Lucknow: Even as the number of coronavirus positive cases continues to rise in Uttar Pradesh, the chorus for postponing the third phase of panchayat elections, scheduled for April 26, is getting louder. The state government has already imposed a weekend lockdown across state with varying degrees of stringency.
Most Opposition parties are also in favour of postponing the elections. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said holding elections during such a time would prove to be an additional burden on the people.
State government employees associations have also appealed to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to focus on fighting COVID-19 rather than deputing resources for the conduct of panchayat elections, calling for postponing the remaining phase.
Harikishor Tiwari, president of the State Employees Joint Council, said he discussed the situation with employees who have been deputed for the panchayat elections through video conferencing. After the meeting, it was decided to write a letter addressed to the Governor, Chief Minister and the State Election Commissioner, urging them not to hold elections amid the raging pandemic.
"Millions of people are infected with coronavirus and hundreds are dying. If someone dies of corona, the family members and relatives don't even attend the funeral. Many families are in mourning as they are unable to hold funerals. At such a time, by holding panchayat elections and putting our life at stake, the state government is doing is being irresponsible and insensitive," Tiwari told NewsClick, adding that employees posted for elections are scared of catching the infection during travel.
Tiwari further said that employees who are vaccinated should be deputed for election duty or all of them should be given vaccine double shots. They should also be provided with adequate safety kit, comprising PPE kit, gloves, mask, etc. The union said that if the government does not consider these demands even in such grave circumstances, they would be forced to hit the road and boycott the election.
Another state employee,Shiv Barana Yadav, said a large number of government employees were engaged in election-related work. In such a scenario, it is quite possible that COVID-19 would spread further. He, therefore, urged the State Election Commission (SEC) to consider postponing the panchayat elections till everyone is vaccinated.
"Daily reports of untimely and tragic deaths of personnel engaged in panchayat elections due to the infection are shaking the entire employee community. We are not even able to say goodbye to our colleagues," Yadav told NewsClick, adding that "the SEC must postpone this election till July-August."
The State Employees Association said if it was not feasible or practical to stop the election now, then at least some facilities should be provided to the personnel engaged in the remaining two phases of polling.
"A demand has been made before the government that all the employees engaged in election duty should be vaccinated at the election duty site for free proper medical treatment should be availed to any personnel infected during duty," the union stated.
The Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections 2021 will be conducted in four phases starting April 15. The results will be declared on May 2. The first phase was held on April 15, the second phase on April 19, the third will be held on April 26 and the fourth phase on April 29, while the votes will be counted on May 2, along with the Assembly election results of five states.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh's overall caseload stood at 8,79, 831 and the death count at 10,000 as on April 20, as per the state health department.
COVID PROTOCOL GOES FOR TOSS
The number of cases COVID-19 in the state capital, Lucknow, and other parts of state is soaring with every passing day. On Tuesday, Delhi recorded a staggering 5,100 cases forcing the authorities to impose a week-long lockdown. The number of cases has reached unprecedented levels, yet people can be seen flouting safety protocols and guidelines.
In the earlier phases of polling, voters at several booths were seen standing shoulder to shoulder in long queues with hardly a few wearing masks.
Read Also: COVID Surge: SC Stays HC Order Directing UP Govt to Impose Strict Curbs in 5 Cities
Social activist and Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey said the UP government was violating the Allahabad High Court’s order to impose lockdown in five districts. including Lucknow, Varanasi, Prayagraj (On Tuesday, the Supreme Court stayed the HC order).
“The government has engaged all its employees in panchayat elections, putting their lives at risk,” Pandey told Newsclick.
The Allahabad HC, while issuing the lockdown order on Monday, stated that “those in the helm if affairs of governance are to be blamed for the present chaotic health problems.”
However, on Tuesday, the Supreme Court stayed the HC order to impose a strict lockdown to curb the spread of the pandemic, observing that it may not be the “right approach.”