Tamil Nadu continued to witness a spike in SARS-CoV-2 infections this week as the 14,000 mark was breached on May 22. Chennai, the state capital, has a large proportion of the cases, with the number of COVID-19 cases in the city at 9,364. The demand for more testing has been insisted upon by medical experts and political parties.
A Rajya Sabha member from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) was arrested due to an inflammatory speech made in February. He was released on bail hours later. Migrant workers continue to suffer owing to the lesser number of trains in operation. The second anniversary of the Thoothukudi police killings was observed in the state. NewsClick brings a roundup of happenings in the state this week.
Spike in cases, 14,000 mark breached
The number of cases of COVID-19 in the state rose to 14,753 on May 22, with 786 new cases reported. The death toll in Tamil Nadu also increased to 98, with 27 persons succumbing to COVID-19. The state has been credited for its high recovery with 7,128 discharges so far, with 7,524 active cases. In spite of the increasing number of testing facilities, the number of tests continue to remain at around 13,000 per day.
According to reports, 17 doctors in the Stanley Medical College and Hospital, Chennai, have tested positive. The information has been labelled “false” by authorities from the state’s health department. Four guest workers in AAVIN, the government milk processing company, have also tested positive.
The increasing number of cases in Chennai continue to raise apprehension among the public and the government alike. The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) has reported 9,364 cases and 66 deaths. Experts believe that testing needs to be stepped up in the city to contain the spread of the infection.
Given the increase in the number of cases, the government has demanded that flight operations do not resume until May 31. On the other hand, the state government has decided to open more liquor outlets in the state, overlooking strong opposition from women’s organisations and opposition parties. Read More
DMK leader arrested
R.S. Bharathi, a Rajya Sabha member from the DMK and the organising secretary of the party, was arrested this morning. Hours later, he was granted interim bail till June 1, by a district sessions court. The arrest was made based on a complaint over a speech he made in an indoor meeting of the party’s youth wing in February. He reportedly made inflammatory remarks regarding the achievements of the DMK government on reservations for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes in the judiciary.
The Teynampet police registered a case against Bharathi under Section 3 of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Suffering of migrant workers continues
Migrant workers continue to suffer in the state as many of them are left with less options to return home. Their efforts to walk back or cycle to their home states have been faced with blockades from the Andhra Pradesh Police. The state administration wants their employers to request for transport arrangements while the employers want the workers to stay back. The non-payment of wages and lack of further government relief forced the workers to protest in many places across the state.
The migrant workers of a brick kiln who wanted to go home were brutally attacked by henchmen of the owner. More than 25 workers from Odisha conveyed the information to their government after which the Tiruvallur district administration took steps to save them.
Meanwhile, labourers from Tirunelveli, Hosur, Madurai and Chennai left for their native states in trains after days of suffering at their workplace. Read More
Second anniversary of Thoothkudi firing
The second anniversary of the Thoothukudi killings was observed on May 22 across the state. A total of 13 people were killed in the police firing that took place in the city between May 22 and May 23 in 2018. Twelve people were killed during a protest rally against Vedanta’s copper smelting plant in the city. Another person was shot dead the next day, while one person lost his life five months later after slipping into coma, after being injured in the police lathi-charge.
The state government was accused of taking the extrajudicial step of firing at the protesters. Leaders of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attracted severe criticism for justifying the police firing.
The copper plant had been facing facing strong opposition from the residents of the city due to complaints regarding air, water and soil pollution for almost two decades.
Communal venom during a pandemic
Right-wing forces have been spreading communal venom even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government of Tamil Nadu too played into their hands as repeated references were made to the Tablighi Jamaat conference. Members of the minority community accused the Union Government of targeting them for protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, National Register of Citizens and National Population Register. The AIADMK, a BJP ally, is also being accused of betraying the community.
Members of the muslim community even faced discrimination in hospitals as a result of the anti-Muslim propaganda by Sangh Parivar outfits. Read More
The right-wing forces also spread misinformation on electricity tariffs, saying they were higher for temples and comparatively low for churches and mosques. Twitter was flooded with images that compared the tariffs. However, the tariff is same for all places of worship in the state. Read More
Transgender community extends relief
Members of the transgender community, despite facing discrimination all their lives and even during the lockdown, have been extending help to vulnerable sections of society. The community is particularly affected by the nationwide lockdown as the majority depends purely on daily income to get by. As shops were closed and people were locked inside their homes, they had no income since March 24. Relief measures by the government and the contribution of Non-Governmental Organisations have helped them evade starvation.
However, they still extended relief to stranded migrant workers in parts of Chennai and sanitary workers in Puducherry. Forty members of eleven families from Andhra Pradesh and hundreds of sanitary workers in Puducherry got relief due to the efforts of the transgender community. Read More