UP Panchayat polls: Teachers threaten to boycott counting of votes on May 2 as COVID-19 cases rise

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Lucknow: In view of the surging cases of Covid-19 infections in Uttar Pradesh, the UP Teachers` Federation and workers` organisations have refused to be present during vote counting for the panchayat elections. The State Election Commissioner has been sent a letter as an ultimatum by the UP Teachers` Federation to postpone the counting of votes otherwise teachers and staff will boycott it. After this decision by the employees, there is trouble brewing over the counting of votes.

The teachers` federation alleged that from training to polling, the State Election Commission did not follow the requisite Covid-19 norms anywhere, which has made the situation more frightening. The federation has released a list claiming that nearly 706 teachers and staff engaged in election duty have lost their lives due to Covid-19 infection, with a large number of teachers still battling the disease.

There is no information about how many persons in the families of these Covid-hit teachers have been infected so the counting of votes to be held on May 2 should be halted.

According to the teachers` leaders, on April 12 the teachers` union had urged the State Election Commission to follow the requisite guidelines for protection against Covid-19 before the state local body elections, but no arrangements were made. Teachers and staff were sent on poll duty at the time of the pandemic without precautionary measures due to which a large number of teachers and staff were infected with the virus.

Harikishor Tiwari, President of State Employees` Joint Council; Kamlesh Mishra, President of State Employees Federation, Indira Bhawan, Jawahar Bhawan Employees Federation and State Employees Federation President, Satish Kumar Pandey, Class IV Employees Federation Chairman, Ramraj Dubey, including leaders of several organisations, said after virtual interaction on Friday that Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc in the state. Expressing anger at the state government`s “anti-teacher” approach, these teachers` bodies have decided to boycott vote counting for the panchayat elections on May 2.

The leaders say that the entire election process in the state was going on contrary to the Covid-19 guidelines so more and more teachers got infected during election duty. A large number of teachers and staff have died. Thousands of teachers and staff have been infected with the virus who are undergoing treatment and are in self-quarantine at their homes. Despite Covid, assigning them duty for the vote counting is putting their lives in danger. The meeting was moderated by the Council`s General Secretary, Shiv Baran Singh Yadav.

The Covid-19 protocols will be strictly followed during counting of votes at the district headquarters. On behalf of the State Election Commission, all District Magistrates have been instructed to strictly follow the 13-point guidelines for the counting of votes.

Local bodies have been asked to take special care of hygiene and the Health Department must maintain medical arrangements. S.K. Singh, Special Officer, has issued guidelines on behalf of the State Election Commission.

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