‘Over 700 staff on poll duty in UP lost battle to Covid-19’: Teachers’ body

As per minister Satish Chandra Dwivedi, the basic education department has not done any specific audit on the number of teachers’ death on panchayat poll duty.
File photo: An oxygen cylinder being moved to the temporary Covid-19 care centre. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
File photo: An oxygen cylinder being moved to the temporary Covid-19 care centre. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Published on Apr 30, 2021 06:45 PM IST
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Claiming that over 700 primary, upper primary school government teachers and other employees succumbed to Covid-19 after training and panchayat poll duty across the state since April 12, Uttar Pradeshiya Prathmik Shikshak Sangh has demanded that the counting of votes slated for May 2 should be deferred for now. The four-phase panchayat elections in the state were held between April 15 and April 29.

In a letter to chief minister Yogi Adityanath and the state election commission (SEC) on April 29, teachers’ association president Dinesh Chandra Sharma mentioned the names of all teachers who died after they contracted the infection when called for training and election duty.

Minister of state (independent charge) for basic education, Satish Chandra Dwivedi was quick to react and said, “There’s no specific audit done by basic education department about the number of teachers’ death. It is wrong to say all those who were engaged in election duty died due to Covid. How do we know that teachers were not infected when they came for election duty? And how does anyone know that teachers, after returning from the election duty, got infected for some other reasons? It is also beyond any justification that teachers contracted infection during poll duty and succumbed to it.”

“Government teachers alone were not doing election duty. There were people from other departments too. We don’t have any data on how teachers got infected and I don’t know how teachers’ association leader has prepared that list of 700 teachers and staff who succumbed to Covid,” the minister added. He further said if Sharma had written a letter to chief minister Yogi Adityanath, it was up to the CM and the SEC to take a call on his demands.

Sharma also claimed that in the last 2 to 3 weeks, he sent several letters to the chief minister and SEC to defer the election as several lives were lost. The teachers’ union leader said a maximum of 33 teachers died in Azamgarh district, 31 in Gorakhpur, 25 in Prayagraj and 20 each in Lucknow and Lakhimpur Kheri districts. He said many of these lives could have been saved had the SEC taken note of his April 12 letter in which he pointed out that Covid protocol was not being followed during training.

The issue drew a lot of attention after Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav took to Twitter on Thursday demanding compensation of 50 lakh each for those who lost their lives in panchayat polls.

On Friday, Dwivedi criticised Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for her tweet on the issue. “You have a habit of deleting tweets on many occasions when they turn out to be wrong. You have done dirty politics on the basis of incorrect figures to scare people,” the minister tweeted.

In a string of tweets, Dwivedi said, “The global pandemic has engulfed the life of every section of the society. Both PM Narendra Modi and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath are leaving no stone unturned in fighting out the pandemic. Like every section, teachers are very important to us. We are committed to their safety.” The minister said it would be better if Priyanka Gandhi Vadra worried about Congress-ruled states like Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.

Lucknow primary school teacher Ramesh Kumar Yadav, 28, was among those who died battling Covid-19. He was among the 69,000 teachers who had got the job when fresh recruitments of assistant teachers were made recently. The wait for the job had been a long over two years as the matter had reached court. “My brother passed away without getting his first salary,” said his eldest brother Suresh Kumar.

Yadav was posted at primary school, Adampur, in Sultanpur in December last. As per his family, he contracted the infection during poll training and his condition worsened soon after election duty on April 19. Yadav had been eagerly looking forward to his first salary. He had plans to give a surprise gift to his wife, Nisha, who is inconsolable, as are his parents.

On April 22, primary and secondary government teachers jointly carried out an online campaign on Twitter #PostponeUPElection to air their grievances against the panchayat polls, alleging that many of their fellow teachers contracted Covid infection during training and poll duty.

With over 94K tweets, it was among the top trending hashtag as teachers from across the state participated in the campaign, urging the state government to call off the three-tier panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh.

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