Even as the countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 continues, the number of cases are on the rise across the country, with 411 positive cases in Tamil Nadu till Friday, April 3. Meanwhile, tea plantation workers and street vendors in the state have raised serious concerns about their livelihood and safety. NewsClick presents a round up these and other major happenings in the state this week.
COVID-19 CASES REACH 411, TESTS STILL LOW
The Tamil Nadu government on April 3, reported 102 new cases of COVID-19, taking the total number of positive cases to 411. Of the 411 total cases, 364 are linked to the Tablighi Jamaat conference in Delhi. As per the Tamil Nadu Health Department’s data on Friday, the state government has screened 2,10,538 passengers and has 1,580 suspected individuals isolated in hospitals. But, the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the lesser testing being carried out continues to be a worry. The medical staff in many hospitals still work only with the aprons and masks used for surgical processes, leaving them exposed to the threat.
Even though the government claims to have a testing capacity of 5,000 per day, the total tests held so far is less than 3,000. The government order for N95 masks and other necessary goods recently exposes the lack of urgency even after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in January. The lack of transparency, PPEs and tests still remain a handicap in the state.
STREET VENDORS’ LOSE LIVELIHOOD
The Trichy Corporation has banned street vendors from carrying on their business owing to the 21-day lockdown. Over 7,000 street vendors are not being able to sell essential items such as fruits and vegetables. There are more than 12,000 street vendors in Trichy and the local bodies have issued identity cards for only 5,000 people. The remaining 7,000 people cannot benefit from the additional Rs 1,000 relief fund announced by the Tamil Nadu government for registered street vendors. The vendors in Madurai are also facing the same fate as the regular weekly markets are closed down.
The vendors are trying to meet the officials to seek permission to run their shops. But they are being made to run from the Collector’s office to the corporation office since no officials are giving a concrete reply. The workers and the unions are demanding an increase in the relief measures and extension of relief to all the vendors irrespective of registration. Read more
TEA PLANTATION WORKERS FORCED TO WORK WITHOUT SAFETY EQUIPMENT Or RELIEF
Amid the lockdown, over 15,000 tea plantation workers in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore and Nilgiris districts are working without protective gear. The management of these factories have not ensured any preventive mechanism while the cases of COVID-19 are continuously increasing. Through a circular, the managements have declared that the workers are to ensure their safety themselves. The workers are not even provided with masks, gloves or sanitisers. These workers are not registered under any welfare boards and hence deprived of any additional relief measures announced.
The managements have also reportedly received affidavits from the workers stating that they are working voluntarily. Read more
HONOUR KILLING IN TAMIL NADU AMID LOCKDOWN
Even amid the lockdown, a 24-year-old youth from Morappanthangal village in Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu, who was trying to meet his wife after several months fell victim to suspected honour killing. He was allegedly murdered for marrying a girl from outside his caste. Despite both of them belonging to the other backward class (OBC) category, M Sudhakar belonged to the Oddar caste which is socially considered to be the lowest among the OBC groups. The girl from the Vanniyar community, a native of the nearby Ondikudisai hamlet, fell in love with Sudhakar and the couple was married six months ago.
Later, a local panchayat ruled their marriage to be null and forcefully separated the couple. Sudhakar, fearing for his life after being allegedly beaten up by the relatives of the woman, fled to Chennai. He took up construction work for his living. He had never visited the village since then until the lockdown. When the country shut down owing to the pandemic, Sudhakar returned to his village as he found it extremely difficult to meet his needs as the construction industry, too, came to a halt.
During his stay in the village, he reportedly attempted to meet his wife which infuriated the girl’s parents and relatives. The girl’s father, Moorthy (56) and his relative, Kadhiravan, allegedly attacked Sudhakar with iron rods till his death.
RIGHT-WING SUPPORTERS GIVE COMMUNAL COLOUR TO COVID-19
Tamil Nadu witnessed a huge spike in the number of cases after 364 people who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat conference in Delhi tested positive for COVID-19. However, the right-wing elements have taken this as an opportunity to accuse the minority community by releasing a venomous communal campaign on social media. Fake images and videos were widely shared of the members of the minority community refusing to take the mandatory test. Tweets claiming that the spread of COVID-19, is a part of a bio-war, was rampant. The right-wing groups have allegedly been propagating that COVID-19 is a man made virus and refer it as the Chinese virus.