June 06, 2021

UP: Panchayat polls: Death of 1,621 Teachers due to Covid

Madhu Garg

FORCED to be on duty during the Panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh, Kalyani, a teacher who was eight months pregnant, was killed by an arrogant administration that overlooked her pleas for a leave. Kalyani, a 27year-old woman from Jaunpur, was called for election duty on April 9 even though she was pregnant. Her husband Deepak submitted a leave application for her which was not accepted. She went for training on April 14, where it was announced that cases will be filed against those who do not attend their election duties. She went for election duty on April 15 despite being unwell as she feared losing her job. Her condition started deteriorating from April 17, oxygen level started dipping, and the rounds to the hospital that started then continued till her death on April 24. This is a gruesome murder by the Uttar Pradesh government and state election commission.

There are many such stories where teachers were forced to go for election duties, got infected by Coronavirus, and died due to non-availability of medical treatment. Lallan Kumar, and his wife Meena Kumari of Siddharthnagar were both school principals. Both went for training on April 11, and their condition started deteriorating from April 17. Lallan Ram underwent an antigen test, which came negative. However, his condition did not improve. On April 18, they went around hospitals in Gorakhpur, but could not get a bed due to his report being negative. On April 23, an RT PCR test was done, the report for which was to come after 48 hours. After a lot of struggle, a bed was found on April 24, however, he died on April 25.

After his death, the basic education department called and said if a case is filed for being absent on election duty, a clarification would have to be given. This is cruelty beyond imagination. His wife Meena was also infected and was admitted to a hospital in Siddharthnagar. Her condition deteriorated in the hospital which was in a poor state and died on May 4 without knowing that her husband had passed away.

These two stories tell the reality of the savagery committed in the name of panchayat polls. In these polls, the Yogi government deputed over two and a half lakh teachers. It was repeatedly requested by the primary teachers association that the elections should be postponed. Yogi government overlooked the pleas.

On April 28, UP primary teachers' association issued a list of 708 teachers who got Corona infections during the training and elections and demanded compensation for families of the deceased. They announced they would boycott the counting day. The association also knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court of India, but due to directions by the state government, state election commission and protocols, it was ordered that the counting be held. There were CCTV cameras at 829 counting centers, and instruction was not to allow more than 75 people. However, protocols were openly flouted during the counting as expected.

In the second week of May the association released a list of 1,621 teachers who died due to Covid contracted during the elections. The district-wise figures are: Azamgarh - 68, Gorakhpur- 50, Lakhimpur Kheri - 47, Raebareli - 43, Prayagraj - 46, Lucknow - 35, Unnao - 34, Ghazipur - 36, Barabanki - 34, and 25 more deaths in 23 other districts.

The insensitive Yogi government has not expressed any condolences for these deaths. According to government figures, the number of Covid deaths on election duty is just three. As per UP government rules, only those whose infection is discovered on the day of reporting, day of duty, and the next day (three days), and die due to covid, will be counted as covid death on election duty. Amid a lot of criticism, the government has talked about changing the rules. However, the experience so far says the government cannot be trusted for keeping its promise.

Allahabad High Court has instructed that one crore rupees compensation shall be given to kin of teachers who have died in election duty, but UP government has announced a compensation of Rs 30 lakh, which is very little. Teachers' association president, Dinesh Chandra Sharma said these teachers had donated Rs 76 crore in CM's relief fund. Those very families were destroyed for holding panchayat elections. The High Court order was used as an excuse to hold the elections, which is half true. The High Court had replied to a PIL.  The Uttar Pradesh government did not inform the court about the real situation of Covid. The government has taken decisions as per its own whims. They also ignored the High Court order on taking down the hoardings of CAA protesters. Following the High Court decision on lockdown, the government went to the Supreme Court, and despite Allahabad High Court's observation that the state is running by god's grace, they got a stay from the Supreme Court. Yogi Adityanath wanted to test his influence through these elections. However, they lost badly. This is not just a matter of death (murder) of 1,621 teachers, this is also a matter of ruining 1,621 families.