The number of casualties due to the COVID-19 infections crossed 7,000 in Tamil Nadu this week, with more than 4 lakh positive cases. As the present lockdown comes to an end on August 31, the government is expected to announce further measures. The alliance between the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is running into cold water, after an escalation of war words. The opposition parties have opposed the holding of the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET) as the viral infection is continuing to spread in the state. NewsClick brings a round up of the happenings across the state this week.
COVID-19: CASUALTIES CROSS 7,000
The number of infections in the state crossed 4 lakh on August 27 and the casualties crossed 7,000 the next day. The total casualties stood at 7,050 with 52,506 active cases on August 28. The increase in death rate has become a challenge for the administration as the number of asymptomatic cases are reportedly increasing. Dr Kolandaswamy, former director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, has raised concerns over the possibilities of the vulnerable sections getting infected.
The number of fresh cases remained stagnant, while the infections in Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) have increased. The number of cases in Coimbatore has also witnessed a spike, while the cases in Madurai district has come down drastically.
The Member of Parliament representing Kanyakumari constituency, H Vasantha Kumar, who was under treatment from August 10 after contracting the infection, succumbed on August 28. His latest test results have reportedly turned negative. Read More
OPPOSITION TO CONDUCT OF NEET INCREASES
The move to conduct the NEET exam for undergraduate medical admissions has attracted sharp criticism from political parties and students’ organisations. The viral infection in the state is yet to die down, with almost 6,000 fresh cases everyday. The opposition parties, which have been demanding the abolition of NEET, have increased their pressure on the state government for cancelling the exams this year owing to the danger it poses to the student community.
The Tamil Nadu Minister for Health and Family Welfare has written to the Union Minister to cancel the NEET exams. The Students’ Federation of India held a protest against the conduct of the exam along with an online campaign.
The major political parties, with the exception of the BJP, have been advocating for exemption for the students of the state from NEET. Last week, a NEET aspirant from Coimbatore committed suicide. The number of NEET applications has also seen a drop this year.
ROW OVER FEE PAYMENT IN ANNA UNIVERSITY
Anna University has attracted criticism from the students for setting a deadline for paying fees for the current semester. The university has warned the students to be ready to face the removal of their names from the roll if the fee is not paid. The fee includes library fee, lab fee and internet fee, even while the classes are being held online. The students are insisting to immediately withdraw such fees and extend the time for payment of fee, considering the loss of income to their families owing to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.
The university is also being accused of withholding the results of students of affiliated colleges for not paying the exam fees. The exams of all students, except the final semester of all courses have been cancelled earlier. The students and staff could not reach the college due to lack of public transport in the state. The students have also demanded a cancellation of fee since the exams were cancelled.
AIADMK WILL LEAD THE ALLIANCE, SAYS EPS
The ruling alliance between the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and BJP seems to have run into cold weather as the war of words continues to escalate among the partners. The BJP leaders have been projecting the party as the leader of the alliance while Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) has rejected the claims. On Friday, August 28, the CM stated that the AIADMK will lead the alliance in spite of the partners in the alliance, which has been perceived as a message to the BJP leadership.
The BJP earlier in the month had tried to convince the government, although in vain, on revoking the ban on installation and procession of Ganesh idols. The state government cited the pandemic as the reason for the ban which was upheld by the Madras High Court.
Meanwhile, the factional fight within the AIADMK regarding who will lead the party in 2021 elections was also exposed. The ministers spoke about the need for a second capital for the state only for EPS to intervene and silence them. Read More
SOUTHERN RAILWAY EMPLOYEES FORCED TO APPLY LEAVE
The employees of the Southern Railways have been allegedly forced to submit leave for their absence during the lockdown period. More than 3,000 employees were stuck in different parts of the state and country since the announcement of lockdown was unplanned. The sealing of state borders, compulsory e-pass for travel to other districts and suspension of all public transport facilities left the employees with no choice to return to work.
Many of the employees have not received the salary for the months of June and July. The railway administration is functioning against the order of the Ministry of Personnel and Training which insists on considering the stranded employees to have joined duty on March 23. The Dakshin Railway Employees Union has referred to the master circular 10 of the Railways to sanction special casual leave for the employees. Read More
VEDANTA APPROACHES SC FOR REOPENING THOOTHUKUDI PLANT
The Vedanta group approached the Supreme Court (SC) on August 26 seeking permission to reopen the copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi. The move comes after the Madras High Court upheld the order of the state government and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) regarding the closure of the plant. The order for closure was issued only after 13 people died of police firing in a march against the plant in May 2018.
The Vedanta group managed to get an order from the National Green Tribunal (NGT), only to be cancelled by the SC. The case was transferred back to the Madras High Court which upheld the closure. The plant has been accused of rampant pollution of air, water and soil affecting several surrounding villages. Read More
CPI(M) DEMANDS RELIEF MEASURES FOR LOCKDOWN
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] held a week-long protest from August 20 to 26 demanding relief measures for the people for the lockdown period and against the anti-people policies of the BJP government. The CPI(M) members held protests in more than 10,000 centres across the state demanding cash relief of Rs 7,500 per month for the next six months to the families not paying income tax.
The other demands included the expansion of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to 200 days with increased wages. The party also demanded the distribution of food grains to all needy people. The party has also demanded the Modi government to withdraw all amendments made to the labour laws affecting the workers. See More