Families of deceased UP teachers still waiting for ex-gratia payment

SabrangIndia speaks to families of primary teachers who died while carrying out panchayat election duties in Uttar Pradesh; the government is yet to disburse compensation money

UP Teachers
Santosh Kumar’s family is still awaiting financial aid from the UP government (Image courtesy: India Today)

Gorakhpur’s primary school teacher Vivek Prasad has resigned himself from expecting the Covid-compensation of Rs. 30 lakh from the Uttar Pradesh government anytime soon. For over four months, Vivek tried to have his father Keshav Prasad’s name included in the list of teachers who died during panchayat election duties amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, like 300 other families, Vivek was horrified to find his kin’s name missing from the July 13 list. The news added to the pressure of being the sole earner for a family of seven people after his father’s death on April 28, 2021.

“He [Keshav] was perfectly healthy at first. But after two days of election duties, he developed a fever and started coughing. We admitted him to the Garg Hospital on April 25,” Vivek tells SabrangIndia in a tired tone.

During elections, Vivek travelled for 40-45 km while Keshav travelled for 50-60 km every day to carry out his responsibilities as a presiding officer. Keshav worked from 8 AM to 2 PM, equipped with only a mask that he brought from home. At the hospital, the family was informed that Keshav’s oxygen level had plummeted to 26-28 percent. An RT-PCR report showed he was Covid-positive. Yet, to Vivek’s shock, the same report, for which he paid Rs. 1,200, was not given to him when he needed to submit his application for the government compensation.

“I paid the hospital fees. I saw them write 70 percent Covid-affected. But they did not give me the report. It’s required when applying for the government money,” says Vivek adding that the entire medical cost amounted to around Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 90,000.

The lack of a positive RT-PCR report was one of the prime reasons why people did not see their relatives’ names included in the government list detailing each Covid-death during election duty.

However, Keshav was the only teacher excluded from the list in his block. His son wrote multiple letters to the District Magistrate, sought help from the The Uttar Pradesh Primary teachers Association (UPPTA) and received no response.

“I have been waiting for a month now. My mother is ill. Two of my siblings are studying and nobody is listening to us. The government forced us to do election duty and put us in trouble. Even if I think of voicing my complaints now, I wonder who is listening,” he says.

In another part of Gorakhpur, Ajay Tiwari remembers his late brother and primary teacher Vinay Tiwari. The latter was proud of working at a government school in Jangl Tinkoniya village, says Ajay. Even when the Uttar Pradesh government declared election duty for teachers amidst a Covid-19 pandemic, he did not shy away from his responsibilities.

Remembering Vinay’s exact time of death, April 26, 2021 at 2:10 PM, Ajay says, “My brother must have worked for 36 hours during election time. He remained there relentlessly. He used to tell us that this is Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s own constituency. So, we should ensure that his image is not tarnished.”

Vinay’s family is also among those who are waiting for the government relief despite making the government list. The UPPTA noted during the latest state budget in August that the monetary relief was slotted for the families. Ajay’s account narrates the severe consequences of the delay for the families.

“Covid has ruined us. We don’t blame the government but we would’ve been grateful if the compensation would have come on time. We had to sell our land to pay our dues. My family is devastated,” says Ajay.

It may be mentioned that even the Allahabad High Court declared the government’s monetary relief of Rs. 30 lakh to be “very less”.

While Vinay’s home-quarantine saved the family from excessive medical expenses, the children are eagerly waiting for the government job guaranteed to the next of kin. For now, Vinay’s son works at a private company to take care of his ill mother.

While Tiwari’s family sticks together in Gorakhpur, two siblings in Amethi are left to fend for themselves. 22-year-old Rajvijay Yadav nowadays tries to run the house after his mother Vimlesh Yadav succumbed to Covid-19 on April 23.

Having learnt about the ex-gratia amount offered by the state government, Rajvijay ran around to submit the application form complete with a death certificate and RT-PCR report. He is still waiting for the money to help him and his sister survive.

“Our relatives give us food sometimes. I am still finishing my B.Sc. studies. I want to ask the government to give the compensation as soon as possible, especially the jobs guaranteed to kin. My mother died while doing election work. We need a means to survive,” he says.

Earlier, the UPPTA has demanded that dependents appearing for BTC, B.Ed, D.L. Ed, be given teachers’ posts while the rest are to be appointed as clerks.

Three days before Vimlesh’s demise, her son admitted her to the district hospital where doctors told her she had extremely low oxygen levels. She was shifted to an L2 hospital but never got sufficient oxygen.

Between chaperoning his mother and arranging for an oxygen pipeline, he spent around Rs. 1 lakh. He only received help from the UPPTA in all this. Previously, the organisation said that the government should employ the pre-April-1-2005 pension system for aggrieved families. Families of teachers who were 60 years or younger should get gratuity. Meanwhile, Rajvijay implores to the government to give him the compensation amount quickly.

While one son puts his faith in the administration, another son in Sitapur scoffs at the government machinery. Saurabh Varma still remembers when his mother Bina Varma went for an election briefing on April 14. At the time, she was already suffering from a disease that was first diagnosed to be typhoid then called pneumonia but showed all tell-tale Covid symptoms.

“Her oxygen level was 53 percent. This happens in case of Covid-19 not pneumonia. Her first RT-PCR came negative but after her meeting, we tried to get another test done. She died on April 15,” says Saurabh.

The family applied for the compensation but were informed that only those with a positive RT-PCR test could apply. Moreover, Bina’s work was to begin from April 28 but her son claimed that she was put to work right from the conclusion of the meeting.

“Even when she was ill, authorities told her she had to show them a Covid-positive test. Even for excusing herself from election duties she had to prove that she had Covid-19. Otherwise, she would have lost her job. What can we say? It’s on the government now, if they want to give us compensation,” says Saurabh.

Despite her committed work, she was hard-pressed to get a ventilator in the hospital. At the time, Lucknow hospitals were suffering from a severe dearth of such infrastructure.

The medical crisis cost the family at least Rs. 20,000. Saurabh’s father is a pensioner. Bina was the sole earner of the family. Although Saurabh has completed his B.Tech degree, he is currently studying for a job in the banking sector. He criticises the government for privatising every sector because of which he could not even find a job in his chosen field.

“At the end of the day, we all want jobs,” he says, in an even tone.

However, Tabassum’s husband Shahid’s voice falters as he counts every month since he lost his beloved. Living in Prayagraj, the couple lived without any other family members. Tabassum was the breadwinner, while Shahid made her tiffin every morning.

On April 15, after a day of election work, Tabassum said she suffered from nausea and vomiting. She developed a fever of 102 degrees and Shahid went to nearby doctors for a prescription to break the fever. On April 18, she died.

“Her health suddenly took a turn for the worse in the morning. I took her to three hospitals. They all refused to take her in. This was when Covid was at its peak. One hospital checked her oxygen level and told me it was 30 percent. But nobody took her in. They told me to show an RT-PCR report but nobody did the test,” says Shahid as his voice cracks remembering the day.

He rages against the government for persisting with the panchayat elections at the time. Shahid argues that his wife was committed to her job and her school and did not shirk her work. Yet, he only learnt about the government’s compensation scheme from newspapers and WhatsApp groups. When he tried to submit an application, he was told he couldn’t apply due to the lack of medical documents.

“We tried a lot to keep this election from happening. We went till the High Court. If the government had listened, these teachers would not have died. She would not have died,” says Shahid.


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