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More public vigil needed as some PDS shop workers test positive
Free provisions through ration shops are providing a big relief to the lockdown affected public, but not without some amount of scare. More than a dozen cooperative staff, mostly in Chennai, have tested corona positive, cautioning the public on the need to exercise more vigil while jostling to bag their share of PDS items.
Working for prolonged hours without any proper screening or medical examination, the ration staff are exposed to the risk of contracting corona, confirmed official sources with the cooperative department. “The irony is that the government provides corona relief for sanitary and health workers if they test positive for COVID, but not for cooperative staff. Nine of our staff attached to cooperative stores and food godown have tested positive for corona in Chennai,” said R Rajan, vice-president, Tamil Nadu Cooperatives Consumer Stores.
"These staff who worked without leave contracted the virus during the public distribution of ration materials.Most of them are vulnerable to infection as public in congested pockets do not maintain social distancing at ration shops," Rajan said.
“During the initial days of corona in March, ration shop staff were provided masks, but later no masks and sanitisers were provided. When the Rs 1,000 relief for cardholders were given, we worked with zero safety measures as public ignored social distancing and the police were not able to regulate the crowd,” recalled a ration shop supervisor.
“We are working on our own risk and due to the free ration items sanctioned by the government, there is always a constant queue in front of the ration shops,” another ration stores staff associated with Chinthamani cooperatives told DT Next. “We are also working like the police and public health department daily and there are public coming from containment zones. But not providing corona relief to ration shop staff is mentally disturbing and two of my colleagues contracted virus, but no assistance was announced for them, he added.
Though DT Next tried to contact Food Minister R Kamaraj for his comments, the staff at the minister’s office maintained that the minister was busy with official work. “We will brief the minister about the issue,” the staff said.