As the country gears up for the fourth phase of the nationwide lockdown, Tamil Nadu breached 10,000 count of COVID-19 cases on May 15. The state now has the second highest number of cases in the country, next to Maharashtra. Chennai accounts for 58% of the cases in the state with 5,946 positive cases. As the number of cases continues to increase, the number of sample tests has reduced during the week. The reopening of liquor shops after the Supreme Court stayed the Madras High Court order is set to increase the pandemonium.
The medical staff, fighting the pandemic at the frontline, is experiencing severe mental stress and trauma, with help barely trickling in from the government. The government’s move of diluting labour laws and increasing working hours from eight to 12 is facing stiff opposition from the trade unions.NewsClick brings a round-up of important developments in the state this week.
REDUCTION IN TESTS AS CASES INCREASE
The expert committee set up by the state government has recommended an increase in tests and phased relaxations during the fourth phase of the lockdown. But, in the last four days, the number of tests has been reduced to below 13,000 after a maximum of 14,195 tests a day on May 7. The majority of tests are done in Chennai, leaving other districts with limited testing facilities. Five districts, Coimbatore, Erode, Namakkal, Salem and Tirupur are COVID-19 free as on May 15.
The week also saw 31 people succumbing to the viral infection, with a 32-year-old male patient in Chennai being the youngest so far. The death toll in the state is 71 now. The state is set to witness a spur of cases in the coming week, said experts. As many relaxations have been made for industrial operations, many cities saw an increase in movement of vehicles and people stepping out in large numbers.
The liquor outlets have been reopened from May 16, as the Supreme Court has stayed the order of Madras High Court on closure of shops. The state government had appealed against the HC order and has now made fast and elaborate arrangements to open liquor shops. This may further increase the possibility of the virus spread in the days to come Read More
CITU PROTESTS AGAINST DILUTION OF LABOUR LAWS
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) members held protests across Tamil Nadu and Puducherry against the Union and several state governments’ decision of diluting labour laws during the pandemic. With the looming threat of codification of labour laws, the various governments seem to have exploited the pandemic crisis to crush the rights of the workers.
From increasing the working hours from eight to 12 to reduction in wages, the BJP and allies-ruled state governments have suspended laws in favour of the industries. The Tamil Nadu Industries Association has also demanded that the state government follow suit. The CITU held protests condemning the move of the central and state governments against the snatching of rights of workers in favour of the industrial giants.
MEDICAL WORKERS FACE MENTAL STRESS
Coupled with the lack of sufficient protective measures in COVID-19 wards, the medical workers of the state are facing stress and trauma. Being the frontline workers in the fight against the pandemic, the fear of exposure of their family members to the infection has put them under severe depression. The state government has decided to provide advice using technological platforms to the medical workers on quarantine, though after a long delay. Together with the mental stress, the social stigma is further affecting the medical workers. Read More
CONTRACT WORKERS RETRENCHED BY BSNL
As the whole country is fighting the pandemic, the BSNL has moved towards outsourcing major works, leading to retrenchment of contract workers. More than 220 workers in Tamil Nadu circle have been retrenched so far from different circles. The trade unions of BSNL also point to the increasing possibilities of corruption in the outsourcing process. The reasonable minimum wages and social welfare measures will come to an end with the introduction of outsourcing.
These contract workers were working to ensure the services of the BSNL were provided during the lockdown without wages for up to 13 months.
The Labour Ministry has advised the companies and organisations not to retrench workers or reduce wages during lockdown. But, the BSNL, despite being a public sector organisation, has violated the advisory. The Narendra Modi-led government has been framing policies in favour of private telecom players, leaving BSNL far behind. Read More
TWO NLC WORKERS DIE OF BLAST INJURIES
Two Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) India Limited workers died of injuries on May 12 from a boiler blast. One more worker is in critical condition while others are recovering. One of the deceased was a contract worker and the other was a regular employee. The Coal Ministry has announced a statutory and non statutory payment of Rs 15 lakh irrespective of the mode of appointment.
The kin of the deceased will also be offered permanent jobs in the organisation, the ministry announced. A committee has also been constituted to enquire into the accident of the 84 metre plant in the Thermal station II. The accident took place on May 7 injuring eight workers of whom six are contractual workers.
PUBLIC EXAM FOR CLASS X ANNOUNCED
The department of school education announced that the public exam for class X will be conducted between June 1 and 12. The announcement has come as a shock as the number of SARS-CoV-2 continues to spiral in the state. The opposition parties, teachers, students and youth organisations have asked the department to postpone the examinations.
The ministry has announced that enough measures will be taken to ensure safety of the students and teachers during the examination. The evaluation of answersheets of Class XII will begin from May 27. But, the Department of Higher Education is yet to announce the conduct of semester exams and reopening of next academic year.
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