'He said the Chennai Corporation would honour him someday for working during the pandemic'
CHENNAI: One day the Chennai Corporation will give me an award for working so diligently during the Covid-19 pandemic, S Arumugam had told his wife. Yet a month after the Corporation office assistant died of the same virus, his family claimed they were struggling for food.
"I begged him to not go to work as he would be putting our children and grandchild at risk. He said that this was the time his work was most needed and that he would win an award someday for his hard work during the pandemic," his wife said. His family did not want their names published.
"He said he could not skip Corona duty and went to work even on holidays," his wife recalled.
Arumugam was deployed to work at a hospital in Royapuram zone in the wake of the pandemic.
In the second week of May, his daughter, who lives with them, tested positive for the virus. The Corporation tested other family members and found that Arumugam and his grandson had also tested positive. While his daughter and grandson survived, he died on May 29.
Arumugam's son recalled that his father took great pride in working hard for the Corporation. He had worked alongside several Mayors, including DMK president MK Stalin and the party’s Saidapet MLA Ma Subramanian.
“He would tell me that even when people tried to bribe him to put in a good word to the officials to whom he was an assistant he would simply refuse. He would say that every meal we ate was a result of his hard work,” his son said.
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“He would say that we could have lived in a huge apartment if he had taken all those bribes."
Instead the family lives in a single-room house with a thatched roof in Chetpet. Old banners are laid over the woven coconut leaves of the roof to prevent it from leaking.
"When it rained a few days ago, water was dripping into the house. There was no place to sleep," his daughter said.
"When all three of us were quarantined together, he said his seniors at the Corporation were very appreciative of his work. But after his death, we have received no support from the government for which he worked for decades," she said.
She rued that the hospital had asked the family to stay isolated at home and not go anywhere.
"We have no income since his death. How will we survive? Will the government help us?"