Tamil Nadu celebrated the harvest festival Pongal this week. Rahul Gandhi attended the bull-taming sport ‘Jallikattu‘ event in Madurai. In Chennai, BJP president J.P. Nadda was present with party cadres and the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat performed ‘gau pooja’.
However, it was not a happy Pongal for all...
Heavy, unforeseen rainfall has damaged several hectares of crops in the Cauvery delta region. Farmers are demanding that the government compensates them for the loss. Farmers also marked their protest against the three new Farm Laws by burning their copies on Bhogi.
Protests against the government erupted in different sectors last week. Eight thousand sanitation workers were terminated from their jobs in Chennai and are demanding reinstatement. Retired mid-day meal and anganwadi workers held a massive protest in Chennai demanding a reasonable pension. Government nurses held protests across the state urging regularisation of jobs. NewsClick brings you a round-up of the happenings in the state this week.
FARMERS LOSE CROPS TO HEAVY RAINS
The heavy and un-seasonal rainfall this month has caused extensive damage to paddy crops in the Cauvery delta region. Rains caused severe waterlogging in crops which were on the verge of harvest in many places. Several thousand hectares of paddy was waterlogged in the districts of Tiruvarur, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Pudukkottai and Trichy.
The All India Kisan Sabha’s (AIKS), Tamil Nadu committee’s statement dated January 15 urged the government to “provide complete loan waivers for farmers affected by subsequent natural disasters,” and that “crop insurance amount should be provided in full and without delay”.
The union also demanded “the Government of Tamil Nadu to immediately order a survey of the affected regions and provide compensation of Rs. 30,000 per acre for paddy and adequate compensation for other crops”. The AIKS has planned to mobilise the affected farmers and submit memorandums to respective district collectors on January 20.
FARM LAWS SET ON FIRE
Under the AIKS’ leadership, farmers and the public burned the contentious Farm Laws to mark the Bhogi festival (the day before Pongal) on January 13. The day is celebrated by burning away unwanted and old things. In solidarity with the protesting farmers in Delhi and opposing the central government’s decision to privatise agriculture, the ‘unwanted’ laws were set on fire.
P. Shanmugam, Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association state general secretary, told NewsClick that “the laws were burned in 20,000 places all over Tamil Nadu; in public places and in households”. Read more
EIGHT THOUSAND SANITATION WORKERS LOSE THEIR JOBS
Eight thousand sanitation workers employed with the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) have been terminated from their jobs this week. The workers, employed under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM), were removed from work without any prior notice.
The GCC’s move to privatise sanitation work led to the workers’ termination. Of the 12,000 NULM workers with the corporation, only 4,000 were absorbed by new private firms. Those over 50 years of age, with diabetes and high blood pressure, were denied work in the private firms
Srinivasulu, general secretary of the Chennai Corporation Red Flag Union, who spoke to NewsClick, said, “We have held continuous protests all through the week and even met the District Collector and submitted a memorandum. We will continue pressurising the Corporation to reinstate terminated workers”. Read more
RETIRED MID-DAY MEAL AND ANGANWADI WORKERS PROTEST
Theekkathir reported that on January 11, retired mid-day meal and anganwadi workers held a massive protest in Chennai demanding a hike in their pension amount. At present the 1.5 lakh retired mid-meal and anganwadi workers in Tamil Nadu receive Rs. 2,000 as pension each month. They are demanding a minimum pension of Rs. 7,500.
Their other demands included dearness allowance, medical allowance, medical insurance, free bus pass, family pension, family welfare fund and emaciation expenses.
The general secretary of the Mid-Day Meal Workers’ Union, E. Mayamalai, said, “We held talks with the concerned minister in February 2020 and he agreed to provide a minimum pension of Rs 7,850. We have even sent five letters to the Chief Minister regarding the pension hike but there has been no progress. If the Tamil Nadu government does not resolve our demands, a sit-in protest will be held in the district capitals from February 16 onwards,” he said.
The organisation members met the Chief Minister’s Special Officer E. Saravanavelraj and submitted a memorandum with their demands.
GOVERNMENT NURSES ON CONTRACT DEMAND JOB REGULARISATION
An estimated 14,000 nurses recruited by the Tamil Nadu Medical Service Recruitment Board (TNMRB) held protests in various centres in the state on January 11. They protested in Chennai, Madurai, Erode, Tirunelveli, Trichy and Coimbatore seeking regularisation of jobs.
These nurses – recruited on contract basis in 2015 through the TNMRB – have been working in Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and were engaged for a consolidated pay of Rs 7,000 which should have been regularised after two years. The government doubled their salaries after the High Court’s directions in 2018, but regularisation is still pending.
The protesting nurses say that even years later they do not receive the benefits of regular staff members, nor a salary of Rs 40,000. They have protested on a number of occasions but the state government has not yet responded. Their association said that if their demands were not met, they would escalate the protest further.
GOVERNMENT ‘BETRAYS’ TRANSPORT WORKERS
The transport workers feel betrayed by the state government since administration is evading timely wage hikes. They have been urging the implementation of revised wages prior to the state assembly elections in May. Read more
RAHUL GANDHI, MOHAN BHAGWAT AND J.P. NADDA IN TAMIL NADU
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi attended Pongal celebrations in Avaniyapuram on January 14. He watched the sport of Jallikattu (bull-chasing) alongside Udhayanidhi Stalin, the youth-wing leader of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Congress and DMK, along with CPI(M) and CPI will form an alliance for the upcoming assembly elections.
On the same day, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat was present in Chennai reciting couplets from Thirukkural and performing ‘gau pooja’. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president J.P. Nadda was also in Chennai participating in the `Namma Ooru Pongal Vizha' (our city’s Pongal festival). He addressed BJP cadres and spoke in praise of the Prime Minister.
BJP CHANGES STANCE ON CM CANDIDATE AGAIN
On January 11, C.T. Ravi, BJP national general secretary in-charge of Tamil Nadu, said that any decision on the chief ministerial candidate for the assembly elections would be made by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). He also conceded that the AIADMK would be the major partner in the alliance and that the BJP accepts the name of Edappadi K. Palaniswami as their CM candidate. This was a U-turn on their earlier stand that the CM candidate for 2021 assembly polls will be announced by the NDA Co-Ordination Committee.
COVID-19: VACCINE TO COVER ONLY 20% OF STATE
Only 20% of Tamil Nadu’s population would be targeted for vaccination against COVID-19 this year, the Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan said in a presentation on January 9.
The COVID-19 vaccines are to be administered at 166 centres across the State from January 16. According to the guidelines, the vaccines will be administered in a phased manne – initially to healthcare workers in the first phase. Front-line workers from other departments such as the police would be identified and vaccinated later.
With assembly elections around the corner, the government has further eased pandemic protocols, allowing mass gatherings for entertainment and celebrations, like cinema halls and Jallikattu. It is a huge step backward in the state’s fight against COVID-19, belittling the work put in by front-line workers to contain the spread of the virus. Read more