Panaji: The much-talked-about move of the Election Commission to dispatch an all-women team of poll observers to Goa has met with accusations of sexism by young women, not to mention the curiosity of the international media. Some have even thrown in suggestions on how the officials can go ahead and have some fun.
Earlier this week, the Election Commission in its wisdom decided for the first time in its history to send an all women's team of poll observers to Goa for the March 3 polls, as male officials who were on duty last time around had hit the party hot spots in the fun-loving beach state instead of keeping tabs on electoral malpractices.
The Independent, a leading British newspaper, reported in a byline story that the poll panel had taken the decision to ensure that its poll officials do not fall to the "relaxed charms and sunny weather of the Indian state of Goa".
Says Andrew Buncombe in his 300-plus word story: "The relaxed charms and sunny weather of the Indian state of Goa lure people from around the world. Little wonder then, perhaps, that the country's male election officials are keen to put themselves forward for a little duty in the sun.
"Such has been the number of applications from officers ahead of the elections to the state's legislative assembly in March that senior officials have decided to take drastic action: by sending only women."
Shunning the shovel-loads of requests for a poll posting to Goa by male bureaucrats, the Election Commission had formed an all-women team of bureaucrats culled from Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Local election officials said the government had already arranged for accommodation for the women officials in several state and central government guest houses across the state.
"We have booked guest houses of the tourism department, forest department, PWD and even some central government agencies for them already," an official said.
Women who have visited the state regularly for vacations and fun trips, however, claim that to even believe that "only men can and women cannot" have fun in Goa was a sexist premise taken by the Election Commission.
"It's hilarious, if not completely stupid, of them to think that women cannot have fun in Goa. It is ridiculously sexist for the Election Commission to be thinking that way," says Ginelle D'Souza from Mumbai, a regular Goaphile.
Suhasini Raj, a Delhi-based independent journalist, another frequent visitor to Goa, says: "It most definitely comes from a sexist, conservative train of thought which doesn't believe in giving legitimacy to mixing business with pleasure."
Raj also offered a fun menu of "things to do" for the women poll observers during their poll stint in Goa.
"Chill on the beach with a drink of her choice in the evening. Go for a run on the beach, in two piece, if she is comfortable in it! Ride a bike across Goa, early mornings, and let her hair down in one of the beach side night clubs," says Raj.
"I think sending an all-women team to Goa reaffirms the fact that the fairer sex, as in other spheres of life, is perceived as and expected to, to be the beast of burden. To follow a certain decorum, a sense of propriety in keeping with her sex."