On December 17-18, workers of mobile phone assembling company Foxconn’s unit in Chennai held massive road blockages, alleging management when 159 workers fell ill after consuming food in the company premises on December 15.
Meanwhile, an income tax raid followed in the Foxconn's manufacturing unit, Bharat FIH, as part of a national level exercise.
On the health front, while the number of COVID cases has remained stable over the last couple of weeks, there was a report on the excess number of deaths in Chennai district that was published and created quite a flutter.
Also, the impact of the pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on students, with 1.4 lakh students yet to return to school after reopening.
In other news, the eviction drive in Chennai continued this week. The DMK government has been accused of double standards in the eviction process, with only the poor being removed from their dwelling places.
NewsClick brings a round-up of events last week.
Seeking urgent intervention from the Union government on the drastic increase in raw material prices, the Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) went on a strike on December 20. The All India Council of Association of MSMEs had called for the strike in which around 10 lakh industries participated.
The association alleged that prices of copper, aluminium and steel have increased by 70% to 150% in the past one year. The MSMEs have been continuously affected by the policies of the Union government, including demonetisation and hasty implementation of Goods and Services Tax. The unplanned lockdown in March 2020 had led to the closure of many MSMEs.
Fisherfolk from Rameswaram and Pudukottai held a hunger strike during the week against the detention of fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy. More than 50 fishermen and trawlers were detained between December 18 and 19 sparking off protests by fisherfolk and political parties.
The state government sought immediate intervention of the Union government in releasing the fishermen and fishing boats. There were 13 incidents of fishermen being detained and around 70 boats are still under the Lankan Navy’s custody.
UNDERCOUNT OF COVID DEATHS
A report published by Lancet Infectious Diseases has found excess deaths during the pandemic in Chennai district. The study had estimated 5.18 excess deaths for every 1,000 people.
The study also found there was an increase in the percentage of pandemic-associated deaths with an increase in the measure of socio-economic community disadvantage during the second wave.
Meanwhile the number of fresh infections in the state was consistent over the last week. The number of COVID-19 cases remained between 600 and 700. The number of omicron variants increased to 34, with the first patient getting discharged after hospitalisation.
The total infections increased to 27,42,224 and the number of deaths stood at 36,707 on December 23.
1.4 LAKH STUDENTS NOT ATTENDING SCHOOL
The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on school education with 1.4 lakh students yet to return to their schools. This information was disclosed by the state project director of Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan. The government has ordered officials of the education department to hold a door-to-door survey to identify the potential dropouts.
The number of students enrolled in government schools has increased by two lakh, but the allocation of funds has reportedly decreased. The reduction in the number of students in private schools exposes the reduction in income of parents, which has forced them to shun these high-fee schools.
FOXCONN WORKERS’ PROTEST
The poor working conditions and exploitation by Bharat FIH, the Indian manufacturing unit of Foxconn Technology Group, came to the fore during a protest by workers in Chennai. The workers alleged that the company and contractors paid little heed to the hospitalisation demands of 159 workers affected by food poisoning on December 15.
During their eight-hour-long protest from the midnight of December 17, the workers expressed their agony through social media platforms over their continuous exploitation. From being paid as low as Rs 12,000 and being put up in overcrowded accommodation, the workers have been suffering for years. Most of the 6,000 to 7,000 workers are women between the age of 18-30.
The manufacturing unit in Chennai of Foxconn and other mobile manufacturers were raided by the income tax department on tax evasion issues. Read More
FORMER MINISTER ON THE RUN
K T Rajendra Bhalaji, former minister in the AIADMK government, is on the run, with police forming special teams to arrest him on charges of cheating people. A look-out notice has also been issued on the former minister. He has been accused of misappropriation of funds of Rs 3 crore from Aavin, run by the milk and dairy development board.
MOTHER HIRES GOONS TO KILL TRANSGENDER
A transgender, Akshitha was killed in Salem at the behest of her own mother. After being found unconscious on December 13, she succumbed to injuries the next day. Her mother Uma Devi was arrested by the police for hiring goons to kill the transgender. The mother was said to be upset over her son being a transgender.
Though the state is seen as progressive on several counts, the society is yet to accept transgenders as a part of the community. Several incidents of violence and deadly attacks have been reported against transgenders in Tamil Nadu.
RURAL DEVELOPMENT DEPT WORKERS’ PROTEST
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)-led a massive protest of workers from the department of rural development, including OHT (overhead tank operator) workers, green ambassadors and sanitation workers, who demanded consolidated wages. The workers have been demanding an increase of Rs 1,400 in their wage and permanent jobs, which has been eluding them for so long.