The number of COVID-19 cases has dropped in Tamil Nadu, with a sharp dip registered across districts. Active cases are below the 20,000 mark, with patients increasingly being discharged. However, the state government’s decision to reopen schools on November 16 came in for criticism, following which a consultation has been called with parents on November 9.
Despite the pandemic, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) decided to continue with their Vetrivel Yatra on November 6. Its participants were detained in Tiruttani, leading to an altercation between the police and BJP cadres. The yatra is seen as a way to invoke religiosity ahead of the assembly elections in the state.
The sudden bans in certain states on the sale of firecrackers for Diwali has come as a blow to manufacturers and workers in the Sivakasi region, the firecracker hub of the country. The week also witnessed protests from farmers against the farm bills, while BSNL employees and contractual workers held a protest opposing the outsourcing of work. NewsClick brings you a round-up of the happenings across the state from the week gone by.
COVID-19: Daily Cases Below 2,500
The number of new COVID-19 cases continued to decline, with less than 3,000 cases per day over the last seven consecutive days. For a five days in a row – till November 6 – daily cases remained below 2,500. With 2,370 fresh cases on Friday, total infections increased to 7,39,147 in the state.
The number of active COVID-19 cases fell to 19,002, with 7,08,846 discharged patients, while the number of casualties increased to 11,299. The total number of infections in the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) region reached 2,03,685, with 3,706 casualties.
Active cases in the state have reduced by 44% over the fortnight ending on November 5, against a national average of 22%.
An ICMR survey conducted in Chennai found that around 33% of the people were wearing their masks correctly, hinting at another possible spike in cases.
After announcing the reopening of schools for students between classes nine and twelve on November 16, the state government has put the decision up for discussion. Opposition parties have opposed the decision and cited cases of students and teachers in Andhra Pradesh contracting the viral infection as a threat to safety.
Cinema halls are set to open on November 10, with fresh releases lined up for Diwali. The government has reiterated that standard operating procedures will be followed, with 50% occupancy among others.
BJP Violates Ban, Carries out Vetrivel Yatra
The BJP leadership in the state violated the ban on the Vetrivel Yatra and tried to take out a vehicle rally from Tiruttani in Tiruvallur district on November 6. L. Murugan, the BJP state president, and others were detained as soon as they tried to take out a rally in defiance of the ban.
An altercation ensued between the police and BJP cadres after the release of the detainees in the evening. A video showed BJP leaders and cadres manhandling police officers, including the Superintendent of Police. Cases have been filed against the participants in the rally.
The BJP has been trying to project itself ahead of the assembly elections. With no major record to its name to show itself as an alternative, the party has resorted to involving religious sentiments. The concluding date of the yatra – December 6 – was the day the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992.
The state government, led by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), had informed the Madras High Court that permission had been denied for the rally. However, the BJP leadership announced that it would defy the ban. Read More
Cracker Ban Shocks Workers
The ban on firecrackers by several states, including Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan and Delhi, has come as a major shock to the industry in the state. Governments have cited severe air pollution in the states along with restrictions in place due to the pandemic as reasons for the ban.
The timing was the problem. The announcements, barely a week before the festival of lights, have come as a shocker to the industry. Items were dispatched to different states, as is the norm during festival season. Buyers in these states have reportedly asked the sellers to take back the goods.
Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, Virudhunagar MP Manickam Tagore and leaders of Left parties have requested the states to withdraw the ban on crackers as it affected workers and manufacturers alike.
The Sivakasi region in Virudhunagar district accounts for 90% of the firecracker production in the country, employing several lakhs of workers. The untimely ban on crackers will result in the workers taking a serious hit.
BSNL Contract Workers Oppose Outsourcing
BSNL employees and workers held a protest at the Chief General Manager’s (CGM) office against the outsourcing of works and termination of contractual workers, on November 5. The BSNL management, as part ‘cost-cutting measures’ after being neglected by the Centre, is adopting outsourcing mechanisms.
More than 150 contractual workers in Cuddalore district have been retrenched due to the outsourcing of work. Workers who took out a protest rally were detained by the police.
The contractual workers have been unpaid for the past several months. They approached the Madras High Court which, in an interim order, instructed the payment of Rs 40,000 to each of the workers before November 9.
The outsourcing has led to a mass surrender of landline and broadband connections, alleged leaders of the union. The further reduction in the contractual workers, along with the already reduced strength of the permanent employees, could further affect the services of BSNL.
Talks held after the protest in Chennai brought minor relief as the administration conceded to the demand of retaining the same workers, even after the introduction of the outsourcing system. Read More
Farmers Protest Farm Laws
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) held protests across the state opposing the three Farm Laws passed by the Centre. The organisation accused the state government of pushing the Centre’s anti-farmer policies.
The protesters gathered in front of central government offices and raised slogans against the laws. The AIKSCC also said that it would hold road roko in 500 locations across the state on November 26, on the day of the all-India strike called by trade unions and farmers organisations.
The protesters demanded that the state government pass legislation against the laws, as done by governments in Punjab, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The organisation has demanded that minimum support price be fixed for produce, as done by the government of Kerala.
Workers Slam Bonus Cuts
The government of Tamil Nadu slashed the bonus paid to state public sector undertakings (PSU) employees by 50%. The announcement of a 10% bonus came as a rude shock to workers and trade unions, who have been demanding bonuses between 20% and 30%.
The government has cited the slump in the economy as the reason for the reduction in bonus. However, workers claimed that the bonus was due for the financial year ending March 2020, which had nothing to do with the pandemic.
Workers of the Rubber Plantation Corporation were demanding a 20% bonus along with 10% ex gratia for the pandemic, while the transport workers demanded a 25% bonus this year. The government had been paying a 20% bonus to employees of profit-making PSUs for the past several years, unilaterally, without holding talks with trade unions.
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has demanded the revision of bonus to 20%, along with equal bonuses to all workers of state PSUs. Read More
Electricity Board Workers Oppose Privatisation
Employees of the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) are taking to the streets against the privatisation of work. Changes are being carried out after the amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003.
The Joint Action Committee of Trade Unions in TANGEDCO alleged that the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) did not consult the state government on privatisation. Initially, three substations have been handed over to private firms, while the maintenance of the 300 km-long high-tension lines are set to be handed over to private players.
The privatisation of discoms have proven to be a failure, said union leaders, citing the examples of Maharashtra and Odisha. The appointment of retirees in existing vacancies and the untimely transfer of officers in upcoming projects were flayed by unions.
The unions also condemned the “anti-worker policies” of the CMD, who has refused to meet them since taking charge in June 2020. The CMD was also accused of cancelling the weekly meeting with unions to settle labour disputes. Read More