I wondered how the district electoral officer found out about me for this duty. Also, I amused myself at the designation, micro-Observer, given to me, which appeared like the name of a bug or laboratory equipment. My senior was designated as Observer. I felt I should have been a Macro-Observer, for the sake of similar formatting.
"You are going to be the eyes and ears of the Election Commission", our trainers told us at the training. I understood that we were to keep vigil on the process of casting of votes at some polling stations and record our observations for the consumption of the Observer.
Over one hundred officers from different organizations had been called for training. However, all of them were not going to be deployed. The Election Commission had in mind some sensitive polling stations, with a history of disturbance, and was going to deploy us against these, announcing at the last moment which officer was going where.
In the evening before the polling day one hundred officers were picked and sent to polling stations. They were paid cash of rupees one thousand. The rest were kept as reserve. They were to report back at 6 am sharp in the morning.
I was placed in the reserve team. My hopes of being deployed were still alive. It was difficult reaching Greater Noida at 6 am from my residence in New Delhi. Some thirty officers had assembled. There was, however, no sign of any official from the electoral office to consider us for any emergent duty. We waited on and on. By 9 am it became clear that our services would not be required because the polling had already begun and progressed. We were now waiting to be relived officially. Past 11 am an officer came and marked our attendance. At 2 pm we were relieved.
An interesting aspect of this experience was to observe the conduct of the waiting officers. Initially, those from the same organization settled in groups discussing their internal matters. Those alone and coming from different offices got introduced to each other and formed their own groups. Later, however, everybody joined for a free-for-all exchange. Their discussions changed from topic to topic. Finally, it got focused on mismanagement by the administration in keeping them waiting and not paying any honorarium. The exasperation loomed large on their faces. When finally relieved, they vigorously shook hands with each other as if departing from longstanding friend.
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