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UP: Teachers’ demand for Covid relief intensifies, but govt insists only 3 deaths

The daughters said that their father, a head teacher at a local government school, had fallen sick from Covid-19 after doing poll duty, and demanded his death be considered as the one on poll duty.

Lucknow |
May 20, 2021 6:05:15 am
Uttar Pradesh, COVID-19, Uttar Pradesh coronavirus cases, Varanasi covid protocols, Sonbhadra Covid protocols, UP covid-19 cases, UP news, india news, indian expressDuring voting for the panchayat polls. (Express Photo)

On a day when the Basic Education Minister said that there only three teachers have died of Covid after doing panchayat poll duty, two girls had protested outside the residence of Badaun District Magistrate on Tuesday with the body of their father in an ambulance. The daughters said that their father, a head teacher at a local government school, had fallen sick from Covid-19 after doing poll duty, and demanded his death be considered as the one on poll duty.

Over a fortnight after the completion of panchayat polls in the state, the tussle between the teachers and the government over the death of those engaged in poll duty from Covid-19 has intensified.

While the teachers’ groups have claimed that over 1,600 teachers have died after getting infected by Covid-19 during panchayat poll duty, the government has been rejecting the claims.

The government maintains that death on poll duty will be only considered only when someone died or during their travel back home, and has cited the Election Commission guidelines. The teachers and employees, on the other hand, alleged that the government was purposely trying to turn a blind eye to avoid giving compensation as many were infected during training and poll duty.

“By citing three deaths, the government has not left any scope for discussion as it is clear that they are in a denial mode. The government is considering Covid-19 as some kind of cyanide – that one die as soon one gets infected by the virus. There are many teachers and employees, who were infected during the election duty and are still struggling to survive in hospitals. We have all the data. Even district officials have it,” said Hari Kishore Tiwari, president of Rajya Karamchari Sanyukt Parishad.

“Not just the teachers, all the employees’ association would stop work if the government continues with this attitude. We are the backbone of every government programme. If the government leaves us in the lurch during crises, then how can we continue?” he added.

According to him, in Jhansi district alone, the district election officer of Jhansi accepted 10 such deaths.

Meanwhile, the Opposition parties have also lashed out at the BJP government, accusing it of lying and being insensitive to the teachers’ woes.

“To avoid giving compensation, the ruthless BJP government in UP is now lying that only three teachers have died during election duty while the figures given by the teachers’ body is more than 1,000… The BJP government is creating a ‘world record of big lies’. How would the heartless BJP members realise the grief of these families?” SP chief and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said on Wednesday.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi alleged that the UP government did not provide proper treatment to the teachers first and was now also taking away their honour after death. She had earlier lashed out at the government for conducting panchayat elections amid the raging pandemic, saying that what is happening in the state is nothing less than a “crime against humanity” and the State Election Commission (SEC) is “playing along”.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi alleged that the UP government did not provide proper treatment to the teachers first and was now also taking away their honour after death. She had earlier lashed out at the government for conducting panchayat elections amid the raging pandemic, saying that what is happening in the state is nothing less than a “crime against humanity” and the State Election Commission (SEC) is “playing along”.

BSP chief Mayawati as well as Rashtriya Lok Dal have demanded a proper inquiry into these deaths and proper compensation for the families of those who lost their lives.

Rashtriya Lok Dal national general secretary Anil Dubey said, “The elections were conducted when the Pandemic Act was in place. Now, the government is rejecting the deaths, citing technical reasons that are not practical and unacceptable. The government should shun this attitude and support the dependents of teachers, employees and doctors, who performed their duties during the pandemic and died.”

Basic Education Minister Satish Dwivedi refuted the Opposition’s charge and said the figure of 1,621 deaths of teachers during poll duty was wrong.

“The deaths during a pandemic is a separate issue. While the claims being made of so many deaths during poll duty, over which even Opposition parties are doing politics is wrong and misleading,” the minister said, reiterating that only three teachers died during poll duty.

Meanwhile, in Badaun the children of the school teacher performed the last rites of their father after getting assurance from the district administration.

“My father’s name was Desh Pal Singh. He was head teacher at Government Primary School Palpur in Badaun and had performed poll duty on April 19 at Kadar Chawk polling booth. He started having a fever soon after he came back from poll duty. After his condition deteriorated, he was admitted to the district hospital on April 30… The hospital did not have proper equipment to give him oxygen. We then transferred him to a private hospital in Bareilly on May 14 and to Rohilkhand Covid care centre on May 17, but he succumbed to the disease on May 18,” said his 21-year-old daughter Jyoti Pal.

Badaun District Magistrate Deepa Ranjan said, “We are processing their application and their claims are being verified and they would be given due compensation as per the government norms and guidelines.”

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