Chennai, Jan 13, 2021: Around 700 sanitation workers, who were on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19 in Tamil Nadu, were sacked by the Greater Chennai Corporation, without any notice period, on Tuesday. This triggered protests by the staff, who raised slogans and demanded justice. With the move coming just ahead of Pongal, the Tamil Nadu government drew flak from various quarters.
Incidentally, the move comes a few months after the Chennai Corporation handed over the solid waste management in various zones to private players. The solid waste management at zones such as Adyar, Teynampet, Kodambakkam, Alandur, Valasaravakkam, Sholinganallur and Perungudi will be handled by private companies.
Speaking to the media, many of the workers said that they had been working for 10 to 12 years with the civic body. Others pointed out that they had even contracted COVID-19 on the job, but came back to work immediately after recovery.
Speaking to Shabbir Ahmed from Times Now, Saroja, a conservancy worker, said, "My husband died on the same job and the government gave it to me. During the coronavirus pandemic and Cyclone Vardah, they asked me to work. My whole family depends on me, I worked hard."
Other workers said that they were not granted leave and not paid their wages, despite showing up diligently for work for a decade. Many had to face social stigma after testing positive for the coronavirus due to their job, and were even forced to vacate their houses.
The opposition DMK has hit out at the ruling AIADMK government and Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.
"COVID-19 warriors are celebrated across the state but the EPS govt has decided to terminate the services of 700 sanitation workers in Chennai. Firing them without even a 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," DMK MP Kanimozhi tweeted.
Others also took to social media, urging the Tamil Nadu government to go back on its decision to fire the sanitation workers.
The Greater Chennai Corporation is yet to issue a statement on the workers. Chennai has reported 2.28 lakh cases so far out of which 2,077 are active cases as of Tuesday.
Listen to Saroja, a conservancy worker engaged by Chennai Corporation. She is a single mother & her entire family is dependent on this job which she just lost. pic.twitter.com/ZdBh5sGhld— Shabbir Ahmed (@Ahmedshabbir20) January 12, 2021