Wednesday, July 23, 2008

RCC Election: Campaign for candidates new source of income for hundreds

Anwar Ali, Rajshahi

Canvassing for mayor and councilor candidates has become a source of income for hundreds of unemployed and poor youths, especially women, in Rajshahi city as they are being offered attractive figures for electioneering for the candidates.

The opportunity has come as a relief among the poor against the backdrop of skyrocketing prices of essentials, although purchasing votes or influencing election through spending money is a violation of the election code of conduct.

A good number of employees of Rajshahi City Corporation and some other government offices have also engaged themselves in the election campaign seeing a new source of income, even at times hampering their duties.

The demand for women workers is high as women have easier access than men to households.

Full-time workers are being paid Tk 100 to Tk 160 per day while part-time workers are getting Tk 30 to Tk 80, according to the workers.

Children are also being hired despite the fact that engaging children under 16 years of age is prohibited in the electoral law.

In some cases, a worker is electioneering for more than one candidate following crisis of workers, since this time as many as 281 persons, including 15 for the post of the mayor, are contesting in the election. There were not more than seven mayor candidates in previous RCC polls.

The candidates are hiring the workers for distributing leaflets, accompanying them while they go door-to-door to seek votes and for taking part in election processions.

"Allah blessed us as the election season came at last. We are now able to have three meals a day," said a female worker seeking anonymity.

She added that many poor people like her used to get donations from politicians during the regime of the political governments. "We are getting no money from the politicians since the state of emergency was declared."

Khatun's cousin said maximum candidates are offering a satisfactory figure, but some are paying them as low as Tk 30 to Tk 50 per day.

Rubel, a youth of Laxmipur area, said he has so far worked for three candidates.

"I got Tk 50 participating in a procession of Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul of BNP, Tk 60 distributing leaflets for AHM Khairuzzaman Liton and Tk 100 for campaigning for Raihanur Rahman of Progressive Development Party (PDP).

An employee of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) said many of them (RCC employees) are working full-time for Tk 150 per day. He informed maximum of RCC workers are working for acting mayor Rezaunnabi Dudu and Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul.

Another RCC official said the official activities are being hampered following absence of workers.

"Ahead of the elections, Dudu (Acting mayor) earned sympathy from employees by canceling a RCC plan for expelling some 300 employees from July that was essential for curtailing annual expenditure," said the official seeking anonymity.

Many workers are eager to work for him because of that move, he added.

The outgoing ward councilors, who are also contesting the poll, are also using RCC employees rampantly in campaigning for them, alleged several councilor aspirants.

They said some candidates are distributing donations among poor people and promising them jobs and other facilities provided they win the election.

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