Election Commission to change question paper after 58% poll officers fail test
EC has assessed that the test itself may be faulty and excessive in its questioning approach and more focussed on rote learning of the laws, which lead to the high failure rate of polling staff.
ET has learnt that the ECI is set to issue fresh guidelines on the test design to course correct immediately and switch from school text like memorising to actual understanding of election laws.
Only 238 of the 561 officers who took the election test could clear it- raising concerns over the knowledge and preparedness of election staff ahead of assembly polls.
The officers were sub-divisional magistrates, additional DMs and revenue officers who had been trained in electoral laws and preparations in Bhopal prior to the August 18 test. While MP CEO V L Kantha Rao said that a retest would soon be conducted and officers were adequately trained to do well this time, the EC is looking beyond MP.
""We are concerned about the test results and we have studied the issue closely. It is assessed that while officers may need to prepare more, there are also concerns around the test design. It is felt that it is excessive in its questioning and in fact may not be testing officers on the areas they need to really be assessed. We will be issuing fresh guidelines soon on the test design and ask IIDEM and state CEOs to rework the poll test accordingly”, a senior EC official told ET.
There are also concerns about the 70% eligibility or pass mark set for the Madhya Pradesh test. “Why 70%? An election duty officer must be 90-95% or more, well versed with electoral procedure.
However, he may not memorise every single section of various electoral laws that apply in election period. He should, however, be able to cross reference and check the relevant laws to find exact applicability to situations that arise and must be assessed on the same”, the official added.
EC’s India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM) has formulated the test which is a fairly new entrant to the election process and is being delivered across poll bound states to check the readiness of polling staff to ensure fair and free elections.
The testing protocol is in keeping with EC’s increased focus on training of election staff especially with regard to EVMs and VVPATs which continue to come under sustained political attack.
It is also seen as necessary with several instances where laxity or error on part of polling staff may have led to situations that have sparked controversies and compelled EC to engage in much fire fighting.
Case in point, an instance in Bhind in Madhya Pradesh itself last year where negligence on part of polling staff led to a full scale political uproar over the EVM’s tamperability. More recently, bypolls in Bhandara and Gondiya were marred by alarmingly high VVPAT failure caused largely due to inadequately informed polling staff exposing the VVPAT to intense sunlight.