Treat teachers doing Covid work as ‘frontline warriors’: NHRC to Health Ministry

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to treat teachers, who are engaged in Covid duties, as “frontline Corona Warriors” in all the States and UTs, at par with other employees.

The ministry has also been directed to ensure that they get insurance and compensation equally at the earliest, and to release the amount of compensation and other service benefits to the deceased teachers at the earliest.

Acting on a petition filed by seasoned human rights activist and lawyer from Supreme Court on civil rights, Radhakanta Tripathy, the NHRC passed the order.

Citing certain examples across India, Tripathy contended that, the next of kin of Simanchal Satpathy, a deceased teacher from Ganjam district of Odisha, who died in the line of duty on 3rd July 2020, has not been paid any amount even after ten months of his death.

According to Tripathy’s petition, his parents committed suicide after coming to know of Simanchal Satpathy’s death. Rajkishore Satpathy and his wife Sulochana Satpathy of Narayanpursasan village under Kabisuryanagar police limits in Ganjam district were found dead after their 27-year-old teacher son passed away in a hospital in Bhubaneswar.

The state government had announced a compensation of 50 lakh for families of all frontline workers who die of the virus while deployed for COVID-19 duties, Tripathy claimed in his petition.

“In Dadra and Nagar Haveli, ten teachers have died of Covid. The Contractual Teachers Welfare Association of Dadra and Nagar Haveli ( DNH Union Territory) has demanded that teachers doing Covid-related work should be covered under a health and term insurance scheme. Since the deployment of teachers in Covid related duties, over 700 contractual teachers of government primary and upper primary schools in DNH for door-to-door surveys and other Covid work,” he said.

Universities like the Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, and Jamia Millia Islamia have seen the tragic, inter-generational loss of promising young teachers and veteran academics, read the petition.

For government school teachers, who have been deployed by states on several fronts to do crucial non-academic work, the pandemic brings more challenges, Tripathy said.

In the States where elections are held recently, Uttar Pradesh, for example, hundreds of teachers are estimated to have died of Covid-19 after allegedly contracting it while on duty in panchayat elections, he said.

Considering all of these facts and circumstances, the teachers engaged in Covid works must be treated as frontline Covid workers, Tripathy urged the NHRC.

Institutions like UNESCO and some state legislators had called for teachers to be treated as a priority group. The administration should give medical financial facilities to the teachers who are doing Covid work. Most of them are lone earning members in their families, Tripathy added in his petition.

The NHRC, in its order, stated that “this complaint be transmitted to the concerned authority for such action as deemed appropriate. The authority concerned is directed to take appropriate action within 8 weeks associating the complainant/victim and to inform him/her of the action taken in the matter.”

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