Patna: Following the death of over 760 school teachers, mostly contractual, due to COVID-19 infection in Bihar while performing duty at quarantine centres, COVID-19 care centres at railway stations, control rooms set up to help patients and community kitchen, the teachers’ organisations are demanding the state government that the teachers be declared as ‘Corona Warriors’, the term denoting frontline workers on COVID-19 duty. The teachers also allege that they haven’t received salaries for over three months, making it difficult for them to survive.
They have also demanded for Rs 4 lakh compensation for each affected, Rs 50 lakh health insurance, government job for one member of their family as well as family pension.
Bihar Rajya Prathmik Shikshak Sangh working president Manoj Kumar said that school teachers have been deployed at different places to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic leading to thousands being infected and over 760 have died after the lockdown last year. “The families of all school teachers who have died of COVID-19 infection should be given compensation amount, insurance amount, a government job and family pension,” he said.
Bihar's Opposition Mahagathbandhan, including Left parties' leaders, have also demanded the state government to provide compensation to the families of teachers who have died of COVID-19 infection.
Manoj Kumar added that their organisation will submit a detailed list of school teachers who have succumbed to the virus to the Education Department soon. “We have already received a list of teachers from over 20 districts and are in the process of acquiring the list from the remaining districts,” Kumar said.
Two days after Kumar’s statement criticising the government’s apathy towards the teachers on COVID-19 duty, he was invited by the Additional Chief Secretary of Education Department Sanjay Kumar to submit a list of the deceased teachers. “He (Sanjay Kumar), during our talks on Monday (May 24), assured to provide compensation amount to the families of those teachers who have died due to the infection and doctors have mentioned the reason of death as COVID-19 on a priority basis. He has informed us that compensation would also be provided to kin of teachers who have tested COVID-19 positive.”
Also read: COVID-19: Unpaid for Three Months, Bihar's School Teachers are Dying from Lack of Treatment
Kumar also said that the number of teachers succumbing to the virus have gone up exponentially in the last four days. “The number of dead won’t be less than 780 to 790 because several teachersWe will count all and will prepare a fresh list,” he told NewsClick.
However, Manoj added, that Sanjay Kumar was reportedly silent on other demands for kin of teachers, who have died of COVID-19 infection, including family pension, job, etc. “He only promised to look into them, which is an indication that they will not fulfill the demands,” another leader of the teachers’ organisation said.
The Shikshak Sangh in its press release said that the death of hundreds of school teachers due to COVID-19 infection is a serious matter but their families have been ignored and neglected, despite the fact that most of them are struggling for survival after losing the sole breadwinner of their family.
According to the Shikshak Sangh’s media in-charge Premchand, teachers are dying daily across the state. The number of teachers who have died due to COVID will increase in the state as reports reaching of their death continue. “We will have to update the list. Take for example, there was a list of 35 teachers’ death in Patna district that has crossed 40 now. There are similar reports from other districts,” he claimed
He also claimed that hundreds of COVID-19 positive teachers are either in quarantine in their homes or admitted in different hospitals. They are undergoing treatment and it will take days for them to recover.
There are more than five lakh school teachers including over three lakh contractual school teachers locally known as ‘Niyojit Shikshak’, who are facing a hard time during the ongoing lockdown.
“We are struggling for survival during the lockdown as most of us have not been paid for three months. Several teachers have been forced to knock on the doors of moneylenders or borrow money at high interest rates to purchase essential items like rice, flour, pulses, potatoes and medicines," said Ashok Kumar Singh, a teacher.
Indrabhushan Yadav, another teacher, said that the Chief Minister should order the Education Department to pay them. “How can one survive without money? And the salary is our main source of livelihood,” said the father of four children.