The Panchayat Elections in Uttar Pradesh did not only bring some bad news for the BJP government in terms of results but also for many families whose earning members were deployed in the poll duty. It may be recalled that the State Election Commission had deployed many teachers on election duty amid the COVID-19 pandemic which allegedly included pregnant women. Many of them lost their lives to the deadly disease. According to reports, Kalyani Agrahari, 27, an assistant teacher, was 8 months pregnant and requested the administration to excuse her from poll duty. She was allegedly forced into it and succumbed to COVID-19. Now, the Uttar Pradesh Prathamik Shikshak Sangh and the state government are at loggerheads over the death toll.
On May 19, Under Secretary of the basic education department in Uttar Pradesh, Satya Prakash said that the District Magistrates had so far provided the State Election Commission with a list of only three confirmed deaths of teachers due to COVID-19 who were deployed in the election duty.
On the other hand, the Uttar Pradesh Prathamik Shikshak Sangh released a list of 1,621 primary school teachers and other staff claiming that they died after contracting Covid-19 while performing election duty between April 15-29 or counting between May 3-5. The teachers’ body also claimed that 425 education workers of the Secondary Education Department lost their lives, taking the toll to 2,046.
State president of the primary teachers’ association, Dinesh Chandra Sharma claimed that he had invited the state government to form a committee and verify the names. The state health minister Jai Pratap Singh not only dismissed the association’s claim but also refused to entertain the issue of teachers getting the fatal infection during poll duty.
The Uttar Pradesh Madhyamik Shikshak Sangh has asked the government to give a compensation of Rs 1 crore each besides government jobs to the dependents of the teachers who died after contracting COVID-19 during or after panchayat poll duties. The association also said that it will hold a protest on May 30 if their demands are not met.
The state government had recently submitted in the Allahabad High Court that it would give compensation to the tune of Rs 30 lakh to the family members of the deceased polling officers. This included teachers and shiksha mitras. The court ruled that the compensation amount is very less and asked the state government and the State Election Commission to consider increasing it to Rs 1 crore.
On May 24, Satish Dwivedi, Minister of Basic Education in Uttar Pradesh, announced that dependents of teachers who died of Covid-19 during poll duty will be given a government job. He said that the dependents will be accommodated as teachers in government primary schools as per their qualification even if there are not such posts vacant.
However, the amount of compensation and the number of deceased remains a bone of contention between the government and the teachers’ body.