The past week, which marked the end of 2020, witnessed protest gatherings across Tamil Nadu that continued to strongly oppose the three central farm legislations and extended solidarity to the protesting farmers in Delhi. Meanwhile, TN farmers from the delta region demanded the state government to open Direct Purchase Centre (DPCs) as paddy harvest is around the corner. Farmers also demanded substantial incentive along with the Minimum Support Price to ensure a check on private players.
Opposition leader MK Stalin has asked the ruling Edappadi K Palaniswamy government to convene the Assembly and pass a resolution against the farm laws, as the Kerala and Punjab state governments have done. However, the ruling party is in attack mode for the upcoming state elections. NewsClick brings a roundup of the happenings in the state this week.
Solidarity Protests against Farm Laws
Thanjavur witnessed a massive gathering of thousands of farmers from across Tamil Nadu on December 29. It was organised by 54 farmers’ associations under the umbrella body All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) in solidarity with the farmers protesting in Delhi. Even though the police did not grant permission for a rally, the organisers were hellbent on registering their protest despite the rain. AIKSCC state coordinator K Balakrishnan led the meeting and the district coordinator N V Kannan welcomed the gathering. Thanjavur MP SS Palanimanickam (DMK), Nagapattinam MP M Selvaraj (CPI), MLA Durai Chandrasekhar and Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association state general secretary P Shanmugam were among those who participated in the public meeting.
On January 1, as a new year resolution directed by the AIKSSC, many people’s organisations mobilised in their neighbourhoods and took oath to save farmers, agriculture and India. The Democratic Youth Federation of India mobilised youngsters and students in almost all districts of the state and took oaths to ensure that agriculture is not sold off to big private players like Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani. In the gathering organised by the Tamil Nadu unit of the All India Kisan Sabha, many farmers’ leaders participated and took the resolution to ensure that the ‘anti-farmer’ laws are repealed.
Opposition leader and DMK president MK Stalin on January 1 urged the Tamil Nadu government to take a cue from the Punjab and Kerala governments and adopt a resolution against the three Central farm legislations. He said the Assembly should be convened for the purpose.
TN Govt Silent on Farmers’ Pleas
Farmers’ groups, which have appealed to the state government demanding substantial incentives for their paddy harvest, have marked their disappointment at the state’s indifference to their pleas. This is seen as an indirect move towards a fully free-market agro-economy because the harvest procured by the Direct Purchase Centres (DPCs) usually rakes an incentive above the MSP fixed by the Union government; this facilitates farmers to sell their produce at the state-run DPCs. But now, despite the farmers’ plea, this incentive is being wiped-out by the state government, giving way to more private traders in the business.
Another plea made by the farmers is regarding early opening of the DPCs. With the commencement of paddy harvest in a few pockets of the double-crop region in and around Madurai, farmers have urged the district administration to open the DPCs. Farmers point out that they would earn an additional Rs. 400 for each bag of rice sold at the DPCs, as compared to the open-market.
AIADMK Vs DMK
The ruling AIADMK on December 31 sent a ‘legal notice’ to the editors of all press and television media outlets regulating printing and broadcasting of DMK president MK Stalin’s speeches and statements. In the notice, the party listed out supposedly false allegations made by Stalin against Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and the state government, which were published by various media houses. The notice argues that the AIADMK tenure was not as pathetic as Stalin has been portraying it to be. Thereby, the AIADMK offered its rebuttal to matters regarding Gross Enrolment ratio of Scheduled Caste students, farmer suicides, unemployment rate, TN’s position in the WHO health index and private-public schools. Interestingly, the legal notice comes a few days following the DMK presenting its chargesheet against AIADMK ministers.
The Pongal cash gift of Rs. 2,500 to ration card holders is found to be provided with tokens in the colours of AIADMK flag and with photographs of the Chief Minister, the Deputy Chief Minister, other Ministers and party office-bearers, which the DMK said was misleading to the public. The DMK moved an urgent writ petition before the Madras High Court against what they said was the use of power and public funds for electoral gains. The petition sought the Court’s direction to the state government to distribute the Pongal cash gift without any ambiguity over the fact that the gift is from public funds. Senior counsel P. Wilson said the tokens were intended to mislead the people when elections were on the anvil to create an impression as if the cash was being paid from the coffers of the ruling party and not from the public exchequer.
Covid-19: Daily Count Dips Below 1000
As the state’s daily count touched below 1000, the Tamil Nadu government on December 31 announced an extension of the COVID-19 lockdown in the state till January 31, but with fresh relaxations on curbs. It continues to ban beaches for public; allows the use of indoor auditorium for events with 50% capacity, and allows indoor and outdoor filming for cinema and the small screen.
Despite restrictions on new year celebration gatherings as part of the pandemic protocol, the crowd at Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporations (TASMACs) were beyond control. The liquor sales across Tamil Nadu on new year’s eve stood at Rs 160 crore, which is ten crores more than the 2019 sales.
As part of the nationwide exercise, the Tamil Nadu government on January 2 launched a dry run for the Covid-19 vaccination in five cities — Chennai, Nilgris, Tirunelveli, Poonamalle and Coimbatore.
Rajinikanth's Political Exit
In a sudden plot twist, Rajinikanth cited his health reasons and took a U-turn from politics. In a three-page statement released through his Twitter page on December 29, he apologised to his fans and Rajini Makkal Mandram members for disappointing them with his decision. He had on December 3 announced that he would on December 31 announce the date for the launch of his proposed political party. Though leaders of many opposition parties appreciated his decision of prioritising his health, his erratic decisions became the content for ridiculing memes on social media. NewsClick has earlier reported on his reluctance to enter politics.