The spurt in the SARS-CoV-2 cases in the state continues as the government continues to evade the possibility of community spread. With Chennai continuing to report more infections, the hometown returnees are contributing to the spike in other districts. Meanwhile, the state was shaken by the custodial death of a father and son in Thoothukudi district who were reportedly sexually tortured in custody leading to their deaths. NewsClick brings a roundup of the happenings in the state this week.
COVID-19: CHENNAI CLOSE TO 50,000 CASES
The state registered another new single day hike on June 26 with 3,645 positive cases, including imported cases. The complete lockdown is continuing in Chennai, Kancheepuram, Thiruvallur, Chengalpattu, Theni and Madurai. The total positive cases is 74,622 with 32,305 active cases. The number of positive cases in Chennai stands at 49,690.
The number of casualties in the state reached 957, with Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) accounting for 730 deaths. The reconciliation process of correcting the discrepancies in the number of deaths as per GCC records and health department are expected to be completed soon.
More than 2,300 cases have been registered in seven consecutive days, with two days recording more than 3,500 cases. The number of testing has increased with the state testing more than 10 lakh samples so far. However, as per experts, the government has failed to flatten the curve. In addition, several complaints have been raised on the insufficient facilities in quarantine facilities and even government hospitals. Read More
CUSTODIAL DEATHS CREATE UPROAR
The death of a father and son in jail after reportedly being tortured in custody by the police in Thoothukudi district has created an uproar in the state. Sixty-year-old Jayaraj and his son Bennicks were taken into police custody on June 19 for allegedly keeping their shop open after permissible hours during lockdown.
The Sathankulam Police had filed a first investigation report by 10 PM on June 19 and produced them before a magistrate at 2 AM on June 20. But they were lodged in the sub jail after almost 12 hours by 2.30 PM. Eye witnesses have claimed that the police vehicle seats were soaked with blood, after the police had reportedly inserted lathi in the rectum of the father and son.
The state government has rejected the accusations and claimed the cause of deaths were not due to police torture. But, two sub inspectors attached to the station have been suspended. The government has announced financial compensation for the family, but leader of Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, K Kanimozhi, who represents Thoothukudi Lok Sabha constituency has demanded an enquiry by the National Human Rights Commission.
CMRL TERMINATES FOUR WORKERS
The Chennai Metro Rail Corporation (CMRL) has terminated the services of four workers for participating in a protest in April 2019. The termination has taken place after the CMRL Employees Union had served a strike notice in January 2020 and the reconciliation talks have been stuck owing to the lockdown. But, the enquiry of four of the nine suspended employees were completed by May 26, 2020 and were informed about the termination through mail on June 4.
The state president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, A Soundarrajan in a tweet, sought the urgent intervention of the Chief Minister in the issue. He also accused the CMRL management of taking action against the advice of the Labour Department.
The termination of the employees, during the lockdown has come as a shock to the workers, who were opposing the privatisation moves of the administration.
NO PHYSICAL DISTANCING IN RELIEF DISTRIBUTION
The government of Tamil Nadu has announced a cash relief of Rs 1,000 to the residents of the districts where a second phase of lockdown was imposed. It was also announced that the cash will be handed over to the public distribution system card holders at their doorsteps.
But, the order exists only on paper and the public were asked to assemble in street corners and infront of fair price shops particularly in Chennai. The norms of physical distancing were flouted as the people rushed to collect their relief. The demand to deposit the amount in bank accounts to avoid mass gatherings went into deaf ears.
The government continues to expose the people to the infection, by implementing unplanned activities of relief distribution. The frequent visits of ministers to the COVID-19 speciality hospitals, fever testing camps have also come in for sharp criticism.
NO PERMISSION FOR HBL MANUFACTURING UNIT
The Madras High Court disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) with directions on seeking permission for the HLL Biotech Limited (HBL) to manufacture COVID-19 testing kits and develop a vaccine for COVID-19. The court also directed the government of India and the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) to consider the petition itself as a representation. The court granted the weeks time for additional representation if any needed to be made by the petitioner and the HBL to government of India and ICMR.
The Integrated Vaccine Complex has been demanding funds from the government of India to begin production with the sophisticated infrastructure available. The finance ministry has rejected a revised proposal for funds required to begin production, terming it as non-viable. The repeated administrative bottlenecks in getting the funds sanctioned has resulted in the organisation remaining idle.
The HBL was set up with the motto of self reliance in vaccine manufacturing, with an annual production of 585 million doses of Liquid Pentavalent vaccine, BCG vaccine, Rabies vaccine, Japanese Encephalitis vaccine, Hepatitis B vaccine and Measles (Rubella) vaccine.
Only after the COVID-19 spread intensified, the organisation was given orders to manufacture sanitisers and alcohol based disinfectants. Read More
SANITATION WORKERS DEMAND RELIEF
The sanitation workers of the GCC held a protest demanding the notification of the deaths of workers. The union claimed that nine workers of the corporation have succumbed to the viral infections so far.
The deaths of sanitation workers are included in the list of the general public resulting in the denial of the compensation announced by the state government. The Chennai Corporation Red Flag Union accused the corporation of hiding the deaths of the workers and denying compensation.
The state government has also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the workers testing positive. The corporation is being accused of not granting the relief as well as non-payment of wages to the contract workers unable to attend work due to hospitalisation and isolation. The workers demand relief and wages instead of words of praise. Read More
DECLASSIFICATION OF SANCTUARY IN VEDANTHANGAL FACE OPPOSITION
The famous Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary in Chengalpattu district is set to lose a huge area if the declassification proposal of the state Forest Department is approved. The department has written to the National Board of Wildlife to declassify the 5km radius around the main lake.
The proposal to reduce the buffer zone from 5km to 3km and declassify the 3-5km as eco sensitive zone is being opposed by both environmentalists and the local residents. The declassification could result in the loss of almost 60% of the area around the lake and would encourage industrial operations, alleged the environmentalists.
The residents in the region, in a survey conducted by the Tamil Nadu Science Forum, have called for the rejection of the proposal of the state Forest Department. Even though the sanctuary came into existence in 1998, companies including Sun Pharmaceuticals continue to function inside the sanctuary. Read More