Of the 3 lakh teachers, who were assigned poll duty during the Uttar Pradesh Panchayat polls, a total of 1,621 teachers had died of COVID-19 till May 16, 2021, said the Uttar Pradesh Prathamik Shiksha Sangh (UPPSS), a primary teachers' union.
UPPSS and other teachers' unions have been constantly updating the list of teachers who succumbed to COVID-19 after the panchayat elections. FactChecker also spoke to Uttar Pradesh Shikshak Mahasangh (UPSM) and Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh, Uttar Pradesh, (RSMUP), an RSS affiliate, and found that the number of such deaths has risen.
"Currently many teachers who went for election duties are fighting in the hospitals for their lives. RSMUP chief Virendra Mishra is one of them," Brijesh Shrivastava, regional media chief, RSMUP, told Factchecker.
By April 25, 135 teachers' deaths had been reported, according to data provided by UPPSS. On April 28, the death toll went up to 581 and on April 29 it was 706. According to the data provided by RSMUP, 100 more names were added to the list till May 1.
While a list dated May 17, compiled by RSMUP, pegs the number of deaths at 1,205, another list, dated May 16, compiled by UPPSS, claims it's 1,621.
"The numbers of deaths are expected to add up further in the upcoming days. Many teachers with chronic heart ailments have died owing to stress and panic of attending ballot count duties amid the pandemic," said Dinesh Chandra Sharma, UPSM and UPPSS chief.
FactChecker had recently drawn out a timeline to show the sequence of events that culminated into these deaths.
Recently, on May 11, the Allahabad High Courtobserved that the state must grant an ex-gratia compensation of at least Rs 1 crore to the families of these polling officers. The court also said the Rs 30 lakh compensation that the state had announced earlier on May 6 was too meagre.
"The HC has taken a strict stand so that the state government pays the compensation to the bereaved teachers' families. On May 17, the state government and the State Election Commission counsel told the HC that they will notify the court on May 22 about the steps they will take to grant the compensation amount to the families of the deceased teachers," said Amarendra Nath Singh, President of Allahabad HC Bar Association and counsel to the lawyers' body on issues related to COVID emergency in the state.
An officer on special duty to the State Election Commission declined to comment on the matter and calls to the Additional Election Commissioner went unanswered.
Teachers' unions said despite their repeated appeals regarding mandatory vaccination and postponement of ballot count, neither the state government nor the State Election Commission took cognizance of the crisis that culminated in the death of thousands of teachers.