The Tamil Nadu government is exploring the continuation of the complete lockdown after the Chief Minister expressed his fears that the state is moving from stage 2 to stage 3 of COVID-19 transmission. With the total number of cases rising to 911 by April 10 evening, the disease and the lockdown has manifold impacts in the state. NewsClick brings a round up of the happenings across the state this week.
9 DEAD, 911 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES
The number of positive COVID-19 cases increased to 911 as 77 more people tested positive on Friday. With the CM admitting to the possibilities of the state entering stage 3 of the spread, the lockdown is set to be extended. Meanwhile, the government claimed to have ordered 40,000 rapid test kits and said that it has enough personal protection equipment (PPE). But, with five doctors having tested positive, the claims seem to be highly exaggerated. The continuation of lesser testing and lack of transparency remain a reason for concern. As such health workers, civil society organisations and political parties continue to demand the government to increase the number of tests.
Four men were erroneously discharged from Vizhuppuram government hospital even after testing positive for COVID-19. Three people were readmitted while one person is still on the run. The hospital authorities cited clerical error for the discharge of positive patients. Meanwhile, a 60-year old man admitted in an isolation ward in the Ariyalur government hospital committed suicide allegedly due to loneliness and frustration.
PADDY FARMERS FEEL LET DOWN OVER DELAYED PROCUREMENT
At a time when the harvest season is about to peak, unseasonal rains and the nationwide lockdown has dented the hopes of farmers in Tamil Nadu. On Thursday, thousands of sacks of hard-earned paddy were drenched in the rain in many parts of the state. Even though agricultural activity has been exempted from the lockdown, a wretched procurement process has resulted in farmers losing their harvest to the rain. The farmers of Vandavasi taluk in Tiruvannamalai district had been waiting for more than three weeks for their paddy to be procured. The farmers and kisan unions allege that the administration worked in favour of middlemen. Government procurement centres are much sought after as farmers are ensured of the minimum support price (MSP).
While all of this happens, middlemen are also at work, delaying procurement. They procure paddy from farmers of different villages at a price much lower than the MSP, sell it in procurement centres, and make a quick buck. These incidents and the low minimum support price fixed by the union government are continuously working against the poor farmers. Read More
CONSTRUCTION AND MIGRANT WORKERS STARVE
The paltry relief measures announced for the construction workers registered with the welfare boards may reach them way too late. The process defined by the welfare board and the labour department seems complicated and time consuming, forcing the workers into a long wait. Only around 12 lakh construction workers may get the additional relief of Rs 1,000 and dry rations, while the board has a registration of around 55 lakh. Many workers have stopped the renewal of their registrations as the government has drastically reduced the funds for the boards for scholarships for wards and other financial benefits.
The migrant workers, around three lakh across the state, are starving for food as the employers have refused to take care of them. The announcement of distributing dry rations from public distribution shops may take time to be implemented forcing these workers to depend on voluntary support for food and other essentials. Read More
CARDAMOM PLANTERS FROM THENI DISTRICT STRUGGLE
Few thousand cardamom planters in Theni district with plantations in the Idukki district of Kerala are struggling to keep their plants alive. Since the lockdown has stopped all transportation possibilities across the state borders, these small and medium planters fear for loss of yield and even crops. The cardamom plants need to be watered during summer and require pesticides every 22 days to survive. The planters have demanded the district administration to discuss the issue with the Idduki administration to find a solution so that the plants are saved.
These plantations employ around 40,000 daily wage workers who travel everyday to Idukki from Theni. Their livelihood is at stake now and may continue if the plantations are not saved quickly. Since these workers are not registered with welfare boards, there is no hope of additional relief measures from the state government. Read More
VEGETABLE AND FRUIT PRODUCERS FACE LOSS
The vegetable and fruit producers in many districts are facing severe loss as prices plunged. The public are paying high prices for the same goods with the middlemen making huge profit during the lockdown period. The farmers are finding difficulties in reaching the markets owing to police actions and many such markets remain closed, forcing them to sell goods at low prices. The hand-cart fruit sellers in many cities are unable to operate, reducing the demand from the farmers. The farmers have demanded the government to procure the produce directly from the farmers and establish a mechanism to supply to the public at nominal cost.
With only a limited number of farmers being eligible for the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PMKISAN) benefit, the loss of farmers is expected to widen. The front-loading of Rs 2,000 to PMKISAN beneficiaries is of no relief for the farmers and the farmers continue to wait for a special relief package. Read More