Vulnerability of Migrant Workers in the Face of Pandemic

Government of India has notified states to seal the interstate borders in the backdrop of exodus of thousands of migrant workers from National Capital Region (NCR) Delhi. The government has urged migrant workers to stay where they are and assured that food, shelter, and wages will be provided to them.
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Exodus of Migrant Workers
Thousands of migrant workers of Uttar Pradesh (UP) working in Delhi, Punjab, and Haryana, had begun migrating back to their hometowns amid the Coronavirus lockdown. Workers who survive on daily wages and who have been housed in factories or construction sites were apprehensive about going hungry, penniless and having no shelter.

UP government in a statement said that the Delhi government disconnected the electricity and water connection of these people. It added that they were not even provided with food and milk. There were rumors that buses are waiting at the UP border to drop these migrants to their hometowns and DTC buses dropped people at the Delhi border, said the statement.

Thousands of workers gathered at Delhi’s Anand Vihar bus station were taken to UP border. Many migrants were seen walking from Delhi to UP border as well. UP government announced that it will run nearly 1,000 buses to bring back the migrant workers to their domicile state.

While this exodus massively dilutes the whole purpose of lockdown – to stem the spread of COVID-19 – the Indian government has ordered to seal all inter-state borders and put those who have already migrated in a 14-day quarantine. Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also suspended some Delhi government officials over lapses in ensuring a lockdown. It also issued a 5-point guideline to cope with the issue:

  • Creation of temporary shelters for stranded migrants
  • Provision of food for them and the poor
  • 14-day quarantine for those who have migrated
  • Regular wages for daily wagers and migrant workers
  • Exemption for migrant workers to pay rent for a month

Kejriwal’s Belated Appeal
After the images of lakhs of migrant workers stranded at Delhi’s Anand Vihar bus terminal went viral, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal made a public appeal to all migrant communities to stay back and adhere to the lockdown protocols. He further mentioned that stranded population will be housed temporarily in Delhi’s schools.

India’s Situation
Delhi houses about India’s 1.3 million migrant workers as per the 2011 Census. India’s urban region has around 13.4 million interstate workers. A large exodus would put many lives at stake. Moreover, the Capital also saw the largest one day spike in the number of cases on Sunday, taking the toll to 72.

Migrants from various states began their journey back home after PM Modi announced the lockdown. Telangana, in order to battle the migration, announced that all the migrant workers will get Rs. 500 cash and 12 kg of rice. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) also announced that ‘Annapurna’ centres where a full meal is available at just Rs. 5 will remain open.

As of 30th March 2020, India has more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients and more than 25 deaths.

Curiopedia

Unorganised Sector of India – Over 94 percent of India’s working population is part of the unorganised sector. Unorganised sector, also known as own account enterprises, refers to all unlicensed, self-employed or unregistered economic activity such as owner manned general stores, handicrafts and handloom workers, rural traders, farmers, etc. The unorganised sector has low productivity and offers lower wages. Even though it accounted for over 94 percent of workers, India’s unorganised sector created just 57 percent of India’s national domestic product in 2006, or about 9 fold less per worker than the organised sector. The productivity gap sharply worsens when rural unorganised sector is compared to urban unorganised sector, with gross value added productivity gap spiking an additional 2 to 4 fold depending on occupation. Some of lowest income jobs are in the rural unorganised sectors. Poverty rates are reported to be significantly higher in families where all working age members have only worked the unorganised sector throughout their lives. More Info

India Inc Comes Together to Contribute to Corona Fight

On Saturday, PM Modi announced PM-CARES fund to support the people who are directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19. From India’s mammoth Industrial houses to Armed Force Personnel to Bollywood actors, many citizens have contributed to the fund.
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We Care
Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) is a public charitable trust set up by the Union Government of India. The collected amount will be used to facilitate the smooth running of the life of needy people stuck far away from their homes and of the daily wagers. It will be used to boost the medical-infrastructure and to fulfill medical demands in this time of health crisis.

Industrialist Ratan Tata has donated ₹500 crores, biggest till now. His group Tata Sons has committed ₹1,500 crores towards fighting COVID-19. The Adani group and JWS Group have donated ₹100 crores each. Reliance Industries have pledged to provide free fuel for the emergency vehicles occupied in the treatment of Coronavirus patients. Besides donating ₹5 crore to Maharasthra CM Relief Fund, Ambani’s RIL has decided to produce 1 lakhs masks every day and to distribute free meals among the affected poor people.

Bollywood star Akshay Kumar has donated ₹25 crores to the PM-CARES fund. Baahubali star Prabhas has donated ₹4 crores to fight against Covid- 19. Many other Bollywood stars have come forward to help people by donating funds. India’s wealthiest sporting body, BCCI vowed to contribute the share of ₹50 crores in the PM-CARES fund. Suresh Raina and Sachin Tendulkar have donated ₹52 lakhs and ₹50 lakhs respectively.

India is also facing a scarcity of ventilators required during the treatment of Coronavirus infected people. To fill the gap, the Mahindra Group has declared that the company has started the process to figure out how their industrial plants will produce the ventilator.

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How to Donate to PM-CARES Fund?
You can do your share by donating to the PM CARES fund by following these simple steps:
1) Go to the website pmindia.gov.in if you want to make an online payment or want bank details. Here are the bank details if you want to pay via cheque or any other electronic means.
Name of the Account: PM CARES
Account Number: 2121PM20202
IFSC Code: SBIN0000691
SWIFT Code: SBININBB104
Name of Bank & Branch: State Bank of India, New Delhi Main Branch
UPI ID: pmcares@sbi

(Note that there are frauds being carried out using UPI ID “pmcare@sbi”. The correct UPI ID is mentioned above.)

2) Pay on the website through the following modes:
i) Debit Cards and Credit Cards
ii) Internet Banking
iii) UPI (BHIM, PhonePe, Amazon Pay, Google Pay, PayTM, Mobikwik, etc.)
iv) RTGS/NEFT

Budget Session Phase 2 Clocks 80% Productivity; Curtailed due to Coronavirus

The Parliament met on 2nd March 2020 for the phase 2 of the budget session after a short break. The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha clocked 86% and 74% productivity respectively until the budget session was called off on March 23, 12 days before schedule due to the growing fears of Coronavirus pandemic.
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Complete Coverage: Parliament Budget Session 1st Innings Plays Out With Bouquets And Brickbats

Day 10
On 2nd March, Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which proposes to increase the time period for termination from 12 to 20 weeks and the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which seeks to regulate the mining sector in India was introduced in Lok Sabha as the Budget Session 2.0 began.

Rajya Sabha began discussions on the Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020  and the Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019.

Day 11
On March 3, The Banking Regulation Amendment Bill, 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha. The Bill would keep certain types of agricultural credit societies outside the ambit of the 1949 Banking Regulation Act and strengthen cooperative banks. Clause-by-clause voting on the Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020 was taken up in Lok Sabha but the house was adjourned without passage of the bill due to repeated disruptions.

Day 12
On March 4, the Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill, 2020 was passed with amendments in the Budget Session. The Indian Institutes of Information Technology Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was also introduced in the Lok Sabha.

The Standing Committee on Finance presented its report on Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill 2019 in both the houses. It recommended using the process of delegated legislation through the formulation of rules by the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India.

3 members expressed their dissent for the provision that homebuyers could initiate insolvency proceedings against builders only if the resolution application is jointly filed by at least 10% of homebuyers on the same project.

Day 13
On March 5, Health Minister Dr. Harshvardhan informed both the houses of the government’s steps for universal screening of all international passengers entering India to tackle the Coronavirus. Many MPs highlighted the issue of fake news being circulated over social media and also overpricing of masks and hand sanitizers.

Under Rule 374, the Lok Sabha suspended 7 Congress MPs for the remaining Budget session for their unruly behaviour and misconduct of snatching papers from the Speaker’s table. The 7 MPs are namely Gaurav Gogoi, T N Prathapan, Dean Kuriakose, Manicka Tagore, Rajmohan Unnithan, Benny Behanan and Gurjeet Singh Aujla.

While the BJP welcomed the decision, INC leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury alleged the government of revenge politics and termed the decision as ‘dictatorial’.

“Our members had done nothing wrong. The decision was motivated by revenge politics and what happened today is a tale of embarrassment in the history of Parliament.”

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, INC Leader

Day 14
On March 6, the Lok Sabha passed the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 without any discussion.

The Mineral Laws Bill will remove the restrictions for certain coal mines and will further allow the transfer of statutory clearances from previous lessees to successful bidders for two years. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code will allow certain financial creditors to initiate an insolvency process in the event of default.

“This Bill will transform the mining sector in the country by boosting coal production and reducing dependence on imports and in turn also promote Ease of Doing Business.”

– Prahlad Joshi, Union Coal & Mines Minister.

Day 15
On 11th March, Minister of External Affairs, Dr. S.Jaishankar addressed the Rajya Sabha over the growing concerns of 6000 Indians stranded in Iran due to Coronavirus. He also informed that the Cabinet Secretary is following up with all states to set up isolation wards.

The Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla reconsidered the decision of the chair and revoked the suspension of the 7 MPs. As the Lok Sabha took up the discussion of the riots in Delhi, fierce disruption was seen from the opposition. AIMIM MP Owaisi, BJP MP Tejasvi Surya put out strong opposing views. Later Home Minister Amit Shah also replied to the debate by stating the facts and figures of the riot and also promised strict and swift action against those behind the riots.

Day 16
On March 12, the Rajya Sabha passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment Bill), 2020 but without the incorporation of the Standing Committee recommendations and the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was also passed.

In the second half, the government faced a lot of heat from the opposition in the Rajya sabha over the discussion of Delhi Riots wherein the opposition accused the Home Minister of failing to control the riots and also demanded clarification on CAA-NPR-NRC. Replying to the debate, the Home Minister gave point to point reply informing measures taken by the Delhi Police to investigate the riots and also criticized the Shaheen Bagh protest and clarified that no one’s citizenship would be taken away due to CAA or NPR.

Complete Coverage: Chronology of Delhi Riots

The Major Ports Authorities Bill, 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha; this bill would replace the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 and set up a Board of Major Port Authority for each Major Port in the country. The Demand for Grants by the Ministry of Railways was also discussed in the Lok Sabha which highlighted the declining business of passenger and freight trains due to other modes of transport.

Day 17
On 15th March, the Lok Sabha passed the Demand for Grants for the Ministry of Railways. The Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020 was taken up in Rajya Sabha where the MPs expressed their concerns over not addressing the root causes of high pendency of tax disputes. The House passed the motion to return the bill to the Lok Sabha as it can only send recommendations in case of a money bill.

Day 18
On March 16, the Rajya Sabha gave its assent to the Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019 which will convert Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha and Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha into Central Sanskrit Universities.

The Standing Committee report on the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was tabled in Lok Sabha. It seeks to prohibit unauthorized recording and broadcasting of a film and make provision for a prison term of up to 3 years, or a fine of up to Rs.10 lakh.

The Lok Sabha passed the Demand for Grants of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Ministry of Tourism. The Appropriation Bill, 2020 was introduced by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and also subsequently passed.

Day 19
The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha which seeks to decriminalize technical lapses under the 2013 Companies Act. Some Members opposed the bill and demanded to send it to a Standing Committee. This demand was put down by the Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur stating that the Bill only covered technical and procedural defaults.

The Lok Sabha then took up the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that proposes to recognize the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and the Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) as statutory bodies. One of the MPs asked the Civil Aviation Minister to pass the benefit of low rates of crude oil to aircraft operators; to which Minister Hardeep Singh Puri asked for aviation fuel to be brought under the GST regime.

The Rajya Sabha also took up The National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2019 for discussion which aims to repeal the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1970 and set up a National Commission for Indian System of Medicine (NCISM). The house also discussed The National Commission for Homoeopathy Bill, 2019 which proposes to set up the National Commission for Homoeopathy(NCH).

Day 20
The Rajya Sabha passed both The National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2019 and The National Commission for Homoeopathy Bill, 2019.

In the Zero Hour of Lok Sabha, an MP raised a demand to expand the list of Scheduled Languages to recognize Rajasthani, Bhoti, and Bhojpuri. The Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs assured that the government is considering this demand to be added to the 8th Schedule.

Day 21
On March 19, the Lok Sabha passed the Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda Bill, 2020 to merge 3 Ayurveda institutes into one which will now be called the Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda and will be designated as an institution of National Importance. Rajya Sabha discussed the Working of the Ministry of MSME; Nitin Gadkari, Minister for MSME said, “the sector contributes 29% of the GDP growth and 33% of manufacturing and has created about 11 crore jobs.”

Day 22
On March 23, The Finance Bill, 2020 was passed in the Lok Sabha and The National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020 and the Rashtriya Raksha University Bill, 2020 were introduced.

The house also gave an extension for the submission of the Joint Committee Report on The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019. In Rajya Sabha, the Pesticide Management Bill, 2020 was introduced. Later, the house took up clause by clause consideration of the Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bills for 2020. After growing pressure from the opposition to curtail the ongoing Budget Session, both the Houses were adjourned sine die 12 days ahead of schedule due to the growing cases of coronavirus.

Curiopedia

Zero Hour – The time immediately following the Question Hour has come to be known as “Zero Hour”. It starts at around 12 noon (hence the name) and members can, with prior notice to the Speaker, raise issues of importance during this time. Typically, discussions on important Bills, the Budget, and other issues of national importance take place from 2 p.m. onwards. More Info

Money Bill – In the Westminster system a money bill or supply bill is a bill that solely concerns taxation or government spending as opposed to changes in public law. It can be introduced only in Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha may not amend money bills but can recommend amendments. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha certifies the bill as a money bill before sending it to the upper house, and the decision of the Speaker is binding on both the Houses. A money bill must be returned to the Lok Sabha within 14 days, or the bill is deemed be passed in both houses in the form it was originally passed by the Lok Sabha. More Info

FM and RBI Stand Together to Support the People during Corona Lockdown

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a ₹1.7 lakh crore relief package to help the daily wagers and poor during the 21-day lockdown due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, RBI has also followed suit and decided to slash interest rates by 75 basis points or 0.75%.
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Shielding the Real Economy
FM announced that the relief package, ‘Gareeb Kalyan Yojna’, will include a mix of direct cash transfer benefits and food supplies. Food security under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Ann Yojna (PMGKY) is likely to benefit 80 crore people. Under this scheme, every household will get an additional 5 kg of Wheat or Rice and 1 kg of Pulses for three months. She also announced an insurance cover of ₹50 lakh for every healthcare worker for the coming three months. Following benefits will be given under the Direct Benefit Transfer:

  • ₹2,000 will be transferred to 8.69 crore farmers in the first week of April.
  • MNREGA workers will get a hike of ₹2,000 on their wages.
  • ₹1,000 will be transferred in two installments to 3 crore senior citizens, widows, and people with disabilities.
  • 20 crore women account holders in Jan Dhan will receive ₹500 per month for the coming three months.
  • Under the Ujjawala scheme, BPL families will get free cylinders for the coming three months.

RBI Follows Suit
To cope with the slowing demand, like Central banks across the globe, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has also reduced the interest rate. It slashed the repo rate by 75 basis points or 0.75% (1 basis point = 0.01%) and brought it down to 4.4%. Repo rate is the rate at which RBI lends money to commercial banks and is generally linked closely to the interest rates that commercial banks charge on loans. The US had cut its interest rate twice and brought it down to near 0 to combat the dipping demand due to Coronavirus.

RBI also announced that it is permitting all banks and NBFCs to allow a moratorium of three months on term loans. This means banks can allow you to put your EMI on term loans on hold for the coming three months without affecting your credit history.

Curiopedia

Repo rate is the rate at which RBI lends to its clients generally against government securities. Reduction in repo rate helps the commercial banks to get money at a cheaper rate. Increase in repo rate discourages the commercial banks to get money as it becomes expensive. Reverse repo rate is the rate at which RBI borrows money from commercial banks.

Increase in the repo rate increases the cost of borrowing and lending of banks which discourages the public from borrowing money and encourages them to deposit. As the rates increase, the availability of credit and demand decreases.
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COVID Test Kits: ICMR orders Millions, Chinese Kits Fail in Europe

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has estimated that India may require around 1 million Coronavirus test kits and has put a bid for the same. Recently, a Pune-based company Mylabs got approval for testing kits and is likely to bid for manufacturing testing kits at nearly one-fourth the rate.
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Coronavirus Update
In India, Coronavirus cases have crossed the 700-mark and the death toll is nearing 20 as on 27 March. The government has declared a shutdown to stem the spread of virus. But that may not be enough if proper Coronavirus testing is not carried out.

It is evident from USA’s current predicament, what harm lack of proper testing can do. It has more than 85,000 COVID-19 patients, surpassing the number of Coronavirus cases in China. The global count of Coronavirus cases is now more than half a million.

India Looks Inward for Solutions
To meet the demand of 1 million Coronavirus testing kits, Ahmedabad-based CoSara Diagnostics has become the only Indian company so far to receive the consent to manufacture test kits. Following suit, Pune-based microbiology lab Mylab got approval from Indian FDA-CDSCO for its indigenous COVID-19 testing kits that reduces testing time from 6 hours to 2.5hours. It has assured the government that it can produce 1 lakh testing kits per week and even increase production if needed.

ICMR has also said that it will begin conducting tests for antibodies. This is called Serological test. It looks for antibodies in a person’s blood. It tells the doctors if the patient had developed antibodies to Coronavirus.

Chinese Kits – A Noose for Countries
Till date, countries like Spain and the Czech Republic were using a faulty testing kit produced by China. Spain said that the test kits could only detect 30% of the cases correctly. Spain currently has more than 4,000 deaths, world’s second-highest.

Thus Indian authorities have decided the standards of the test kits to be equivalent to the criteria set by US Food and Drug Administration or the European regulator’s CE in-vitro diagnostics (IVD) certification. It can also be validated through a validation certificate issued by the National Institute of Virology in Pune.

Curiopedia

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world. The ICMR is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. ICMR’s 26 national institutes address themselves to research on specific health topics like tuberculosis, leprosy, cholera and diarrhoeal diseases, viral diseases including AIDS, malaria, kala-azar, vector control, nutrition, food & drug toxicology, reproduction, immuno-haematology, oncology, medical statistics, etc. The Indian Journal of Medical Research is published under the auspices of the council. More Info