The COVID-19 caseload in Tamil Nadu, and especially in Chennai, has risen at an unprecedented rate in the last week. The active caseload has increased from 8,340 on January 1 to 30,817 persons on January 7, putting a major strain on the health system. More than one-third of them – 11,307 persons – are from Chennai.
Given that the regional meteorological centre could not predict the 'red alert situation' of heavy rains in Chennai on December 30, TN Chief Minister MK Stalin wrote to the Union Home Minister Amit Shah to upgrade the technology.
The Tamil Nadu Assembly session was cut short to three days and adjourned sine die as the threat of the COVID-19 third wave looms large.
Meanwhile, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Lok Sabha MP S Ramalingam has moved the Madras High Court with a petition challenging the constitutional validity of the recent legislated Dam Safety Act, 2021 on the grounds that it “is contrary to the federal structure” and reduces the state’s power.
After scuttling the police for several days, the former All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) Minister Rajendra Balaji was arrested on January 5 in a case of misappropriating Rs 3 crore funds from state dairy cooperative Aavin, and has been remanded to 15-day judicial custody.
NewsClick brings you a roundup of the happenings this week.
COVID-19: CLUSTERS DETECTED
The daily log has increased more than six times from the first day of this year to January 7, going from 1,489 to 8,981. Half of the fresh infections were diagnosed in Chennai, which recorded 4,531 cases. Eight people also succumbed to the disease on January 7.
From January 6, night curfew was imposed across the state between 10 pm and 5 am on working days and complete lockdown on Sunday, January 9.
The state has traced many COVID-19 clusters, and among them, as many as 30 workers of popular retail chain Saravana stores in Chennai tested positive.
ASSEMBLY SESSION: GUV'S POWERS PROBED
The first Tamil Nadu assembly session of this year was cut short to three days and adjourned sine die due to the growing intensity of the pandemic.
During Governor RN Ravi’s first address to the Tamil Nadu Assembly on January 5, AIADMK MLAs staged a walkout targetting the ruling DMK. Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi members also walked out in protest against the Governor for not giving assent to the NEET Exemption Bill.
Over the next two-days, the dispersal of Rs 1,000 crore fund for the recent rain damages in Chennai, waiver of crop loans of 51,017 farmers in western districts, and other announcements were made.
Moreover, CM Stalin announced that a resolution would be adopted in the next budget session to transfer the authority to appoint vice-chancellors from the Governor to the state government.
STATE TO INTENSIFY FIGHT AGAINST NEET
Although in his address to the assembly on January 5, Governor R N Ravi said entrance exams like National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) create an unequal platform against rural students, he has not signed the bill passed by the state assembly opposing NEET.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin called for an all-party meeting on January 8 to discuss the next course of action on the state’s demand for exemption from the NEET. The BJP walked out of the meeting, stating that it was not provided with an opportunity to express views on the subject. Other parties have decided to intensify their measures.
The NEET issue has led to suicides, among which, on December 23, a minor girl from Nilgiris district ended her life after failing the exams.
2 BLASTS, 9 DEATHS IN 1 WEEK
The state encountered two firecracker unit blasts within a matter of four days which killed nine people in total.
Four people were killed and eight others injured in a blast at a firecracker unit near Sivakasi on January 1 morning. Afterwards, a blast at a firecracker unit near Sattur in Virudhunagar district on December 5 killed three people on the spot while two others passed away in the hospital.
AMMA CLINICS TO SHUT DOWN
The Tamil Nadu government has decided to shut down the Amma mini-clinics launched by the previous AIADMK government “due to their non-performance” as mentioned by state health minister Ma Subramanian on January 4. Subramanian also said that the 1,500 doctors employed in these clinics would be absorbed in other vacancies.
Former Chief Minister and AIADMK chief coordinator, O Panneerselvam in a statement on the same day said that the DMK's politics of vendetta was the main reason behind shutting down the Amma clinics, which were set up in honour of the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
‘COMPENSATE CROP DAMAGES’
Thousands of farmers and agricultural workers from the rain-affected districts in Tamil Nadu held a sit-in protest on January 5 demanding better compensation for crop damage. The police denied permission for the protests which were jointly announced by several organisations in the delta districts. Read more
On January 6, a large number of farmers besieged the Velampatti toll gate on Avinashipalayam-Avinashi Road in Tirupur alleging that it was built on an irrigation pond. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has laid the four-lane national highway and works are underway to collect toll in the locality.
BAR OWNERS AND TASMAC WORKERS PROTEST
Nearly 1,000 bar owners and workers of Tasmac liquor outlets gheraoed the official residence of V Senthil Balaji, Minister for Electricity, Prohibition and Excise on January 3. The protesters alleged irregularities in tender attached to Tasmac outlets.
Meanwhile, under the leadership of the Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), over a thousand workers have gone on a relay hunger strike in Chennai. Among them are more than 100 workers who lost jobs in Dongson, around 1000 who lost jobs in Foxconn and those who were not paid wages by Kishkinta amusement park.
PUBLIC MEETING OPPOSED
Residents of north Chennai and environmental activists urged the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to postpone the public hearing for Tangedco’s 660 MW Ennore Thermal Power Station (ETPS) expansion project in view of the rising COVID-19 cases. However, the government went ahead with the hearing anyway on January 6.
The Chennai District Collector in response asked high-risk populations like the elderly, unvaccinated youth, and others with co-morbidities to avoid the gathering.