Tamil Nadu’s capital city of Chennai witnessed a ruthless police attack on protesting government employees demanding the withdrawal of the new pension scheme and that the government persists with the old policy.
Nurses recruited through the state Medical Services Recruitment Board (MRB) resorted to a hunger strike. MRB nurses have long been demanding absorption as government employees, but the state government remains indifferent.
Proving reports that the state has the highest number of manual scavenging deaths correct, there were four deaths in four days this week.
As the state heads for an assembly election in May 2021, all political parties are in campaign mode. The DMK and its allies shared a stage in a conference organised by the CPI in Madurai. Newsclick brings you a round-up of the happenings in the state this week.
BRUTAL POLICE ATTACK ON PROTESTING GOVT. WORKERS
On February 19 over 700 government employees gathered in Chepauk, Chennai, intending to meet the CM and submitting a memorandum demanding the withdrawal of the new pension scheme. The protest, called for by the leadership of the Tamil Nadu Government Employees Association (TNGEA) was brutally attacked by the police. Most of the protesters were senior citizens and close to half of them were women.
A public meeting was held which was presided over by the association’s president M. Anbarasu and general secretary A. Selvam elaborated on the demands. Leaders from many government employees’ unions under the TNGEA spoke at the site.
When the workers began with their rally towards the Secretariat, the police, led by assistant commissioner of police Saravanan beat them up with lathis. Leaders from various unions were targeted and arrested. CITU all India joint secretary T.K. Rangarajan met the detained workers.
In the brutal police attack Tirupur Animal Husbandry Department union officer bearer Rani and Erode Technical Training Officers’ union’s state secretary Sreenivasan’s legs were fractured.
This is the second time that TN government employees were brutally attacked within a month. The TNGEA began a road-roko and jail bharo protest across the state on February 1 and thousands of employees were assaulted by the police. Read more
GOVT. NURSES RESORT TO HUNGER STRIKE
Over 400 staff nurses who were assigned Covid duty sat on a hunger strike at the Directorate Of Medical And Rural Health Services, Chennai on February 18 stressing on their long-pending demand of being roped into government service. After their previous demands made to the health department failed, they decided to resort to the strike.
Around 17,000 nurses who were recruited through the MRB in 2015 have been protesting demanding a regularisation of jobs. They were promised permanent jobs within two years of their appointment, but five years later there is still no clarity in the matter. Read more
FOUR MANUAL SCAVENGING DEATHS IN 4 DAYS
Manual scavenging has claimed four lives in a matter of four days in Tamil Nadu. Three continuous deaths occurred in a single site in Kancheepuram on February 14. Three days later, one more person lost their life in Chennai on February 17.
Dalit rights activists demand that the state government take immediate steps to end the cruel practice. They demanded a full-fledged survey of people engaged in this “de-humanising” work and proper rehabilitation measures for them Read more
DMK, CONGRESS, CPI, CPI(M) ET AL SHARE A STAGE
Communist Party of India (CPI) held a “political awakening” conference in Madurai district on February 18 ahead of the assembly elections in May 2021. Leaders of parties who are expected to form an alliance in the state polls participated in the event and a massive gathering came together to listen to their speeches.
The conference was presided over by CPI state secretary R. Mutharasan and attended by CPI general secretary D. Raja and senior leader R. Nallakannu. Other party leaders who participated were M.K. Stalin from the DMK, CPI(M) state secretary K. Balakrishnan, Tamil Nadu Congress committee leader K.S. Alagiri, MDMK general secretary Vaiko, VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan among others.
They spoke stressing on the need to defeat the AIADMK-BJP alliance in the state.
PARTIES ON WAR FOOTING
Estranged leader and former AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala legally challenged her removal from the highest post in the party. She filed a petition in the Madras High Court, which was later transferred to a civil court. The case is set to be heard on March 15.
Meanwhile, the AIADMK government continues with its election spree. On February 19, CM Edappadi K. Palaniswami, while campaigning in Tenkasi, promised to withdraw cases lodged against participants in the anti-CAA protests in the state along with withdrawing cases against those who flouted the COVID-19 lockdown guidelines. He also announced the withdrawal of cases against persons who participated in protests against setting up of a nuclear plant in Kudankulam. An estimated 10 lakh cases are expected to be withdrawn if the promises are fulfilled.
Rahul Gandhi was on a three-day roadshow in Erode, Coimbatore, Tirupur and Karur this week. It was the second of his five visits to the state ahead of the assembly polls in May 2021.
Makkal Neethi Maiam (MNM) led by actor Kamal Haasan and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) continued with alliance talks. Read more
PROTESTS AGAINST PETROL PRICES
The state witnessed many protests against the exorbitant hikes in petrol, diesel and LPG prices. Condemning the 217% excise duty on petrol price over the past six years and the price of petrol hitting a century, protests were held in different places in Chennai, in Nagercoil, Thanjavur, Trichy and other districts which were led by the CPI(M).
General Secretary of South Zone Motor Transporters Welfare Association G.R. Shanmughappa said that before launching the indefinite strike against the petrol prices lorry owners have decided to go on a token strike on February 26. “More than 26 lakh trucks from the southern states will stay off the roads. The government should call us for talks before that to come up with a solution to the issue,” he said.
On February 17 DMK president M.K. Stalin announced demonstrations at all district headquarters on February 22 to condemn the steep hike in the price of LPG cylinders, and to urge the Centre to bring down the excise duty on petroleum products.
Stalin said if the Rs 20 lakh crore excise duty imposed on petroleum products was one of the reasons for the hike, the increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) announced by the AIADMK-led state government further contributed to the increase in prices.
COVID-19: TN RECORDS LOW VACCINATION
Union Health Ministry data shows that several states that have robust healthcare infrastructure, such as Tamil Nadu, performed poorly in the vaccination exercise against COVID-19. It has been over a month since the vaccination drive began in India on February 16.
Tamil Nadu has administered the first dose of the vaccine to less than 50% of its targets according to Union Health Ministry data until February 18. As of February 18, the state had achieved only 47.1% first dose coverage of healthcare workers against its target of vaccinating 5,32,605 healthcare workers in government and private sectors.
SATTUR FACTORY FIRE: DEATH TOLL 21
The death toll in the fire that broke out at a firecracker factory in Virudhunagar district on February 12 has mounted to 21 as of February 19. Nine people died on the spot in the firecracker accident. More than 30 injured were admitted to hospitals.
A case has been registered against six people so far and one person has been arrested in the matter. Read more