls in March 2020 but Kumar did not give the green signal, citing the Coronavirus pandemic, leading to a major standoff between the two.

Reddy accused Kumar of acting at the behest of opposition leader Nara Chandrababu Naidu and even tried to replace him, which backfired as the SEC has Constitutional protection equal to a Supreme Court judge.

With just two more months left as the SEC, Kumar is keen on conducting the polls which the state government is opposing, citing the Coronavirus pandemic and the gigantic vaccination drive.

It remains to be seen what new developments will transpire as some stakeholders have already given feelers that the apex court will be approached to halt the elections. Eom/716 words

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