On Pongal Eve, 700 Sanitation Workers and Covid-Warriors Sacked Without Notice in TN
700 sanitation workers were sacked by the Greater Chennai Corporation on Tuesday | Image credit: Reuters (Representational)
The incident has caused political pushback from the opposition with the DMK MP Kanimozhi lashing out at the Edapadi Palaniswami government in Tamil Nadu for the unceremonious termination ahead of Pongal.
Ahead of Pongal, as many as 700 sanitation workers in Tamil Nadu have been fired from their jobs without notice despite being on the frontline of Covid-19 relief work for months.
The move came from the Greater Chennai Corporation on Tuesday, causing a row and protests among sanitation workers as well as staff.
According to a report in India Today, many of the sanitation workers, who had been Covid warriors in the state due to their role as essential workers, contracted coronavirus during work. But despite government promises, they had not received any compensation. Some of the sacked employees had been working with the corporation for over a decade.
The move came just months after the Corporation reportedly delegated sanitation and waste management tasks to private contractors, The News Minute reported.
Speaking to a journalist working with Times Now, one of the sanitation workers said that during the pandemic, they were the ones to continue working and even assisted Covid-19 patients when no one else would go near the wards.
Another sanitation worker said that she had been given the job after her husband died on the same job and that she had worked through both the Covid-19 pandemic as well as Cyclone Vardah.
Videos of the same have been shared by Shabbir Ahmed on Twitter.
Kalaiarasi says from clearing garbage to assisting #COVID19 patients, they were the ones who were doing everything when others were reluctant to even enter the Covid-19 wards. pic.twitter.com/UfM9UW2Q42— Shabbir Ahmed (@Ahmedshabbir20) January 12, 2021
Coming ahead of the festival of Pongal, AIADMK has been facing flak for the termination of 700 Covid warriors.
The incident has caused political pushback from the opposition with the DMK MP Kanimozhi lashing out at the Edapadi Palaniswami government in Tamil Nadu for the unceremonious termination.
Taking to Twitter, she issued a statement claiming, "Covid warriors are celebrated across the State but the EPS government has decided to terminate the services of 700 sanitary workers in Chennai. Firing them without even notice period, especially when unemployment is rife, is cruel, given we depended on them during the pandemic".
"This is the gratitude they get, especially on the eve of Pongal," the MP added.
This may just be the beginning with as many as 3,000 job cuts being expected in the future in keeping with the Corporation's shift to private players for waste management. According to a report in The New Indian Express, Greater Chennai Corporation staff only handles the waste management work for four zones in Chennai now, making it difficult for the Corporation to retain more than its permanent staff.
This has led to the widespread termination of non-permanent staff and those employed under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM).
As providers of essential services, sanitation workers have faced the worst of the coronavirus pandemic with thousands across the country left in the lurch due to the widespread crisis. Workers across schools, colleges, and private institutions suffered job cuts, and those who retained their jobs were given very little protection or training to deal with the spreading virus.