Kerala is under a partial lockdown with all large gatherings being disallowed by the state government. Schools, colleges, theatres remain closed and religious gatherings, weddings, public functions have been put on hold. And even as the CPI (M)-led state government and the Health department are leaving no stone unturned in containing the spread of Covid-19 virus in the state, which at present has 16 positive cases, the CITU, the Thrissur mayor and the CPI (M) party workers flouted the state government’s directive and went ahead with their scheduled meetings putting a large section of the public at risk. It seems the CPI (M)-led state government forgot to advice its own party workers and their affiliated trade union members about Covid-19 and the dangers involved in holding meetings as the virus spreads exponentially in matter of days.
Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), a national level trade union affiliated to the ruling CPI (M), held its district general council in Thrissur, on Thursday, in a jam-packed auditorium, with 150 to 200 representatives in attendance, blatantly flouting the official guidelines in the state issued by the CPI (M)-led government to not hold public meetings or large gatherings in view of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The meeting was held at the Kerala Sahithya Akademi hall in Thrissur which functions under the state government. The gates of the Akademi which normally remain open to visitors were closed and a security guard stationed at the gate allowed entry for visitors only after verifying them. Soon after the meeting began at 10 am, District Collector, S Shanavas, received a raft of complaints citing the violation of the government guidelines.
By 11.30 am, the Collector asked the organizers of the meeting to immediately wind up the proceedings and disperse the gathering. But, the CITU leaders including district secretary, U P Joseph and former MLA, Babu M Palissery, ignored the Collector’s request and the meeting continued till noon. The nonchalant response from the organizers was that proper safety measures were in place—washing of their hands using sanitizers along with other safety measures.
Joseph said that even doctors, health workers associated with government schemes were attending the meeting and his union could not have postponed it since it was a commemoration meeting of a former CITU central committee member, too.
CITU members also took an adamant stand after the Collector’s order to call off the meeting with a ready reply that the Collectorate and the state assembly were functioning, hence there was no need to cancel their meeting.
It is learnt that only after the intervention from the Chief Minister’s office did the organizers decide to wind up the meeting by noon. Collector Shanavas stated that such meetings would not be allowed according by the guidelines of the state government issued in view of preventing the spread of Covid-19 virus and he would ask the Police and DMO to prevent such meetings in future. “I am also calling a meeting of the civic body representatives to alert them of the same issue on Saturday at the Collectorate,” he added.
Thrissur Mayor Violates Guidelines
Thrissur Mayor, Ajitha Jayarajan, also courted controversy as she called an ’emergency’ meeting of her division known as the ‘divison sabha’ at the Kokkala Community Hall in Thrissur town on Wednesday town overlooking the guidelines in view of Covid-19 scare. The meeting was called to review the projects to be implemented in the mayor’s division for the year 2020-21.
The opposition in the corporation council said that there was no urgency in conducting such a meeting and the deadline for conducting it had already ended in February.
Public meeting in Vizhinjam
Meanwhile, the CPI (M) also conducted a workshop on Thursday for its members at Vizhinjam in Thiruvanathampuram to take stock of the preparations for the upcoming civic body polls. A former MLA of the party took part in the meeting attended by not less than 100 people.