Tamil Nadu witnessed massive protests against the ruling AIADMK-government in the state and the BJP-led central government this week. Railway and insurance workers condemned the Union Budget's privatisation moves in their respective sectors.
Huge demonstrations were held by state government employees and anganwadi workers. They took to the streets against the All India Annatra Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government’s indifference over their long pending demands.
Parts of Coimbatore district were heated up over communal rows incited by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kalyanaraman. Muslim outfits took out rallies condemning his offensive statement on Prophet Mohammed. NewsClick brings you a round-up of the happenings in the state this week.
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES PROTEST
Thousands of government employees under the leadership of the Tamil Nadu Government Employees Association (TNGEA) began an indefinite road blockade protest on February 1 insisting on their long-pending demands.
Major demands of the employees include filling up of over 4.5 lakh vacancies in various departments, regularisation of around 3.5 lakh workers, withdrawal of action against 7,800 employees and resorting to the old pension scheme.
The TNGEA has resolved to continue the struggle until the government assures them their demands. Read More
ANGANWADI WORKERS PROTEST
More than 10,000 anganwadi workers and assistants staged a massive demonstration in Chennai on February 5 to be absorbed into the system as government employees.
After holding protests in various district capitals earlier this week, the workers hit the state capital demanding time-bound salaries, adequate pension, and retirement benefits. They submitted a 8-point charter memorandum to the Social Welfare Ministry secretary Madhumitha.
Speaking at the protest, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) state general secretary G. Sukumaran said, “Providing appreciation certificates for their frontline work during the lockdown is not going to satiate their hunger”.
The Anganwadi Workers’ Union secretary Daisy GS said that the workers have been submitting memorandums to respective ministers every three months, and thrice every month to officials, yet their demands have not been met.
RAILWAYS, INSURANCE AND ELECTRICITY WORKERS OPPOSE PRIVATISATION
Members of the Dakshin Railway Employees Union (DREU) and Southern Railway Mazdoor Union (SRMU) staged protests in Chennai against the Centre for its proposals to privatise freight corridors and railway routes on February 1.
The All India Insurance Employees Union (AIIEA) and DREU opposed the announcements made in the Budget 2021 for the public insurance companies.
The AIIEA has strongly opposed the increase of the Foreign Direct Investment cap from 49% to 74%. The decision to offer Initial Public Offer (IPO) for LIC has also created apprehensions among the employees and the policy holders.
The Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) workers' union observed a day's strike on February 3 against privatisation of the electricity sector. The strike was part of a nationwide boycott of work by staff working in the power sector against the central government's move to privatise the distribution of electricity as mentioned in the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
AIADMK'S ANXIETIES RISE WITH SASIKALA'S RETURN
V. K. Sasikala, former aide of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, is said to return to Chennai on February 7 following her release from prison on January 27 and discharge from hospital for Covid treatment.
She was expelled from the AIADMK after the death of Jayalalithaa and formed the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) to recapture the AIADMK. Now that she is released from prison after four years, and that too just a few months ahead of the Assembly polls, it has created a stir in the AIADMK.
Further, Sasikala’s car was spotted with the AIADMK flag on it, which has left the ruling party leaders angry. They have lodged a complaint with the Tamil Nadu Director General of Police on February 4 against expelled leader V K Sasikala for using the party’s flag.
AMMK general secretary and Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dinakaran claimed that there were many “chemical changes” taking place in poll-bound Tamil Nadu following the release of his aunt.
Meanwhile, the Jayalalithaa memorial at the Marina beach in Chennai was hurriedly inaugurated by the Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on January 27, the day of Sasikala’s release. However, it was shut citing pending construction work. Dinakaran said that the memorial has to be opened in the future and that Sasikala's visit to it cannot be stopped. Read More
BJP LEADER ARRESTED FOR INCITING VIOLENCE
The Coimbatore District Police arrested BJP State working committee member Kalyanaraman on February 1 for inciting violence through hate speech against the Islamic community. In an event on January 31, Kalyanaraman was seen questioning the manhood of Prophet Mohammad, a statement he has made in the past too, for which he was earlier arrested in 2016.
Enraged over the alleged insult to the Muslim community, Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) members marched to the venue, and began throwing stones and wooden logs. More than 25 workers of the SDPI were arrested on charges of disrupting a meeting organised by the BJP.
Over the next few days, Muslim outfits held protests in various district capitals condemning Kalyanaraman’s speech.
The Madras High Court while hearing another plea on February 5 took strong exception to Kalyanaraman’s speech and questioned how he could refer to an old court order passed in his case to insinuate as if the judge had endorsed his views on Prophet Mohammed.
COVID-19: VACCINATION DRIVE CONTINUES TO STUTTER
Tamil Nadu vaccinated 11,396 healthcare providers and frontline workers on February 5, against the day’s total capacity of 69,650.
After 20 days since the vaccination drive began, the state was able to vaccinate only 1.5 lakh people against the estimated capacity of 5.13 lakh workers. Aversion to the vaccination continues, and the frontline workers to whom the vaccination was extended (besides healthcare providers), are also hesitant.
Tamil Nadu’s daily COVID-19 registry went under 500 this week, with 489 new cases reported on February 5.
The state government has further eased the pandemic protocols and announced higher educational institutions to function for six days a week.
MEDICAL STUDENTS’ PROTEST SUCCESSFUL
On February 4, after nine weeks of protests, the government heeded the demands of Rajah Muthiah Medical College students. The government announced that the Rajah Muthiah Medical, Dental and Nursing Colleges in Cuddalore district will be paying tuition fee at par with other government medical colleges.
Over the weeks, RMMC students faced many hurdles as the college authorities indefinitely shut down the campus and restricted access to drinking water, sanitation and mess facilities. But, the students refused to step down, and have reaped the results of their efforts. Read More
Following RMMC students, Erode Government Medical College students sat in protest on February 5 with similar demands. The Erode College was also incorporated as a government institute, but continues to collect Rs 5 lakh tuition fee per annum, which is equivalent with private institutes. Under the leadership of the Students’ Federation of India, students held a demonstration demanding fee at par with government colleges.
UNIVERSITY IN JAYALALITHAA’S NAME FORMALISED
The State Assembly on February 5 passed a Bill in the Assembly for the establishment of a university in the name of former CM J Jayalalithaa. The university would come up in Villupuram and is said to begin functioning in the coming academic year.