[WSMDiscuss] Hey Ram ( Rajya) ! - Teachers as Cannon Fodder During Covid 19 ?
subhash.gatade at gmail.com
Thu Apr 29 12:27:04 CEST 2021
Hey Ram ( Rajya)!
Teachers as Cannon Fodder During Covid 19 ?
'*What was rather troubling was that despite the rapid surge in COVID-19
cases the government did not deem it even necessary to vaccinate the
teachers and Shiksha Mitras before involving them in the election
*“There is in every village a torch – the teacher; and an extinguisher –
the priest.” -*
*Victor Hugo *
Hugo, the great French writer and activist, had famously described the role
education or a teacher plays in a backward society, where education was
still a preserve of the few.
Perhaps we Indians can associate with it more since this has been a society
where education was denied to the vast majority of people for hundreds of
years just because they were born into so-called unclean families. How the
mere exposure to rudimentary education could transform someone like a
a girl born to one of the depressed caste families – challenges these
age-old denials with vehemence.
It can be said with a degree of certainty that Hugo would not have
envisaged a situation when the Priest himself assumes power or where a monk
himself becomes the ruler.
The biggest state within the Indian Union, namely Uttar Pradesh, with a
population of more than 200 million people, provides a glimpse of this
phenomenon unfolds in the field of education. The state is presently
governed by monk-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath; a man who till he
became Chief Minister was a member of Parliament and had the sole
experience of running a religious mutt.
Reports mention t
135 teachers and teaching assistants died owing to their duties in
Panchayat elections in the state. A teachers' association said how right
from the days of training teachers for election duty to the actual
elections, thousands of teachers and teaching assistants had contracted
COVID-19.The counting of votes for these elections will occur on May 2.
What was rather troubling was that despite the rapid surge in COVID-19
cases the government did not deem it even necessary to vaccinate the
teachers and Shiksha Mitras before involving them in the election process,
even making it compulsory for them to join election-related duties.
If a doctor, nurse, health-worker or police personnel could be included in
the list of front line workers, why did the government not include the
teachers and Shiksha Mitras in the list. They were dealing with students
and were also involved at different levels in other relief and outreach
work as well.
While the executive utterly failed to look into the grievances of the
teachers, the judiciary immediately took cognisance and even issued a notice
the UP State Election Commission (UPSEC), seeking an explanation on why it
failed to check non-compliance of COVID guidelines during multiple phases
of panchayat elections. It even asked why action should not be taken
against the state poll panel and its officials and why those responsible
for violations should not be prosecuted.
Anyone who has observed these elections – being held during second COVID-19
wave – could have seen for themselves the apathy and callousness shown by
the Election Commission Officials and the governmental machinery in
maintaining COVID-appropriate behaviour.
Questions are also being raised about the necessity of conducting panchayat
elections when the second wave was on the horizon and why they could not be
postponed indefinitely, something which would have relieved the state
machinery which diverted its attention from th pandemic.
This intransigence on the part of the rulers can be easily understood.
It was at a time when the state capital witnessed COVID-19 deaths for a
lack of Oxygen, ventilators and the unavailability of beds, where there was
a mismatch between official figures of patients who had died from the virus
and actual reports from cremation grounds.
Anu Singh (name changed), a teacher who works at a government school in
Varanasi, feels that she could be the 136th victim.
Her husband and son have tested positive for COVID-19 and she is the only
person attending to them while they are under home quarantine. However, she
has been asked to take care of election-related duties on May 2 when the
counting of votes is supposed to take place. She is worried that if she
contracts the virus there will be no one to take care of her family and has
formally written to higher authorites about her situation and sought
exemption from duty. However, she also knows that if the letter remained
unanswered and she would have report for work. Absence may lead to
She is not the only one worried.
Kusum Shukla (name changed) – another teacher from Jaunpur – was similarly
called in for election-related duties. She still cannot forget an earlier
experience when she and her colleagues were at a village booth when votes
were cast. Let alone COVID-appropriate behaviour, the police and other
officials did not deem it even necessary to disallow them from crowding
around the area.
While voting was over by 5 pm, it was not the end of their ordeal, much
more work needed to be done. When they reached home it was already 11.30
pm. For many of her colleagues from the minority community – who last ate
early morning due to Ramzan – hunger had set in and they could not even
break fast or drink water the entire day.
Anyone with a minimum sense of civic responsibility, concern about the
lives of common people or knowledge of how crowds of any nature become
super-spreaders for a virus, would raise questions about the timing of
The Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh (RSM), a national level outfit of primary
school teachers, has demanded compensation for the families of the teachers
to the tune of Rs 50 lakh per person and a government job to the
dependents. One does not know whether the government can make amends. The
chances are definitely remote.
The UP state government provides a compensation of Rs 50 lakh to officials
deputed to election duty who die in a terror attack, explosion, firing or
violence during booth rigging. It has yet to include COVID-19 as a reason
for compensation. States like Rajasthan and Bihar have already included
such deaths for a compensation of Rs 30 lakh.
What is rather disturbing that this phenomenon of 'collateral deaths' of
teachers while discharging duties during such times is not limited to Uttar
It seems that the phenomenon is an all-India level one.
reported deaths of many schoolteachers working with the Central Government
run Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) and Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS)
schools in the past one month due to COVID-19.
What has been noticed is that about 40,000 KVS teachers were coming in to
schools to take online classes from the school premises till last week.
Only after a surge in cases did the KVS authorities allowed teachers to
take online classes from home. For teachers deputed to admission duty and
other official responsibilities there was no escape from going to the
school and the possibility of being infected.
According to the report the “situation in the Navodaya Vidyalayas is
worse”. According to a rough estimate there are around 650 NVS schools in
the country which provide residential schooling to poor and talented
students and according to sources, not only have “several hundred students
been infected by COVID-19. Many teachers have died in the last one month
due to COVID."
One does not know whether the governments at the Centre and states would
look more sympathetically towards the issue. Whether they will understand
the gravity of the situation where an infected teacher could further infect
Deaths of teachers and Shiksha Mitras while on duty due to COVID-19 has to
become a cause for concern at the national level.
It is not only the loss of a human being which severely impacts their
family but also a tremendous loss to students, who, in most of cases, are
attached to their teachers.
Such deaths also impact – at least at the immediate level – the already
skewed teacher-student ratio in the country which is still far below that
in neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.It further
negatively impacts the dropout rate of students from schools.
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