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Polls and schools exact high price

Teachers among rising Covid casualties in the country

Other than irreparable loss of lives, financial apathy also plagues families
Relatives perform last rites of Covid-19 victims

Basant Kumar Mohanty   |   New Delhi   |   Published 28.04.21, 02:21 AM

Teachers compelled to discharge their responsibilities from schools and complete assignments not related to their work are among the rising Covid casualties in the country.

Sachin Sharma, a contractual schoolteacher from Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, died of Covid-19 on Sunday, a week after he was discharged from election duty near Baraut for the ongoing panchayat polls.


“He was confined to home except for election duty. Since he came back from election duty, he took ill,” said Sachin’s wife Nitu Sharma. Nitu and his parents are now Covid-positive and are confined to separate rooms. Sachin’s four school-going children are helping with the household chores.

Like Sachin, 36 contractual teachers have died in the past 10 days after they completed the panchayat election duty in Uttar Pradesh, said Tribhuvan Singh, vice-president of the Uttar Pradesh Siksha Mitra Sangha.

Elections are being held for 58,176 panchayats in Uttar Pradesh in four phases and will end on Thursday.

The tragedy is by no means limited to Uttar Pradesh or contractual teachers. Sarvesh Kumar Aman, a physical education teacher in the Kendriya Vidyalaya in Dehradun, breathed his last on April 16 after being infected by Covid.

Aman had last gone to the school on April 12, the day he took ill, and could not recover. Aman is survived by his wife and two children. “He might have got the infection from the school. He did not go anywhere else,” a family member said.

Several schoolteachers employed in the central government-run Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) and Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) schools have died in the past one month after getting infected by Covid.

P.V. Chhikara, a teacher in KVS Bhatinda and general secretary of the KV Pragatisheel Shikshak Sangh, said he personally knew about the deaths of at least 14 Kendriya Vidyalaya teachers in three regions of Delhi, Varanasi and Dehradun. The KVS has 25 regions in the country.

Other than the irreparable loss of lives, financial apathy also plagues the families.

The monthly income of Sachin, the Uttar Pradesh contractual teacher who died, was Rs 10,000 for 11 months in a year. His earning as a Siksha Mitra (contractual teacher) was the sole source of income for the family.

Nitu, Sachin’s wife, said: “My children are small. There is no other source of earning. The government should come forward to help us.”

Tribhuvan, the Siksha Mitra association leader, said the contractual teachers were as such getting “too little” remuneration and were used for all kinds of government assignments linked to elections and the census apart from regular schoolwork.

The Uttar Pradesh government has a policy of providing compensation of Rs 50 lakh to officials deputed on election duty who die in a terror attack, explosion, firing or violence during booth rigging.

However, death due to Covid is not included in the list for providing this benefit. States like Rajasthan and Bihar have already included Covid deaths for payment of compensation of Rs 30 lakh.

“For compensation, the Rajasthan and Bihar governments have included coronavirus as a cause of death of officials on election duty. We are demanding the policy here. Till the policy is changed, all the teachers who have died on election duty should be paid Rs 50 lakh each and a member of their family should get a job,” Tribhuvan said.

An email sent to state election commissioner Manoj Kumar seeking the reasons for scheduling the panchayat elections when the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is surging across the country and whether any compensation would be given to the teachers failed to elicit any comment.

Kendriya Vidyalayas

Nearly 40,000 teachers of the KVS were coming to schools to take online classes from the school premises till last week. The teachers are also given admission duty and other official responsibilities.

The physical visit to schools exposed the teachers to infections and death, said P.V. Chhikara, the KV Pragatisheel Shikshak Sangh leader.

On April 23, the KVS authorities allowed the teachers to take online classes from home without leaving the station. But the teachers given admission duty will have to go to the schools.

A majority of the schools do not have staff quarters. The teachers stay outside and those on admission duty have to travel to the campus.

“We have urged the KVS authorities to postpone the ongoing admission process. There have been deaths of several teachers due to Covid. The admission can be started in June after the vacation,” Chhikara said.

He demanded that the teachers should be allowed to work from home at their native places.

Navodaya Vidyalayas

The situation in the NVS schools is worse, according to the teachers. As many as 650 NVS schools provide residential schooling to poor and talented students.

The summer vacation officially started last week. Till then, the teachers were going to school from their staff quarters to take online classes.

Even though vacation has started, the teachers have to stay on campus at almost half of the NVS schools where students of Class XII are still staying in hostels.

“Several hundred students have been infected by Covid. Many teachers have died in the last one month due to Covid. The teachers and staff have written to the NVS authorities to close schools and allow online classes from home. But there is no decision. We are staying on campus risking our health,” said a teacher.

Another NVS teacher said they do not get pension, unlike the KVS and state government school teachers.

Separate emails sent to KVS commissioner Nidhi Pandey and NVS commissioner Vinayak Garg last week to understand their perspective on the difficulties faced by teachers did not elicit a response till Tuesday.

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