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TN This Week: Rugged Start to Covid Vaccine Drive; AIADMK Accused of Misusing State Funds; Health, Sanitation Workers Start Protest

Even though the daily new Covid-19 cases in Tamil Nadu have stayed below 600, the Madras HC has warned the govt to not be complacent.
TN This Week: Rugged Start to Covid Vaccine Drive; AIADMK Accused of Misusing State Funds; Health, Sanitation Workers Start Protest

With the Covid-19 vaccine drive kicking off last weekend, Tamil Nadu’s coverage has so far been one of the lowest in the country. To meet daily targets, secondary and tertiary health workers are being given the vaccine.

Health workers held a hunger strike urging regularisation of about 3,000 jobs. Chennai sanitation workers also held a demonstration opposing the termination of workers and demanding their reinstatement.

The daily Covid-19 count dipped below 600 in the state. However, the Madras High Court warned the state government to not be complacent. NewsClick brings you a round-up of the happenings in the state this week.

AIADMK MISUSES FUNDS’ SAYS DMK, MOVES ECI

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on January 22 moved the Election Commission of India (ECI) seeking a direction to restrain the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) from using government funds. It cited advertisements promoting Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami that were allegedly published using state funds. The DMK urged for a thorough inquiry into this alleged violation of the directions of the ECI.

In a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, DMK secretary R.S. Bharathi accused the ruling AIADMK of spending Rs 1,000 crore on advertisements, which they said affects the fairness of the election. The letter stated that the ruling AIADMK promoting their leader at the cost of state resources is against the orders of the ECI.

Pointing out that the state was already under a heavy debt, he said such advertisements were “unreasonable, illogical, whimsical, fanciful, illegal”. The letter demanded that the AIADMK be restrained from utilising government funds for advertisements.

COVID-19: COURT CAUTIONS STATE

The daily fresh Covid-19 cases in the state stayed below the 600-mark all week long. Given the dropping number of positive cases, the government has eased regulations. Schools across Tamil Nadu reopened for classes 10 and 12 on January 19 after a gap of nearly ten months, with a host of COVID-19 safety norms in place.

However, the Madras High Court on January 21 cautioned the state government about commencing physical classes for all students. Even though the positive cases are on a decline in the State, Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said that a new strain of the coronavirus, which is more virulent, has to be taken into consideration.

A week after the state’s Food and Civil Supplies minister R. Kamaraj was discharged from the hospital following Covid treatment, he was again admitted to the hospital for breathlessness. According to doctors attending to him, he was critical and on life support.

FORCED COVID VACCINATION

Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar took the indegenous Covaxin vaccine on January 22 amid low turnout for vaccination drive. He said that he was taking the vaccine “to convey the message to all healthcare workers that the vaccine is safe''.

The Covid-19 vaccine drive began last weekend amid a lot of chaos. From day one, Tamil Nadu showed very low vaccine coverage compared to other states.

To meet daily vaccine targets, the secondary and tertiary health workers have come under government pressure. Though the vaccine is not compulsory, health workers are repoetedly being coerced into taking the vaccine. Read More

HEALTH WORKERS PROTEST

On January 21, multipurpose hospital workers observed a day of fast in front of the Directorate of Medical Services demanding they be made permanent employees.

As many as 3,000 health workers, appointed eight years ago for a consolidated pay, continue to work on contract. In 2019, Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar had assured that workers that those who had completed five years of service would be absorbed.

More than a year since the minister made the promise, nothing has been implemented. Now, health workers are urging the government to implement its promise.

Multipurpose hospital worker is a post created by the government combining five posts such as nursing assistants, sanitary workers, hospital workers, and cleaners. They get a consolidated pay and enjoy no work benefits. It is ‘no work no pay’ situation for them.

SANITATION WORKERS HIT STREET

Sanitation workers picketed the government Guest House in Chennai on January 21 demanding regularisation of jobs. Opposing the Tamil Nadu government and the Greater Chennai Corporation, they protested the sudden termination of workers who were affiliated to the Corporation for many years. The protesters demanded that the 700 plus terminated workers be reinstated in their jobs and all jobs be regularised.

Around 200 workers participated in the protest call given by Red Flag Union affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). A Soundararajan, CITU leader, delivered a speech inaugurating the protest.

Many workers lost their jobs after the pandemic because of the increase in zones under private operators. Read More

MAHILA KISAN DIWAS

On January 18, the day celebrated as Mahila Kisan Diwas (Women Farmers’ Day), women affiliated to various organisations marched to the Raj Bhavan reiterating the demands of the protesting farmers in Delhi. They demanded that women involved in agriculture work should legally be acknowledged as 'farmers' and they should receive equal pay for equal work.

They opposed the controversial remark made by the Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde on the participation of women in the farmers’ protests in Delhi.

The protesting women in Chennai were manhandled by the Tamil Nadu police. Read More

FOUR TN FISHERMEN DIE, SRI LANKA ANSWERABLE

Four Ramanathapuram fishermen came under attack from the Sri Lankan navy while they were fishing in the sea on January 18. The boat in which the four fishermen were sailing sank after the attack and they were reported missing till their bodies were found on Sri Lankan coast on January 21.

In parts of the state, fishermen staged protests condemning the incident and seeking compensation for the families of the deceased.

India also conveyed its “strong protest” to Sri Lanka over the death of the fishermen in the Palk Strait.

KHAP PANCHAYAT FINES DALIT COUPLE

The Khap Panchayat in Pullur village of Thirupathur district denied temple entry and fined the Dalit couple Kanagaraj (26) and Jayapriya (23) for marrying outside their sects.

Kanagaraj, a driver by profession, lost his job in Chennai during the Covid-19 lockdown and returned to the village with his wife. He alleged that the panchayat was held twice since his return for usurping the fine. Kanagaraj has filed a police complaint against the Khap leaders.

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