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Lost Loved Ones to Poll Duty: Kin of UP Teachers Struggle To Get Past Red Tapism

In the month of May, teachers' unions in the state compiled a consolidated list of 1,621 teachers who died on duty.

Published
India
3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Family of Brijesh Kumar Tripathi, a UP govt teacher, who died of Covid-19 in April 2021.</p></div>
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"My father was an assistant teacher and we are being offered a job as fourth class employees," Naveen Kumar (26), son of a government school teacher Tilakdhari Sharma (58) who died in May this year said.

Family claims Tilakdhari, who was posted as an assistant teacher at an upper primary school in UP's Chandauli district, was on duty during training, election and counting during panchayat elections conducted by the state election commission during the peak second COVID wave in April and May earlier this year. He died on 15 May, barely two weeks after results were declared.

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"They didn't care about anything except elections. They didn't bother to take note of age or any other problem. They were not even vaccinated and were told to go on duty under any circumstance. There is no value of human life."
Naveen

Tilakdhari's name surfaces in the list of 2,128 state government employees who were found eligible for compensation. "We were told we will receive compensation by the end of the first week of September. We will be satisfied if the government lives up to its promises," Naveen said.

While the compensation and job to the next of kin comes as a relief, the woes of the aggrieved families of the deceased teachers are far from over. Family of one such deceased teacher complains of red tapism in availing the job being offered. Brijesh Kumar Tripathi, in his mid 30s, posted as assistant teacher in Gorakhpur died of COVID-19 on 27 April this year.

"I changed my surname to 'Tripathi' from 'Shukla' after marriage. Now I am being told I will have to again change it to 'Shukla' to avail the job being offered. It is a known fact that women change their surnames after marriage. I don't know how I will manage with two small daughters to take care of."
Priyanka Tripathi, wife of Brijesh Kumar Tripathi
"Initially we were told a job of clerk would be offered. When we approached the concerned department, we were told there is no vacancy against the post of clerk. So eventually we thought about the Group D job. The entire process is now stuck over surname."
Vipin Bihari Shukla, father-in-law of Brijesh
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After Criticism, UP Govt Relaxed Norms to Acknowledge COVID Deaths on Duty

Teacher’s unions in the state were the ones to spearhead the agitation for relief and compensation of state government employees who died after they were infected with the virus during their election duty.

Court had also taken cognisance of the precarious condition and had asked the UP state election commission why it failed to check the non-compliance of COVID-19 guidelines during the polls.

In the month of May, teacher’s unions in the state compiled a consolidated list of 1,621 teachers who died on duty from each of the 80 districts of the state. The reports of the death of hundreds of teachers amid raging criticism over mishandling of the second wave of COVID-19 put the state government in a tough spot.

Despite claims of the teacher's union, the state government came up with an official figure of three deaths citing the state election commission report that death on-duty is counted only if it occurred during a time an employee left his/her house duty and returned back.

The official statement received severe pushback from the unions, which threatened a stir if the criteria was not changed. The state government, facing an election next year, conceded and changed the criteria on "compassionate grounds" to include names of employees who died within 30 days of their poll duty.

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The state government has released a fresh list of 2,128 state government employees who had died after being on panchayat poll duty.

In a letter, additional chief secretary Manoj Kumar Singh apprised that of the total Rs 633.75 crore compensation money, Rs 606 crore have been made available to the state election commission and arrangement is being made for the remaining Rs 27.75 crore.

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