New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Saturday allowed the state election commission in Uttar Pradesh to hold counting of votes for rural polls scheduled for tomorrow after raising concerns over Covid surge and a petition from a teachers’ body that alleged 700 teachers had died while they were on duty during the four-phased elections in the state.
Assuring the top court, the poll commission said that a curfew will be imposed in areas near the counting centres and no victory rallies will be allowed in UP after the results are out. It also said that senior officials will ensure that Covid protocol is followed during the counting. Meanwhile, the SC directed the officials to save the CCTV footage of all the counting centres.
Citing the devastating Covid-19 surge in the state, the apex court had earlier asked the state poll body if it could delay the counting. “Despite the situation, you need to go ahead? Can you have it after two weeks so that the medical facilities can be improved?” the court said.
“You want to proceed despite all odds? Heavens will not fall if counting is deferred by three weeks,” the top court said in a sharp remark.
The UP Election Commission, however, told the court, “We have taken a decision to go ahead.”
“Teachers’ association has filed a petition, and they are unwilling to work. How do you handle the situation?” the court further asked, referring to the plea which mentioned 700 teaches died during the polling process.
At the beginning of the hearing, the state election commission had assured the top court that it will adhere to Covid protocol for the counting process. Oximeter tests will be done at the entrance of counting centres, no crowds will be allowed in and around the counting centres, centres will be sanitised after every shift, social distancing will be maintained and thermal checking will be done, it said.
Senior Advocate and Additional Solicitor General Aishwaya Bhati, who represented the UP state poll commission, told the court that there is a cap of 75 persons at each counting centre and there are 829 total counting centres.
“If something goes wrong, senior officers on duty will be held accountable,” the top court said.
It is to be mentioned that, polling for the four-phased panchayat elections in UP ended on Thursday. Results will be out tomorrow along with the state election results for Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry.
Opposition leaders have hit out at the Yogi Adityanath government over the death of teachers who were on poll duty. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra today slammed the state government in a series of tweets.
“These elections have been conducted in almost 60,000 gram sabhas of UP without any thought of the catastrophic onslaught of the second wave,” she said.
Over 700 teachers have died in Uttar Pradesh, including a pregnant lady who was forced to attend polling duty for the Panchayat elections.
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) May 1, 2021
“What is happening in UP is nothing less than a crime against humanity and the CEC is playing along,” the Congress leader alleged.
BSP chief Mayawati on Friday demanded that the state government provide financial support to dependents of employees who died due to coronavirus while on panchayat poll duty. “The government should provide proper financial help to dependent family members of all employees employees killed on poll duty and also give a government job to one of them,” she said in a tweet in Hindi.
1. कोरोना के बढ़ते प्रकोप के चलते यदि यू.पी. सरकार पंचायत चुनाव टाल देती, अर्थात् थोड़ा आगे बढ़ा देती तो यह उचित होता और फिर चुनाव डयूटी में लगे काफी कर्मचारियों की मृत्यु नहीं होती, जो अति-दुःखद। 1/2
— Mayawati (@Mayawati) April 30, 2021
Notably, country’s one of the populous states, Uttar Pradesh, is grappling with the unprecedented surge in Covid case, with a total caseload of 12.5 lakh. The state reported 34,372 cases in the last 24 hours. The state has the fourth highest number of cases in the country after Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka.
While, the country has hit a grim world record this morning with over 4.01 lakh cases reported in the last 24 hours.