UP panchayat elections: ‘706 teachers dead due to COVID; 2 million members of workers’ association to boycott vote-counting’

At least 706 government school teachers and other employees have died of coronavirus due to poll duties during the Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections, alleges the state-level teachers’ association. Workers’ association, including teachers, to boycott May 2 vote-counting exercise.

Shivani Gupta
| Updated: April 30th, 2021

The vote-counting is scheduled for May 2. Photo: Gaon Connection

Over two million members of the various workers’ associations, including teachers, in Uttar Pradesh have decided to boycott the May 2 vote-counting exercise for the recently concluded panchayat elections in the state.

Today, April 30, in a letter addressed to the election commissioner of the state election board, the Lucknow-based association — ‘Karamchari, Shikshak, Adhikari and Pensioners Adhikar Manch’, an umbrella organisation — said that the election commission had failed to protect the members of its association who were put in the election duty, many of whom got infected and hundreds even died.

Despite requests to postpone the panchayat elections and the vote-counting exercise, the same has not been acknowledged or accepted. Hence, over two million members of the association, including teachers, will boycott the May 2 counting exercise, reads the letter.

The four-phased panchayat elections in the state commenced on April 15, with the final phase on April 29. The counting of votes and declaration of results will take place on May 2.

Also Read: Teachers’ union threatens to boycott UP panchayat elections and vote-counting exercise

In its recent letter to the state election commission, the association has pointed out how on April 12, in another letter to the state election commission, it was pointed out how holding elections during a raging pandemic would risk the lives of workers and teachers. However, without vaccinating, these people were sent for the election duty.

As a result, many of them got infected and “thousands of workers and teachers have had an untimely death,” the letter alleges, a copy of which is with Gaon Connection. It goes on to say that despite workers getting infected, they are being sent for election training and counting duties, which is an open violation of “human rights”.

The association has not only demanded postponement of the May 2 vote-counting exercise but also Rs 50 lakh financial aid each for the families of those workers and teachers who died due to COVID in polling duty.

Also Read: UP Panchayat Elections – Villagers terrified city-dwellers will bring home votes and COVID-19

‘706 teachers died of COVID’

Meanwhile, yesterday on April 29, in another letter sent to the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the state election commission, Dinesh Chandra Sharma, president of the Uttar Pradeshiya Prathmik Shikshak Sangh, a state level teachers’ association, informed that at least 706 shikshak/karmchari (teachers/workers) had died in the state after allegedly contracting the coronavirus infection during training and panchayat poll duty this month.

In its letter, the teachers’ association too appealed to postpone the panchayat polls and also threatened to boycott the vote-counting scheduled for May 2.

“There has been no response from the state government so far. Over twenty lakh [two million] members of the workers’ association, including teachers, have decided to boycott the vote counting on May 2,” Dinesh Chandra Sharma, president of the Uttar Pradeshiya Prathmik Shikshak Sangh, told Gaon Connection.

The associations that have demanded the May 2 counting of votes to be deferred include Uttar Pradeshiya Prathmik Shikshak Sangh, Rajya Karmchari Sanyukt Parishad, Ministerial Collectorate Karmachari Sangh, Chaturth Shreni Karmchari Sangh, and Uttar Pradesh Rajya Karmchari Sangh.

Government dismisses allegations 

As per a news report, Minister of state (independent charge) for basic education, Satish Chandra Dwivedi has reacted to the allegation of teachers’ deaths 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?”

The minister reportedly went on to say: “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.”

Also Read: Allahabad High Court issues show-cause notice to UP State Election Commission on panchayat elections

Yesterday, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra demanded compensation of Rs 50 lakh [Rs 5 million] each for those who lost their lives in the UP panchayat polls.