A primary teachers’ union in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday claimed that 1,621 teachers assigned to polling duty during the panchayat elections have died of the coronavirus, reported The Hindu. The union has released a list of the deceased.

The Uttar Pradesh Prathmik Shikshak Sangh has demanded that a compensation of Rs 1 crore be given to the kin of the staff and teachers who died.

It also said that state Chief Secretary Rajendra Kumar Tiwari had assured them on May 1, a day before counting, that unwell teachers and staff would not be asked to be on polling duty. However, the union claimed, that the teachers and staff who were absent, because of falling ill, on counting and voting days were suspended or faced salary cuts.

The union demanded that the government should withdraw all punitive action against the teachers and staff absent on polling duty. It also demanded that all teachers, including the deceased, be declared “corona warriors”.

On April 29, the teachers’ body had come up with a list of 706 teachers and shiksha mitras (para-teachers) who died on election duty. The list was later tweeted by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

On Sunday, Uttar Pradesh Prathmik Shikshak Sangh president Dinesh Chandra claimed that many teachers and staff suffering from heart-related ailments died due to “tension” and heart attack.

Sharma also said that the district administration did not follow coronavirus safety protocols at the counting centres during the panchayat polls. “What’s worrying is that even after so much of loss of life, administrative officials in districts are harassing primary teachers,” he said.

The union chief said that basic education department teachers and staff are allowed to work from home, but in several districts such as Rae Bareli, Unnao, Banda, Lucknow, Basti and Hardoi, they have been assigned duty at Covid-19 control rooms at the cost of their safety.

The Uttar Pradesh government had announced a compensation of Rs 30 lakh to the families of each polling officer, including the teachers and shiksha mitras. However, the Allahabad High Court had asked the government on May 11 to consider increasing the amount to Rs 1 crore.

In a separate case, the Allahabad High Court had held that that the Election Commission, higher courts and the government failed to “fathom the disastrous consequences” of holding Assembly elections and the Uttar Pradesh panchayat polls amid the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.