Chief Minister Palaniswami asked migrant workers stranded in the state to be patient while the government attempts to send them back to their home states.

people buying vegetables at a market in hyderabadImage for Representation/PTI
Coronavirus Coronavirus Wednesday, May 13, 2020 - 19:36

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Wednesday blamed vendors at the Koyambedu fruit, flower and vegetable market for the massive spike in Chennai’s COVID-19 infections. Accusing trade representatives of refusing to decentralise and shift the market elsewhere, the Chief Minister said that their non-cooperation has led to the emergence of the most challenging novel coronavirus cluster in the state.

However, the Chief Minister did not address allegations that the announcement of a ‘lockdown within lockdown’ in Chennai between April 26 to April 29 led to a massive rush at the market to secure essentials a day earlier, on April 25.

The Chief Minister was addressing the media after a consultation with district collectors. 

Chief Minister Palaniswami said that despite the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authorities (CMDA) holding talks with Koyambedu market vendors on March 29 and advising them to shift their premises to avoid infection spread, they refused to cooperate citing ‘business loss’.

He said that the Koyambedu market cluster could have been prevented, had the vendors followed instructions given by authorities.

“They did not wish to go to the market set-up by the government outside the city. The Chief Secretary held a talk with them on April 6, asking them to stand by the government decision to shift to the temporary market and avoid infection spread. However, trade representatives refused to accept it citing fears of business loss,” the Chief Minister said.

The Koyambedu Market was ordered shut on May 4, almost a week after at least three vendors from the market tested positive for COVID-19.

“As far as Chennai is concerned, the reason for virus spread is the high number of people. About 26 lakh people live in slum areas. Lot of people live in congested areas with narrow lanes. It creates a situation where the virus spreads easily,” added the Chief Minister.

On stranded migrant workers in the state who are undertaking arduous journeys on their own, the Chief Minister said, “Lot of migrant workers are working in Chennai. We have taken all arrangements to send them back to their home states, as per their wish. All transport expenses are borne by the state government. But because they have not received permission, delays happen. Only eight to ten trains are available per day. I affectionately ask that they be patient till then.”

Migrant workers of the state will also be brought back to Tamil Nadu, step by step, the Chief Minister said.

Chief Minister Palaniswami said that there were no issues with the transportation of farmers’ produce and denied that there was a food scarcity during the pandemic.

The government has taken steps to ensure the free flow of vegetables from other states and has directly intervened to set up mobile shops for distributing vegetables in each street, the Chief Minister said.

Further, he announced that the government has decided to extend the distribution of free rice and ration across the public distribution system (PDS) for the month of June.

“If only people followed the rules put forward by the government, the virus spread could be stopped. People will have to cooperate completely. Without it, this virus spread will not be easy,” he said.

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