The rate of growth of COVID-19 cases remains stagnant in the state, with the 5 lakh mark set to be breached in a day. The number of casualties due to the virus is above 8,000 while the number of active cases is at 47,918.
The anti-Hindi imposition struggle of Dravidian parties is back to the fore with the three-language formula having few takers in the state. The tone for the upcoming assembly elections seems to have been set with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) effecting organisational restructuring while the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is rife with infighting.
Sanitation workers received a minor relief after a two-day long protest by the Chennai Corporation Red Flag Union on fair wages and permanent jobs. NewsClick brings you a round-up of the happenings across the state this week.
COVID-19: Cases Set to Breach the Five Lakh Mark
The number of new cases registered a marginal drop with COVID-19 cases remaning below the 5,800-mark over the last week; the total number cases is 4,91,571. Given the consistent number of over 5,000 fresh cases per day, the state could breach the five lakh mark on Sunday. The number of casualties increased to 8,231, with an increase of 574 casualties over the past week.
The number of cases in Chennai showed a marginal drop with less than 1,000 cases over the past seven consecutive days. The number of casualties in the corporation limits stands at 2,942 with 10,879 active cases and 1,46,593 total COVID-19 cases. Fifteen districts have recorded more than 10,000 cases and there is a steady rise being seen in Salem and Coimbatore.
DMK Gears up for Assembly Elections
The political scenario in the state took an unexpected turn due to the introduction of the three language policy in the National Education Policy (NEP). The two language formula of the state has received appreciation and the Dravidian movements’ issue with Hindi imposition has made a comeback. The fact that a joint commissioner alleged Hindi imposition played in favour of opposition parties. With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) waging a lone war in favour of the policy, the fight seems to be between the AIADMK and the principal opposition, the DMK.
An online campaign by the DMK against the formula has gathered momentum. The party has also effected organisational restructuring by selecting new office bearers, including a general secretary and treasurer. Veteran leaders Durai Murugan and T.R. Balu have been elected to the respective posts.
By elevating A.Raja and K.Ponmudi as deputy general secretaries, the party has attempted to balance regional and caste factors. The AIADMK continues to fight internal issues with the two factions – one led by CM Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) and the other by his deputy O. Panneerselvam (OPS) – continuing to lock horns. The nub of the matter seems to be an alliance with the BJP, with the OPS faction advocating in favour of it.
Sanitation Workers get Minor Relief
Sanitation workers affiliated with the Chennai Corporation Red Flag Union held a massive protest demanding fair wages and compensation. Sanitation workers from the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) have been fighting for a Rs 16,725 monthly wage as per a government order issued in 2017.
The workers are in the forefront of the fight against the pandemic, even as they continue to receive paltry wages. The ex-gratia announced for workers with COVID-19 are also not being paid, the workers alleged. A large portion of the workforce has remained temporary for several years.
The protesting workers were detained on September 7, but continued their sit-in protest till the next day. They were later invited for talks and the government has agreed to revise their daily wage and pay the amount agreed upon from April. The administration has agreed to consider other demands by them after the pandemic eases, following which the protest was withdrawn.
BHEL Employees Hold Protest
Employees of Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) protested for the restoration of shift timings, perk allowances and canteen facilities. The workers, affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), protested against the change in shift timings which the management has proposed. The move was seen as one to deny canteen facilities for the workers.
The workers alleged that the management has proposed the implementation of two shifts in such a way that canteen facilities can be denied. The perk allowances to the workers have been reduced by 50%, in addition to the freezing of dearness allowance announced by the union government.
PM-KISAN: Close to 12 Lakh Ineligible Beneficiaries
Even as the government claims to have identified 5.5 lakh ineligible beneficiaries in the Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) Yojana, farmers associations claimed a much higher number. The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) has alleged that the number could be as high as 12 lakh farmers across all districts in the state.
With the CM blaming the union government for implementing the self-registration method for the scam, the AIKS accused inaction of the state government on complaints of irregularities. Middlemen are said to have played a role in misleading the public by asking them to submit their Aadhar card and bank details to receive ‘corona money’ from the state and union governments.
The AIKS has demanded a detailed enquiry on the influence of local AIADMK and BJP functionaries in the scam, along with the role of officials from the agriculture department. Read More
Two more NEET Aspirants Die by Suicide
Two more aspirants of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) – Vignesh of Ariyalur district and Jothi Durga of Madurai district – ended their lives. Vignesh reportedly left his home in the early hours of the day and was found dead in a nearby well later. He had been preparing for the exam for the past two years and had been allotted a seat in a self-financed college in the last academic year. The family was unable to afford the fee, forcing him to attempt the examination again.
Durga, the daughter of a special sub-inspector of police, hanged to death in fear of the examination. In a reported suicide note, she had written that she was tired and worried about the hard work of her parents being wasted.
Political parties reiterated their demand for scrapping the examination permanently given the adverse psychological impacts on the aspirants. The state has been vociferous against NEET and recent incidents have supported their demands.
NCRB Data Says Farmer Suicides on the Rise
NCRB data revealed a six percent increase in farmer and farm labourers suicide in the state. A total of six farmers and 421 farm labourers, including 133 women, have committed suicide in 2019. The farm sector, reeling under a crisis, remains low on priority for the BJP-led government for the past six years. The electoral promises made by the party in 2014, where it said it would implement the M.S. Swaminathan commission report, remain only on paper.
Farmers associations are critical of the policies pursued by the Narendra Modi-led government, and cite it as the reason for the continuing distress of farmers. The lack of will to revise the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for produce continues to hurt farmers. The recent revision on Fair and Remunerative Price for sugarcane is cited by the farmers as the example of the unmindful approach of the government towards the farmers. Read More
NTA’s Entrance Exam Opposed
The state government continues to lock horns with the Centre by rejecting its proposal of conducting entrance exams by the National Testing Agency (NTA). In a letter to the Minister of Human Resource Development, the education minister claimed that such entrance exams would affect the prospects of rural students.
The state government has also constituted a 14-member committee to look into the core aspects of the NEP. The government also clarified its stand that it would continue with the two language policy. The committee is expected to submit a report within a years time with advice on the relevance of NEP in the state.