Tamil Nadu dealt with the tragic passing of famed singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam on September 25 this week. SPB, as he was affectionately known, had tested positive for COVID-19 on August 5. The number of daily cases in the state remained stagnant over the past seven days with the total number of infections at 5,69,370 with 9,148 casualties so far.
Farmers organisations held road blockades at more than 300 places in the state against the Centre’s Farm Bills. Opposition parties are expected to hit the road again on September 28 to condemn Narendra Modi-led government. Political parties and members of parliament have demanded the dissolution of the cultural committee for a lack of representation from different cultural groups. NewsClick brings you a round-up of the happenings over the week.
COVID-19: An Unusual Stagnation in Cases
The state continues to report a stagnant number of fresh infections on a day-to-day basis, contrary to the trend witnessed in many countries. The number of new cases remained between 5,300 and 5,700 over the past seven days in a replica of data seen over the previous few weeks. The number of deaths remained low, with less than 70 casualties per day in the week.
The total number of COVID-19 cases rose to 5,69,370 with 9,148 casualties. The number of active cases is at 46,386, including isolated cases.
The number of new cases in the Greater Chennai Corporation(GCC) limits reached 1,60,926 with 10,000 active cases and 3,128 casualties. After a string of less than 1,000 fresh cases per day, the city reported more than 1,000 cases on two occasions during the week.
The state government announced the standard operating procedure for the re-opening of schools for students from class 10 to 12 from October 1. However, attending school is completely optional for the students, with 50% of the teachers having been instructed to attend work everyday.
Actor and founder leader of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), Vijayakanth, tested positive for COVID-19 and had been hospitalised with the party saying he had mild symptoms.
SPB Laid to Rest with State Honours
The state is mourning the death of legendary playback singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam. The six-time national award winner was laid to rest on September 26 with full state honours as per directions by the state government.
The 74-year-old singer was hospitalised on August 5 with mild COVID-19 symptoms and breathed on September 25. He was said to be recovering after having been on life support before his condition worsened on September 22. With around 40,000 songs to his credit, he has performed in 16 different languages. SPB, as he is called by his ardent fans and colleagues, received numerous state awards for his performances in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.
Aside from singing, he acted in several films and dubbed for famed actors including Rajinikanth, Kamal Hassan, Salman Khan and Girish Karnad. In a career which spanned 55 years, he sang for actors like M.G. Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan to present day actors. Read More
Speculation Mounts within AIADMK and AMMK
Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) leader TTV Dhinakaran trip to New Delhi, reportedly by a chartered flight, has given rise to speculation within the ruling party camp. Internal squabbles within the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) – between the Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) and O. Panner Selvam (OPS) factions – continues to gather steam ahead of the upcoming assembly elections.
V.K. Sasikala, the jailed former aide of late J.Jayalalithaa, is set to be released from jail in January 2021. A news channel reported that there have been talks between the AMMK and the OPS faction on a merger. Notably, OPS had revolted against the elevation of Sasikala as the general secretary of the AIADMK, even voting against the confidence motion moved by EPS. The AIADMK executive committee meeting is scheduled for September 28, further fanning speculation.
Opposition to Cultural Committee
Political parties in the state have raised their voice against the composition of the Cultural Committee constituted by the Centre. S. Venkatesan, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP from Madurai, was the first to oppose the committee in the house. He questioned whether “an India exists below the Vindhyas”.
“There are no South Indians, North East Indians, minorities, women or Dalits in this committee,” the writer said, adding that the committee could end up in erasing Tamil identity and demanded that the committee be dissolved.
The Chief Minister then wrote to the Centre on the lack of proper representation in the committee for various groups. The leader of opposition and president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), M.K. Stalin, followed suit in demanding the immediate reconstitution of the committee with appropriate representation.
Farmers Hit the Road Against Farm Bills
The state witnessed widespread protests against the Farm Bills which were passed in seeming hurry by the Centre. Farmers held road blockades at around 300 locations across the state and were detained by the police. Protesting farmers were joined by members of trade unions, youth, students and womens’ organisations.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee has called for a joint protest of different farmers organisations on September 25. The protesting farmers condemned the Centre for pushing bills hastily in Parliament, saying it was being done to favour corporates.
The non-commitment of the government in ensuring a Minimum Support Price (MSP) and procurement of farm produce by the government irked the farmers. Left parties also warned of food security being compromised and the government moving away from the public distribution system.
The farmers would have to live at the mercy of private players and the concept of land pooling will disrupt traditional agriculture practices, said leaders of the All India Kisan Sabha. Opposition parties in the state, led by the DMK, will hold protests across the state on September 28. Read More
PM Kisan Scam: 5.38 Lakh Ineligible Farmers Received Cash Benefits
On September 23, the Centre said that more than 5.38 lakh ineligible farmers from Tamil Nadu benefited from the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM KISAN) yojana. More than 50 persons, including government officials from the agriculture department, have been arrested in relation with the scam so far.
The union agriculture minister informed the Rajya Sabha that out of a total 5.95 lakh beneficiary accounts that had been verified, 5.38 lakh were ineligible. The minister added that around Rs 61 crores has been recovered. The Tamil Nadu agriculture secretary had earlier said that the total scam could amount to Rs 110 crores.
Farmers’ organisations leaders accused both the Centre and state governments of encouraging the local political leaders for intervening in enrolling beneficiaries. Read More
GCC Reappoints Workers
The GCC has begun reappointing the terminated sanitation workers after they submitted undertakings stating they had joined the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS). The corporation commissioner has been accused of supporting the BMS, with the Red Flag Union leading the struggle for fair wages for sanitation workers.
The corporation had terminated the services of 291 contract workers and suspended four permanent workers for taking part in the two-day protest from September 7.
After refusing to accept a memorandum from the workers on September 23, the corporation commissioner has agreed to reappoint the workers who have left the Red Flag Union. The workers have been fighting for permanent jobs with the GCC employing only 6,400 permanent workers out of a total workforce of 29,339 sanitation workers.
The contract workers continue to receive a daily wage of Rs 379 despite a government order from 2017 fixing the daily wage at Rs 624. Read More