In the past week, Tamil Nadu has been overburdened with the steep rise in COVID-19 cases with the daily count reported as 10,723 on April 18, and it touched 13,776 within five days, on April 23.
At present, the number of active cases in the state is 95,048 and the overall fatality count is 13,395.
The new COVID-19 restrictions came into full effect this week. Night curfew, from 10 PM to 4 AM is in force, and Sunday lockdowns are also in effect. Additionally, tourism is fully suspended in hill stations. Cinemas, shopping malls and eateries are allowed to function with 50% occupancy.
The state government also reached out to religious leaders seeking their cooperation in implementing the complete ban on religious congregations and temple festivals.
The sudden restrictions were, however, not received well. There has been backlash from different sections for haphazardly imposing restrictions, without thought on how it affects livelihoods and the means for necessary compensation. In the wake of a surge in cases and acute shortage of medication, further restrictions are also anticipated in the state.
ARTISTES, BEACH VENDORS, TOUR GUIDES… OUT OF WORK
The Tamil Nadu government’s recent intensification of COVID-19 restrictions has had adverse effects on people engaged in certain industries.
The sudden ban on tourism-related activities in Tamil Nadu has shocked vendors, traders and workers in the hospitality industry. Lakhs of families dependent on tourism in hill stations had just begun recuperating from last year's lockdown, and they fear another ban could have devastating effects on their livelihood. Read more
As the state government has banned temple festivals in its recent announcement, folk, traditional and performing artistes have been left without work and income for a second consecutive year. The announcement was made at a crucial time, as April, May and June are the festival months. Read more
The back-to-back restrictions curtailing public visits to the beach has left the vendors in Marina Beach, Chennai in distress. The sole source of livelihood, for more than 1,500 street vendors, has been affected. Read more
The night curfew in Tamil Nadu has badly affected the power loom sector in Erode district, which was slowly recovering from last year’s lockdown. About 55,000 power loom units employing over 50,000 workers function in two shifts, day and night, but now it has reduced to only half its earlier strength.
VEDANTA'S PLEA TO PRODUCE OXYGEN
On April 23, the Supreme Court heard Vedanta's plea seeking opening of its Sterlite copper unit at Thoothukudi on the ground that it would produce thousand tonnes of oxygen and give it free of cost to treat patients. Tamil Nadu government’s representative objected to the plea referring to the poor "law and order" situation.
The Supreme Court, however, denied these claims and said people are dying due to lack of oxygen, and questioned why the Tamil Nadu government cannot take over Vedanta’s Sterlite copper unit. Read more
Upon the state government’s directive to hold a public hearing, the Thoothukudi administration invited select people at a hurriedly convened closed-door public hearing on April 23. A cross-section of local residents opposed any move to allow Vedanta’s sealed Sterlite Copper plant to resume operations.
The copper smelter unit at SIPCOT Industrial Complex has remained idle after it was closed in May 2018 after 13 anti-Sterlite protesters were killed in a police firing.
ACUTE SHORTAGE OF MEDICINES
The Madras High Court on April 22 took suo motu notice of newspaper reports on Tamil Nadu’s shortage of Remdesivir and ventilators, and diversion of oxygen to other states. In response, the State informed that it had sufficient stocks of oxygen and Remdesivir vaccines, and that the 'assignment' of life-saving gas to neighbouring states will not be a hindrance.
However, information from the ground clearly reveals that there is an acute shortage of crucial injections. It is also reportedly leading to loss of life and panic among many COVID-19 patients and their families in Tamil Nadu.
Sukumaran Sourirajan, a medical representative, said, “Since morning, six people have approached me asking for Remdesivir injection, it is in high demand and cannot be availed easily.”
TN TOPS VACCINE WASTAGE
According to statistics released by the Directorate of Public Health earlier this week, at least 4.5 lakh doses of vaccine — both Covaxin and Covishield – were wasted in Tamil Nadu between January 16 and April 20. The wastage is up to 13% for Covaxin and 9% for Covishield.
The state government in response, in a statement released on April 23, said COVID-19 vaccine wastage across Tamil Nadu was reduced to 5% between April 1 and April 20, and would further reduce to 3%.
On the other hand, the state is witnessing an evident shortage of vaccines, and many of those aged above 45 are unable to get their second dose.
WAGE HIKE PROTEST IN STEEL PLANT
Employees of the Salem Steel Plant (SSP) staged a protest in front of the Plant on April 20 demanding authorities to fulfill their wage revision demands.
Over 150 employees of the plant belonging to different trade unions protested urging the management to agree to their wage revision demands and implement them at the earliest. The wage revision should have apparently been conducted in 2017 but no measures have been taken in the four years.
Notably, the SSP employees’ unions successfully cancelled the global tender floated by the Bharatiya Janata Party government against privatisation of the plant in 2019. Read more
RULING IN FAVOUR OF CONSERVANCY WORKERS
Upon a writ petition filed by Uzhaipor Urimai Iyakkam, an association representing the conservancy workers, the Madras High Court ordered that the services of 1,457 conservancy workers, engaged on contract basis under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM), in a zone in Ambattur of Greater Chennai Corporation, should not be disturbed for three months.
The order was passed taking into consideration the need for such frontline workers to fight the raging second wave of COVID-19.
Notably, in January 2020, after private companies took over the waste management system in the Corporation, more than 740 sanitation workers, the frontline warriors in the COVID-19 pandemic, were terminated from work. Read more
PROTESTS AGAINST HIKED FERTILISER PRICE
Farmers representatives held a protest against the ‘steep hike’ in fertiliser prices on April 19 in Tiruchi. A delegation of farmers petitioned the district authorities to convey their displeasure to the Centre.
The protesting farmers opposed the trend of revision of prices for two or three times a year and also said that it gives room for irregularities