As many as 1620 teachers and workers of the Basic Education Department of the Government of Uttar Pradesh died since the first week of April due to COVID-19, according to a teachers' union.
The teacher's body has said that 90 per cent of the teachers who died were on election duty for the panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh, reported The Indian Express.
"As many as 1620 teachers and workers of Basic Education Department have died since the first week of April till May 16 following the outbreak of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Dr Dinesh Chandra Sharma, president of the Uttar Pradesh Praathmik Shikshak Sangh.
The union also alleged that the teachers who were unable to perform their duties on voting and counting day due to illness, were suspended and their salaries were cut. This, despite the state chief secretary's assurance that unwell teachers would not be asked to be on polling duty.
However, Uttar Pradesh Minister of State for Basic education, Satish Chandra Dwivedi, denied the charges and said that only three teachers who were on polling duty died of COVID-19. He said the deaths could not be linked to the elections as the death they were technically not on election duty. "A death between the departure of polling party after taking the polling kit and deposition of items is considered a death during election duty," Dwivedi said, adding that the rest of the people who died might be doctors, police officers, traders, farmers etc.
Before the counting, the teachers on polling duty had announced to boycott the counting of the state panchayat polls. They had claimed that at least 700 teachers who were on election duty had died after testing positive of COVID-19, reported The Hindu
. The boycott was later called off after the state government assured them of their safety.