States and State Legislatures

Changes in Agricultural Marketing laws across states

Since March, 2020, there has been a consistent rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in India.  As of May 18, 2020, there were 96,169 confirmed cases of the infectious disease, of which 3,029 persons died.  To contain the spread of COVID-19 in India, the central government imposed a nation-wide lockdown on March 24 till April 14, now extended till May 31.  To ensure continued supply of agriculture produce during the lockdown and control the spread of the disease, some states have amended their respective Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) laws.  This blog explains the manner in which agriculture marketing is regulated in India, steps taken by the centre for the agriculture sector during the COVID-19 crisis, and the recent amendments in the APMC laws that are being announced by various states. 

How is agriculture marketing regulated in India?

Agriculture falls under the State List of the Constitution.  Agriculture marketing in most states is regulated by APMCs established by state governments under the respective APMC Acts.  The APMCs provide infrastructure for marketing of agricultural produce, regulate sale of such produce and collect market fees from such sale, and regulate competition in agricultural marketing.  In 2017, the central government released the model Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2017 to provide states with a template to enact new legislation and bring comprehensive market reforms in the agriculture sector.  The 2017 model Act aims to allow free competition, promote transparency, unify fragmented markets and facilitate flow of commodities, and encourage operation of multiple marketing channels.  In November 2019, the 15th Finance Commission (Chair: Mr N. K. Singh) in its report provided that states which enact and implement all features of this Model Act will be eligible for certain financial incentives.

What steps were taken by the central government in light of COVID-19?

On April 2, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare launched new features of the electronic-National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) platform to strengthen agriculture marketing by reducing the need of farmers to physically come to wholesale mandis for selling their harvested produce.  The e-NAM platform provides for contactless remote bidding and mobile-based any time payment for which traders do not need to either visit mandis or banks.  This helps in ensuring social distancing and safety in the APMC markets to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

On April 4, 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare issued an advisory to states for limiting the regulation under their APMC Acts.  The advisory called for facilitating direct marketing of agricultural produce, enabling direct purchase of the produce from farmers, farmer producer organisations, cooperatives by bulk buyers, big retailers, and processors. 

On May 15, 2020 the Union Finance Minister announced certain reforms for the agriculture sector of the country to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown.  Some of the major reforms include: (i) formulating a central law to ensure adequate choices to farmers to sell agricultural produce at attractive prices, barrier free inter-state trade, and framework for e-trading of agricultural produce, (ii) amending the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to enable better price realisation for agricultural produce such as all cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions, and potatoes, and (iii) creating a facilitative legal framework for contract farming, to enable farmers to engage directly with processors, large retailers, and exporters.

Which states have made changes to agriculture marketing laws?

The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet has approved an ordinance, and Madhya PradeshGujarat, and Karnataka have promulgated ordinances, to relax regulatory aspects of their APMC laws.  These Ordinances are summarised below:

Madhya Pradesh 

On May 1, 2020, the Madhya Pradesh government promulgated the Madhya Pradesh Krishi Upaj Mandi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.  The Ordinance amends the Madhya Pradesh Krishi Upaj Mandi Act, 1972.  The 1972 Act regulates the establishment of an agricultural market and marketing of notified agricultural produce.  The following amendments have been made under the Ordinance:

  • Market yards:   The 1972 Act provides that in every market area, there should be a market yard, with one or more sub-market yards, for conducting all marketing activities such as assembling, grading, storage, sale, and purchase of the produce.  The Ordinance removes this provision and specifies that in the state, there may be: (i) a principal market yard and sub-market yard managed by the APMC, (ii) a private market yard managed by a person holding a license (granted by the Director of Agriculture Marketing), and (iii) electronic trading platforms (where trading of notified produce is done electronically through internet).  

  • Director of Agricultural Marketing: The Ordinance provides for the appointment of the Director of Agricultural Marketing by the state government.  The Director will be responsible for regulating: (i) trading and connected activities for the notified agricultural produce, (ii) private market yards, and (iii) electronic trading platforms.   He may also grant licenses for these activities.  

  • Market fee: The Ordinance also provides that market fee for trading under licenses granted by the Director of Agricultural Marketing will be levied as prescribed by the state government.

Gujarat

On May 6, 2020, the Gujarat government promulgated the Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.  The Ordinance amends the Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1963.  The amended Act is called the Gujarat Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 1963.  Key amendments made under the Ordinance are as follows:

  • Regulation of livestock market:   The Ordinance brings the regulation of marketing of livestock such as cow, buffalo, bullock, bull, and fish under the ambit of this Act. 

  • Unified market area:   The Ordinance provides that the state government may declare the whole state as one unified market area through a notification.  This can be done with the purpose of regulation of marketing of notified agricultural produce.

  • Unified single licence:  The Ordinance provides for the grant of a single unified trading license.  The license will be valid across the state in any market area.  Existing trade licenses must be converted into the single unified licenses within six months from the date of commencement of the Ordinance.  

  • Markets for conducting trading:  The Ordinance allows the state government to notify any place in the market area as the principal market yard, sub-market yard, market sub-yard, or farmer consumer market yard for the regulation of marketing of notified agricultural produce.  Certain places in the market area can also be declared a private market yard, a private market sub-yard, or a private farmer-consumer market yard.  The Ordinance adds that the notified agricultural produce may also be sold at other places to a licence holder, if especially permitted by a market committee.

  • Market sub-yards:   The Ordinance provides that a market area should have market-sub yards (warehouse, storage towers, cold storage enclosure buildings or such other structure or place or locality).  Further, it also provides that the owner of a warehouse, silo, cold storage or such other structure or place notified as market sub-yard, may collect a market fee on notified agricultural produce.  He may also collect user charge on de-notified agricultural produce transacted at the market sub-yard.  The rate of the fees should not exceed the rates notified by the state government.  However, no market fee shall be collected from farmers.

  • E-trading:  The Ordinance provides for the establishment and promotion of electronic trading (e-trading) platforms.  It provides that a license granted by the Director of Agricultural Marketing is necessary to establish an e-trading platform.   Further, it provides that applications on the e-trading platform shall be inter-operable with other e-platforms as per specifications and standards laid down by the Director.  This has been done to evolve a unified National Agricultural Market and integrate various e-platforms.

Karnataka

On May 16, the Karnataka government promulgated the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 The Ordinance amends the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) Act, 1966.  The 1966 Act regulates the buying and selling and the establishment of markets for agricultural produce throughout the state.  Key amendments made under the Ordinance are as follows:

  • Markets for agricultural produce:  The 1966 Act provides that no place except the market yard, market sub-yard, sub-market yard, private market yard, or farmer - consumer market yard shall be used for the trade of notified agricultural produce.  The Ordinance substitutes this to provide that the market committee shall regulate the marketing of notified agricultural produce in the market yards, market sub-yards and submarket yards.  Thus, the Act no longer bars any place for the trade of notified agricultural produce.

  • Penalty:  The 1966 Act provides that whoever uses any place for purchase or sale of notified agricultural produce can be punished with imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of up to Rs 5,000, or both.  The Ordinance removes this penalty provision from the Act.

Uttar Pradesh

On May 6, the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet approved the Uttar Pradesh Krishi Utpadan Mandi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 According to the state’s press release, the Uttar Pradesh government has decided to remove 46 fruits and vegetables from the ambit of the Uttar Pradesh Krishi Utpadan Mandi Act, 1964.   The 1964 Act provides for the regulation of sale and purchase of notified agricultural produce and for the establishment and control of agricultural markets in Uttar Pradesh.  

  • Certain fruits and vegetables exempted from the provisions of the Act:  These fruits and vegetables include mango, apple, carrot, banana, and ladies’ finger.  The proposed amendment aims to facilitate the purchase of these products directly from farmers from their farms.  Farmers will be allowed to sell these products at the APMC mandis as well, where they will not be charged the mandi fee.  Only the user charge will be levied as prescribed by the state government.   As per the state government, this will entail a loss of revenue of approximately Rs 125 crore per year to the APMCs.

  • License:   Specific licenses can be procured to carry on trade at places other than APMC markets.  This will encourage the treatment of warehouses, silos, and cold storages as mandis.  The owners or managers of such establishments can charge the user fee for managing the mandi.   Further, unified license can be used to trade at village level.  

Assam Government’s Response to COVID-19

As of May 5, Assam has 43 confirmed cases of COVID-19.  Of these, 32 have been cured, and 1 person has died.  In this blog, we summarise some key decisions taken by the Government of Assam until May 5 for containing the spread of the pandemic in the state.

Movement Restrictions

For containing the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Government of Assam took the following measures for restricting the movement of people in the state.  On March 19, the Department of Health and Family Welfare issued an order for closure of all museums, libraries, coaching centers among others until March 31.

Lockdown: To further restrict the movement of individuals, in order to contain the spread of the disease, the state government enforced a state-wide lockdown from March 24 to March 31.  The lockdown involved: (i) sealing the state borders, (ii) suspension of public transport services, (iii) closure of all commercial establishments, offices, and factories, and (iv) banning the congregation of more than five people at any public place.   Establishments providing essential goods and services were excluded from the lockdown restrictions.  Limited rituals were allowed in places of worship without any community participation.

This was followed by a nation-wide lockdown enforced by the central government between March 25 and April 14, now extended till May 18.  Starting from May 4, based on the Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines, the state government has allowed certain activities with restrictions in green zones of the state.  Activities such as e-commerce for all commodities, construction activities in urban areas, functioning of government and private offices among others are being allowed in green zones.

Health Measures

The Assam COVID-19 regulations, 2020: On March 18, the government issued the Assam COVID-19 regulations, 2020.   These regulations are valid for one year.  Key features of the regulations are as follows: 

  • All government and private hospitals should have separate corners for the screening of COVID patients.  Further, they should record the travel history of such persons during screening,

  • No hospital can refuse the treatment of suspected/ confirmed COVID-19 cases,

  • People travelled through affected areas must voluntarily report to the authorities, and

  • District administration can take necessary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, such as (i) sealing a geographical area, (ii) restricting the movement of vehicles and people, and (iii) initiating active and passive surveillance of COVID-19 cases.

The Assam COVID-19 Containment Regulations, 2020: On March 21, the government issued the Assam COVID-19 Containment Regulations, 2020.  These regulations detail the measures to be taken in case of community transmission within a geographical area.  These include enhanced active surveillance, testing of all suspected cases, isolation of cases and home quarantine of contacts, among others. 

Guidelines to Airports:  On March 18, the government issued instructions regarding procedures to be followed at the airports for the screening of passengers.  The guidelines allocate responsibilities such as thermal screening of passengers, counselling, transportation of passengers among others to various teams at the airports.

Medical colleges and Hospitals: On March 23, the Department of Health and Family Welfare directed all medical colleges and district hospitals to set up isolation wards.  On March 27, the Department of Health and Family Welfare released measures to be followed in medical colleges and hospitals.  These include: (i) seven days of training on critical care to all doctors, nurses, final year students of bachelor programs and Postgraduate students, (ii) Principals should set up a core team in every college for managing COVID-19 patients, among others.

Welfare measures

Food distribution: On March 28, the government decided to provide gratuitous relief such as rice, pulses among others to all wage earners, slum dwellers, rickshaw pullers, homeless, and migrant labourers living in municipal towns for seven days.

Minor Forest Produce (MFP): For enhancing the income of tribal farmers, the government revised rates of 10 MFPs such as honey, hill broom and added 26 new MFPs for Minimum support price in the state. 

One-time financial assistance for persons stranded outside India: On March 22, the government announced one-time financial assistance of $2,000 to residents of Assam stranded in foreign countries.  People who went abroad 30 days before the stoppage of international flights (on March 22) and are unable to return will receive this financial assistance.

Administrative measures

  • On March 21, the government constituted the task force at the State level and District level for implementation of various measures for containment of COVID-19 in the state. 

  • On April 2, the government constituted a committee for monitoring and checking of fake news across all forms of media.

  • On April 29, the Department of Finance announced certain austerity measures in the context of the fiscal situation that arose due to COVID-19. These include suspension of MLA area development funds from April to July 2020, reduction in establishment expenditure, and a ban on the purchase of vehicles by the government (except ambulances and for policy duty).

For more information on the spread of COVID-19, and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Gujarat Government’s Response to COVID-19

On March 19, Gujarat reported its first two cases of COVID-19. Since then, the number of cases have risen steadily. As of May 2, Gujarat has 4,721 confirmed cases (second highest in the country, after Maharashtra) of COVID-19. Of this 3,750 are active cases and 236 have died. The state government has responded with various actions to contain the spread and impact of COVID-19.  In this blog, we look at the key measures taken by the Gujarat Government till May 1, 2020.

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Initial phase 

As COVID-19 cases were rising in other parts of the country, the Gujarat government notified the Gujarat Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 on March 14,. These regulations detail the responsibilities of hospitals and individuals, and the powers of officials with regards to COVID-19. These include: (i) flu corners in all hospitals for screening purposes, (ii) mandatory collection of travel history of people during screenings in all hospitals, (iii) mandating people with travel history to COVID-affected countries to be isolated /quarantined based on symptoms, (iv) forced detention and isolation of suspected patients who refuse voluntary isolation, and (v) containment measures in an area once positive cases are detected.   Some of the other early measures are summarised below:

Health measures

  • The COVID-19 regulations were immediately supplemented with the n-COVID-19 Guidelines. These guidelines cover: (i) case definitions, (ii) basic infection prevention control measures, and (iii) standard precautions to be followed during the care and treatment of suspected patients.

  • On March 15, the government instructed all higher education institutions and other educational institutions including schools, polytechnics, anganwadis, to shut down till March 29. However, examinations of class X, XII, and universities were permitted to continue. Further, spitting in public was made a punishable offence. 

  • On March 19, the government ordered the closure of gyms, amusement parks, wedding halls, till March 31. Additionally, all private doctors, practising modern as well as traditional systems of medicine, were instructed to report suspect cases to the government. 

  • Fever Helpline 104 was launched on March 20 for reporting of suspect cases of COVID-19. Further, guidelines were also issued on the reporting of cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Illnesses (SARI) to the government. These include: (i) preparation of travel history and contact lists of reported suspect cases, (ii) nodal officer to decide on steps and treatment protocol for such cases, (iii) relevant authorities to initiate follow up and contact tracing for the patient for last 14 days, and (iv) initiating cluster management guidelines when new cases emerge. 

Essential goods and services

  • On March 20, a committee was formed by the government for daily monitoring of the availability, supplies, and manufacturing of medicines, masks, and sanitisers. On March 21, a Khas Kharid Committee was set up to ensure procurement of necessary medicines, equipments, and human resources during emergencies, bypassing existing purchase guidelines, if necessary. 

  • Between March 21 and March 22, the government announced a partial lockdown and released a list of essential services and businesses that were allowed to operate till March 25 in the cities of Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara,Rajkot, Kutch and Gandhinagar. These include: (i) government and municipal departments, (ii) shops selling essential goods, (iii) various medical facilities such as hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies, (iv) public utilities, (v) railways and transportation facilities, (vi) media, telecom, IT services, and (vii) banks and insurance firms.

  • The government also invited NGOs to collaborate in the fight against COVID-19, by arranging for the supply of masks, sanitisers, and infrared thermometers, and running awareness campaigns.      

Administrative measures

  • On March 18, the government issued guidelines specifying preventive measures to be taken in all government offices and employees. Recommendations inlcude: (i) avoiding face-to-face meetings and non-essential travel, (ii) closure of gyms and yoga centres in the Secretariat, (iii) home quarantine for officials exhibiting any symptoms, and (iv) mandatory leave to be given to such persons going on quarantine.

  • On March 21, the government released the terms of reference of Regional Nodal Officers appointed to work towards preventing the spread of COVID-19.

  • On March 23, the Gujarat Legislative Assembly decided to indefinitely postpone the Rajya Sabha elections that were originally to be held on March 26. 

Other measures

  • An advisory was issued requesting private firms to not lay off workers (even if they fall sick to COVID-19) or reduce their salaries. 

During the lockdown

On March 23, the state government extended and expanded the partial lockdown announced in select cities to the entire state. The lockdown was to be in place from March 23 to March 31. In addition to the exemptions announced in the partial lockdown orders, services such as (i) cattle feeding and veterinary services, (ii) stock broking, (iii) postal and courier services, and (iv) operation of industries where workers are available on site, were permitted.  The state-wide lockdown has been followed by a nation-wide lockdown since March 25 . This has been further extended until May 17.  Some of the key measures undertaken during the lockdown period are: 

Health measures

  • On March 27, all private clinics and hospitals in the state were directed to utilise the Dr. TeCHO mobile app developed by the government. The app can be used for uploading information related to: (i) sample collection and (ii) reporting and surveillance of all SARI cases. Another app was launched to keep track of home quarantined people. 

  • On March 30, COVID-19 was included as a notified disaster under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). Thus, all expenditure related to relief measures for displaced / homeless people, migrant labour or other stranded persons due to the lockdown, will be made out of the SDRF. 

  • On March 31, the government released new guidelines for the clinical management of COVID-19. These cover: (i) triage activities, (ii) case definitions and classification, (iii) infection and prevention control measures, (iii) specimen collection and handling, (iv) management and prevention of medical complications, (v) clinical management for COVID-19, (vi) discharge policy for patients, and (vii) dead body management. 

  • To exclusively cater to COVID-19 cases, four government hospitals and three private hospitals were declared as designated COVID-19 treatment facilities. Further, the government instructed all COVID-19 hospitals to provide treatment to the people free of cost. On May 1, 26 hospitals were additionally designated as COVID-19 facilities.

  • Resource Management: Between March 31 and April 7, the government initiated multiple measures to address the shortage of medical practitioners in government hospitals. These include: (i) extending tenures of retiring medical personnel, (ii) ad-hoc recruitment of teachers in medical colleges, (iii) contract-based appointments of class-1 specialist and class-2 medical officers from private sector, (iv) additional responsibilities to select class-1 doctors from the epidemiologist department, and (v) temporary shifting of Ayurvedic medical officers to various locations.

  • On March 28, the state released guidelines for Human Resource management (HRM) in COVID-19 facilities. These include: (i) creation of district level task forces, (ii) patient flow algorithm, (iii) deployment and rotation of HR, including residents and nursing staff, and (iv) pooling of HR from various institutes and cadres. 

  • The state has also allowed the use of AYUSH remedies and medicines, particularly for persons quarantined through contact tracing and to frontline personnel. Teams of corona warriors have been formed to assist people with preventive care. In addition, local officials have been asked to utilise the services of important stakeholders such as teachers, priests, and others, who can influence the social behaviour of people to deal with COVID-19.

  • A new State Health System Resource Centre has been established as the nodal agency in the state for all COVID-19 related research. Further, a COVID-19 research activity committee has been set up to lead this endeavour.

Welfare measures

  • On March 25, the state government decided to provide ration to 60 lakh poor families who live on daily wages. Further, on March 28,  to minimise the adverse effects of lockdown on casual labour, autorickshaw drivers, and street vendors, the government announced free wheat, rice, pulses, sugar, and iodised salt for the month of April 2020. 

  • Vadil Vandana scheme was launched to provide free of cost meals to the elderly and the aged living alone in various cities of the state.

  • The state also announced that electricity bills from March 1 to April 30, can be paid by May 15.

  • The government announced compensatory packages worth Rs 25 lakh for each frontline worker who may lose life on COVID-19 duty. Such workers include: (i) police personnel and (ii) other government employees under the state government, panchayats, and nagar palikas .

Other measures

  • Industry: Relaxations from the lockdown were announced for factories and IT/ITES firms, from April 20 onwards. For factories, the conditions specified that adult workers shall be allowed to work for not more than 12 hours per day (six hours at a time) or 72 hours per week. Female workers are not allowed to work between 7 pm and 6 am. Wages are to be proportional to the existing wage structure.  IT/ITES firms are allowed operate in non-containment zones at 50% strength and social distancing norms will be required to be followed. 

  • Administrative: On March 30, the government issued an order to continue paying full wages to all fixed-pay government employees who are on leave or working from home during the lockdown. However, the employees are required to report to work whenever required by the government during the lockdown.

  • On April 15, nodal officers were appointed and given additional financial powers to take control of infectious disease control hospitals. 

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Telangana Government’s Response to COVID-19

As of April 30, Telangana has 1,012 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (9th highest in the country).  Of these, 367 have been cured, and 26 have died.  In this blog, we summarise some of the key decisions taken by the Government of Telangana for containing the spread of COVID-19 in the state and relief measures taken during the lockdown.

Movement Restrictions

For mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Government of Telangana took the following measures for restricting the movement of people in the state.

Closure of commercial establishments: On March 14, the government ordered for the closure of cinema halls, amusement parks, swimming pools, gyms and museums until March 21 which was later extended to March 31.

Lockdown:  To further restrict the movement of people, the state and central governments announced lockdown in the state and country.  The lockdown included: (i) closing down state borders, (ii) suspension of public transport services, (iii) prohibiting congregation of more than five people.  The entities providing essential commodities and services were exempted from these restrictions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting from April 20, the central government allowed certain activities in less-affected districts of the country.  However, on April 19, the state government decided not to allow any relaxation in Telangana until May 7.

Health Measures

Telangana Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020: On March 21, the government issued the Telangana Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020.  The regulations are valid for one year.  Key features of the regulations include:

 (i) All government and private hospitals should have dedicated COVID-19 corners,

 (ii) People who had travelled through the affected areas should be home quarantined for 14 days,

(iii) Procedures to be followed in the containment zones among others.

Private Hospitals: On March 22, for increasing the availability of healthcare facilities in the state, the government issued an order prohibiting private hospitals from performing any elective surgeries.  The hospitals were also instructed to have separate counters for respiratory infections.

Increasing the health workforce in the state: On March 30, the government issued notification for the recruitment of medical professionals on a short term basis.

Prohibition on spitting in public places: On April 6, the Department of Health, Medical and Family Welfare department banned spitting of paan, any chewable tobacco or non-tobacco product, and sputum in public places.

Welfare measures

To mitigate the hardships faced by the people, the government took various welfare measures. Some of them are summarized below:

Relief assistance: On March 23, the government announced the following measures:  

  • 12 kg of rice will be provided for free to all food security cardholders.
  • One-time support of Rs 1,500 will be provided to all food security card holding families for buying essential commodities such as groceries and vegetables.

Factories: On March 24, the government directed the management of factories to pay the wages to all workers during the lockdown period.  

Migrant Workers: On March 30, the government decided to provide 12 kg of rice or atta and one time of support of Rs 500 to all migrant workers residing in the state.

Regulation of school fees: On April 21, the government ordered all private schools not to increase any fees during the academic year of 2020-21.  The schools will charge only tuition fees on a monthly basis. 

Deferment of collection of rent: On April 23, the government notified that house owners should defer the rent collection for three months.  Further, the owners should collect the deferred amount in instalments after three months.

Administrative Measures

Deferment of salaries: The government announced 75% deferment of salaries of all the state legislators,  chairperson of all corporations and elected representatives of all local bodies.  The government employees will have salary deferment from 10% to 60%.  Employees of the  Police Department, Medical and Health Department, and sanitation workers employed in all Municipal Corporations and Municipalities are exempted from deferment of salary.

Chief Minister's Special Incentives: The government granted special incentives to certain categories of employees as follows:

  • Medical and Health Department:  The employees of the Department of Medical and Health were given an additional 10% of their gross salary as an incentive for March and April,
  • Sanitation personnel: The sanitation employees of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation were given 7,500 rupees and the sanitation personnel of other local bodies were provided 5,000 rupees as incentives for March and April,
  • Police: The police personnel were awarded an additional 10% of their gross salary as an incentive for April. 

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Odisha Government’s Response to COVID-19

As of April 28, Odisha has 118 cases of COVID-19.  Of these, 37 have been cured, and 1 person has died.  In this blog, we summarise some of the key decisions taken by the Government of Odisha until April 28 for containing the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

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Before the lockdown

On March 24, the state government enforced state-wide lockdown.  Before enforcing it, the state government took several measures for preventing the spread of COVID-19 besides declaring it as a State disaster on March 13.   Some of the key measures are summarised below.

Health Measures

The Odisha COVID-19 Regulations, 2020: On March 18, the Government issued The Odisha COVID-19 Regulations, 2020.  These regulations are valid for a year.  As per these regulations, both government and private hospitals must have dedicated COVID-19 isolation facilities.   

Foreign returnees: On March 16, the Government issued an order for foreign returnees to: (i) mandatorily register on COVID portal within 24 hours of their arrival (ii) home quarantine themselves for 14 days.  An incentive of 15,000 rupees will be provided for registration and completing home quarantine. 

Prisons: On March 17, the Government released precautionary measures to be taken in prisons by authorities and inmates.  Newly admitted prisoners should be quarantined in different wards for a week. From March 18, e-Mulakat was allowed in District headquarters jails.

Private Health Care Facilities: On March 19, the Department of Health and Family Welfare issued guidelines for Private Health Care Facilities.  The guidelines specify the hospitals to have a COVID-19 specific counter with separate entrance, regulating the entry of visitors, and infection control measures.

Media: On March 21, the Department of Health and Family Welfare issued guidelines to the media not to publish any information or interview the infected persons, their relatives, doctors and support medical staff of them.

Increasing the health workforce in the state: The Department of Health and Family Welfare issued an order on March 23 for the engagement of Staff Nurses and other Paramedics on a short term basis.  The hired employees will be provided with additional incentives. 

Administrative Measures

State crisis management committee: On March 4, a State crisis management committee was formed to take policy decisions regarding cluster containment.

Prohibiting strikes of employees: On March 21, the government issued an order prohibiting any strikes by employees engaged in the supply of drinking water and sanitation in urban local bodies.  The order is valid for six months.

Public and private establishments: On March 21, the government requested all public and private establishments not to terminate the employees or reduce their wages.

Movement Restrictions

Closure of commercial establishments: On March 13, the Department of Health and Family Welfare ordered for the closure of cinema halls, swimming pools, gyms and educational institutions except for holding examinations until March 31. 

Suspension of bus services: On March 23, the Department of Health and Family Welfare issued an order suspending intra-state bus services from March 24 and City bus services in all urban local bodies from midnight of March 23.

Lockdown in few districts:  On March 21, the government announced lockdown in five revenue districts and eight towns of the state until March 29.  The lockdown involved (i) suspension of public transport services (ii) closure of all commercial establishments, offices, and factories (iii) banning the congregation of more than seven people at any public place.

During the lockdown

With two cases in the state, on March 24, the government extended the lockdown to the entire state till March 29.  Establishments engaged in the supply of essential goods and services were excluded from this lockdown.

This was followed by a nation-wide lockdown enforced by the central government between March 25 and April 14, now extended till May 3.   Before the extension announced by the central government, the state government extended the lockdown in the state till April 30.

Starting from April 20, the central government allowed certain activities in less-affected districts of the country.  Further, on April 24, the Ministry of Home Affairs allowed the opening of certain categories of shops with a limited workforce.

Welfare Measures

The Odisha government announced several welfare measures to address the difficulties being faced by people during the lockdown.  Key measures include:

Temporary shelter for migrants: On March 28, the government ordered District collectors and Municipal Commissioners to use closed down schools and hostel buildings as temporary shelters for the migrants. 

Provision of food in rural areas: On March 30, the government decided to provide hot cooked food for needy people in rural areas at affordable prices.  Two meals per day will be provided at Rs 60 for adults and Rs 45 for children per day.

Compensation to family members: The Odisha government will be giving compensation of fifty lakh rupees to the family members of the employees who may die due to COVID-19 and are not covered under insurance scheme of the central government.

Administrative Measures

Ordinances: As the State Assembly is not in session, the government promulgated two ordinances.

  • The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020On April 7, the government promulgated an ordinance to deal with COVID-19 spread.  The Ordinance amends Section 2 and 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.  The Act provides for the prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases.  The ordinance amends the act to increase the penalty for individuals committing the offences under the act.  

Setting up control rooms: On March 26, the Home department set up a round the clock control room for monitoring the issues regarding the implementation of lockdown and stranded Odias in various parts of the country.  On March 27 and 28, three control rooms were set up in Bhubaneswar and Delhi for the migrant labourers.

Deferment of salaries: The government announced 70% deferment of salaries of all the elected representatives of the state and 50% deferment for the employees of All India Services such as IAS and IPS.

Implementation of MGNREGS: On March 31, the Department of Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water issued an advisory for the implementation of MGNREGS.  Key measures include: (i) Job cards will be provided to people interested in doing unskilled works, (ii) Individual works up to 5 persons is allowed (iii) Hand wash and safe drinking water should be provided at the worksites.

Essential Goods and Services

  • On March 25, the government authorised certain authorities to issue passes for the free movement of essential goods.

  • For facilitating the movement of goods, the government allowed the opening of roadside dhabas, and vehicle repair shops situated on Highways.  These should be located outside of towns and cities.  

Health Measures

Amendments to Odisha COVID-19 regulations, 2020

  • On April 3, the government added following provisions to the Odisha COVID-19 regulations, 2020: (i) additional duties and responsibilities of hospitals and local bodies such as infection control measures in hospitals among others. (ii) state government or empowered officers can declare any government or private hospital as COVID hospital. 

  • On April 9, wearing masks were made compulsory for the people stepping out their houses and were included in the regulations.

  • On April 16, the government included the ‘prohibition of spitting in any form in public places’ into the regulations.

Short term engagements: On March 27, the government invited senior professionals having expertise in various sectors such as health care management, international logistics, and charities to work as Honorary Advisors to Government on a voluntary basis.  The government issued an order for engagement of microbiologists on a short term basis.

Training of MBBS students- On March 28, the government decided to train the MBBS students of all medical colleges studying 7th, 8th and 9th semesters and deploy them if there is a rise in the number of cases in future.  Training of government establishments was taken up in the first phase. Private colleges were also requested to train doctors and students simultaneously. 

Additional resources: On April 6, the State Executive Department authorized the Principal Secretary, Department of Health to requisition the services of anybody having expertise in public health care management.  When the need arises, the government can use the services of healthcare professionals such as doctors, nursing staff from government or private organisations to assist the state government.  

Support to personnel fighting the Pandemic: On April 22, the government announced certain measures to support the personnel fighting COVID-19 in the state. They are

  • The Government will invoke the National Security Act, 1980 against the individuals causing violence to any member of the medical community such as doctors, nurses, and health workers. 

  • While on duty, if any government employee dies due to COVID-19, the family will get the salary until the retirement date of the deceased employee.

  • The cremation of the individuals dying due to COVID-19 on duty will be honoured by the state as usually accorded to the martyrs. 

Handling the return of migrants from other parts of the country: On April 19, the Revenue and Disaster Management department issued an advisory to Gram Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies for handling the influx of migrants from other parts of the country, once the lockdown is over.  The advisory has the following steps.

(i) All local bodies should have registration facilities.  People returning from other states should register through their relatives or family members.

(ii) All persons arriving from various states will be quarantined for 14 days.

(iii) An incentive of 2,000 rupees will be provided to the people for completing the quarantine period in the quarantine facilities.

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Tamil Nadu Government’s Response to COVID-19

On January 17, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare acknowledged the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic that was spreading across China.  Tamil Nadu reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 7, 2020.   As of April 28, the state has 1,937 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (seventh highest in the country).  Of these, 1,101 have recovered (third highest rate of recovery in the country among states with 100 or more cases) and 24 have died.  The state government has taken several actions to contain the spread and impact of COVID-19.  In this blog, we look at the key measures taken by the Tamil Nadu government between January 19 and April 28, 2020. 

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Initial phase

The Tamil Nadu government came out with a series of responses between January 19 and February 1.  These included: (i) readying Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) at state and district levels, (ii) setting up of a 24/7 control room, (iii) thermal scanning of air travellers from China, (iv) creating isolation wards in the General Hospitals of four major cities, and (v) running appropriate awareness campaigns. 

Some of the other early measures are summarised below:

Health measures

  • On March 13, the Governor declared COVID-19 to be a notified disease in the state of Tamil Nadu, under the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act, 1939.  Notifying a disease allows for incidences of the disease to be mandatorily reported to the government and in turn, helps authorities to respond with appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the disease. 

  • On March 15, the government prescribed the Tamil Nadu COVID-19 Regulations, 2020.  These regulations detail the responsibilities of hospitals and individuals, and the powers of officials in relation to the diagnosis, treatment, and containment of COVID-19. These include (i) creation of isolation wards in hospitals, (ii) containment measures in an area once positive cases are detected, and (iii) mandatory 14-day home isolation for asymptomatic air travellers from COVID-19 affected countries.

  • On March 15, the government also mandated a 14-day institutional isolation for all air travellers to prevent import of infections from other states.  The state also initiated setting up of testing camps and conducting disinfectation drives in the border districts. 

Travel and Movement

  • On March 15, the government notified a series of instructions that restricted the movement of people in the state.  These include (i) shutting down of establishments, such as, educational institutions (up to Class 5), theatres, malls etc, and (ii) banning of inter-state travel for 15 days. 

  • On March 16, the government announced additional restrictions till Mar 31, such as, closure of: (i) anganwadis and making alternate provision of dry ration for children at their homes, (ii) swimming pools, amusement parks, gyms, zoos, museums, bars, clubs etc, and (iii) all educational institutions, except the conduct of practical exams for class 10 and 12, and various entrance exams.  

  • State borders were sealed off for road traffic, except for movement of essential commodities, from March 20 to March 31.  Public transportation services, such as metro rail and inter-state private buses, were also suspended till March 31. 

  • The Prime Minister asked the country to observe a Janta Curfew from 7 am to 9 pm on March 22,. The state government further extended this curfew to 5 am on March 23.  Following this, the government immediately announced a state-wide lockdown from March 24 up to April 1. 

  • On April 5, the government issued an advisory for the quarantine of migrant workers and the conduct of health camps for them. 

Welfare Measures

  • On March 15, the government announced financial assistance of a total of Rs 60 crore to various departments, such as, health, transport etc, to take precautionary measures to combat COVID-19.

  • On March 24, the government announced the distribution of cash support of Rs 1,000 to all entitled family cardholders.  Further, they were also eligible for free supply of essential commodities such as rice, dal, sugar, etc, during the month of April, through the Public Distribution System (PDS). 

During the lockdown

A state-wide lockdown was announced from March 24 to April 1, followed by a nation-wide lockdown between March 25 and April 14.  On April 13, the state-wide lockdown was extended up to April 30. This was followed by the extension of the nation-wide lockdown from April 15 to May 3. Under this, certain activities could be resumed after April 20. 

Some of the key measures undertaken during the lockdown period are: 

Travel and movement

  • Amidst the lockdown, on March 25, the government notified that establishments providing essential goods and services, which were allowed to operate.  These included establishments such as  (i) police forces, (ii) treasury, (iii) public utilities, (iv) banks, (v) media, (vi) telecommunications, and (vii) shops dealing with food, groceries etc.  Further, on March 28, the government permitted a few agriculture-related establishments to operate, such as, Mandis, fertiliser shops, and agencies involved in procurement of agriculture products. 

  • An Expert Committee formed by the state government to formulate guidelines for phased exit from lockdown after April 20, recommended the extension of the lockdown till May 3.  Certain select activities were, however, permitted to resume operations from April 20 onwards. These include (i) MNREGA works related to irrigation and water conservation, (ii) rural construction projects on irrigation, dam safety, hospital buildings, roads and bridges, and (iii) state and central government offices at one-third capacity.  

  • In view of rising number of cases, on April 24, stringent curfew orders were passed in the districts of (i) Chengalpattu, (ii) Kancheepuram, and (iii) Thiruvallur. The curfew will be imposed between April 26 and April 29, from 6 am to 9 pm, and with more stringent restrictions than under the ongoing nation-wide lockdown, such as, (i) petrol bunks to operate only between 8 am and 12 noon, and (ii) supermarkets and shops to remain shut. 

  • Curfew orders were passed in 5 more districts.  In Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai, curfew is imposed between 6 am and 9 pm from April 26 to April 29.  In Salem and Tiruppur, curfew was imposed from April 26 to April 28. 

Welfare Measures

  • On March 30,   the government announced a cash assistance of Rs 1,500 per month to be credited into the bank accounts of differently-abled persons.  It also announced that transgenders without ration cards, were eligible to receive 12kg of rice, 1kg of dal, and 1 litre of cooking oil, from fair price shops (FPS).

  • On April 2, the government announced a concession package to manufacturers of COVID-19 related medical equipment, who will commence production before July 31, 2020. The package applied to both MSMEs and large manufacturers of equipment, such as, ventilators, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits and medicines.  Some of the concessions include: (i) 30% capital subsidy, upto Rs 20 crore, (ii) 100% stamp duty waiver, (iii) 6% interest subvention for capital loans for two quarters, (iv) commencement of manufacturing without prior approval, and (v) provision of necessary land on priority basis for short-term/long-term leases, etc. 

  • Rs 50 lakh grant was announced to the families of frontline workers in the event of their unfortunate demise.  If infected by COVID-19, they are eligible for Rs 2 lakh assistance towards treatment costs.  In certain cases, if eligible, their kin would also receive a government job offer. 

  • On April 7, the government announced that MLALAD funds could be utilised for COVID-19 prevention and containment activities. A total of Rs 1.25 crore can be utilised towards prevention, containment, treatment, and purchase of medical equipment, PPEs etc.

Health Measures

  • On April 2, the government released a list of designated COVID-19 hospitals in the state. Instructions were issued to refer all COVID-19 positive cases exclusively to these designated hospitals. However, willing citizens were also permitted to approach private hospitals, at their own cost. Private hospitals were further instructed to establish dedicated fever clinics to cope with the increasing load of flu and fever cases.

  • Amidst a rise in the number of cases, on April 4, the government issued instructions to: (i) avoid all kinds of religious gatherings, (ii) hospitals to not show religious bias in treating patients, and (iii) doctors to coordinate with the government and check in on the mental health of quarantined patients via video conferencing facilities such as Skype.

  • On April 5, the government issued cluster containment measures to stop the transmission, morbidity, and mortality associated with the further spread of COVID-19. This was in response to the large number of imported infections from the attendees of the Nizamuddin conference in Delhi. 

  • Resource Management: On March 27, the Chief Minister announced an additional COVID-19 related recruitment of doctors and lab technicians. The recruited members were to join within three days of the notification. On April 25, an additional 1,323 nurses were also recruited.

  • A two-month extension was announced to the tenures of medical professionals retiring on March 31 and April 30.

  • The government also instructed District Authorities to ensure the protection of doctors and other hospital staff who are being forcefully evicted from their houses by landlords. As a measure to develop immunity against COVID-19, the government, on April 25, also recommended providing Zinc and Vitamin tablets, and herbal powder to all personnel on frontline duty in containment areas. 

Other Measures

  • Administrative: Eleven committees have been formed to coordinate implementation of various welfare programmes. In all districts, Crisis Management Committees have been formed under the district collector. 

  • Education: The conduct of semester examinations in universities and colleges is postponed to the beginning of the next academic year, as and when the institutions reopen. Private colleges and schools were also instructed to not compel students/parents to pay pending dues for 2019-20 or advance fees for 2020-21. 

  • Industry: On April 22, the government released a list of industries classified as continuous process industries. These are companies where the production lines are functioning 24/7. The list includes (i) refineries, (ii) large steel plants, (iii) large cement plants, (iv) sugar mills, (v) large paper mills, (vi) tyre manufacturers etc. 

  • Technology: The government launched a Whatsapp Chat Bot for providing latest information and guidance related to COVID-19 in both Tamil & English.

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Rajasthan Government’s Response to COVID-19 (till April 26)

As of April 26, Rajasthan has 2,083 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (fifth highest in the country), of which 493 have recovered and 33 have died.  On March 18, the Rajasthan government had declared a state-wide curfew till March 31, to check the spread of the disease.  A nation-wide lockdown has also been in place since March 25 and is currently, extended up to May 3.  The state has announced several policy decisions to prevent the spread of the virus and provide relief for those affected by it.  This blog summarises the key policy measures taken by the Government of Rajasthan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early measures for containment

Between late January and early February, Rajasthan Government’s measures were aimed towards identification, screening and testing, and constant monitoring of passenger arrivals from China.  Instructions were also issued to district health officials for various prevention, treatment, & control related activities, such as (i) mandatory 28-day home isolation for all travellers from China, (ii) running awareness campaigns, and (iii) ensuring adequate supplies of Personal Protection Equipments (PPEs).  Some of the other measures, taken prior to the state-wide lockdown, are summarised below:

Administrative measures

  • The government announced the formation of Rapid Response Teams (RRTs), at the medical college-level and at district-level on March 3 and 5, respectively.

  • The District Collector was appointed as the Nodal Officer for all COVID-19 containment activities.  Control Rooms were to be opened at all Sub-divisional offices.  The concerned officers were also directed to strengthen information dissemination mechanisms and tackle the menace of fake news.

  • Directives were issued on March 11 to rural health workers/officials to report for duty on Gazetted holidays.  Further, government departments were shut down between March 22 and March 31.  Only essential departments such as Health Services were allowed to function on a rotation basis at 50% capacity and special / emergency leaves were permitted. 

Travel and Movement

Health Measures

  • Advisories regarding prevention and control measures were issued to: (i) District Collectors, regarding sample collection and transportation, hotels, and preparedness of hospitals, (ii) Police department, to stop using breath analysers, (iii) Private hospitals, regarding preparedness and monitoring activities, and (iv) Temple trusts, to disinfect their premises with chemicals. 

  • The government issued Standard Operating Procedures for conducting mock drills in emergency response handling of COVID-19 cases.  Training and capacity building measures were also initiated for (i) Railways, Army personnel etc and (ii) ASHA workers, through video conferencing. 

  • A model micro-plan for containing local transmission of COVID was released.  Key features of the plan include: (i) identification and mapping of affected areas, (ii) activities for prevention control, surveillance, and contact tracing, (iii) human resource management, including roles and responsibilities, (iv) various infrastructural and logistical support, such as hospitals, labs etc, and (v) communication and data management.

  • Resource Management: Private hospitals and medical colleges were instructed to reserve 25 % of beds for COVID-19 patients.  They were also instructed to utilise faculty from the departments of Preventive and Social Medicine to conduct health education and awareness activities. 

  • Over 6000 Students of nursing schools were employed in assisting the health department to conduct screening activities being conducted at public places, railways stations, bus stands etc.

  • Further, the government issued guidelines to ensure the rational use of PPEs.

Welfare Measures

During the lockdown

State-wide curfew announced on March 18 has been followed by a nation-wide lockdown between March 25 and May 3. However, certain relaxations have been recommended by the state government from April 21 onwards.  Some of the key measures undertaken during the lockdown period are: 

Administrative Measures

  • Advisory groups and task forces were set up on – (i) COVID-19 prevention, (ii) Health and Economy, and (iii) Higher education.  These groups will provide advice on the way forward for (i) prevention and containment activities, (ii) post-lockdown strategies and strategies to revive the economy, and (iii) to address the challenges facing the higher education sector respectively. 

  • Services of retiring medical and paramedical professionals retiring between March and August have been extended till September 2020. 

Essential Goods and Services

  • A Drug Supply Control Room was set up at the Rajasthan Pharmacy Council.  This is to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicines during the lockdown and will also assist in facilitating home delivery of medicines.

  • The government permitted Fair Price Shops to sell products such as masalas, sanitisers, and hygiene products, in addition to food grains.

  • Village service cooperatives were declared as secondary markets to facilitate farmers to sell their produce near their own fields/villages during the lockdown. 

  • A Whatsapp helpline was also set up for complaints regarding hoarding, black marketing, and overpricing.

Travel and Movement

  • Once lockdown was in place, the government issued instructions to identify, screen, and categorise people from other states who have travelled to Rajasthan.  They were to be categorised into: (i) people displaying symptoms to be put in isolation wards, (ii) people over 60 years of age with symptoms and co-morbidities to be put in quarantine centres, and (iii) asymptomatic people to be home quarantined.

  • On March 28, the government announced the availability of buses to transport people during the lockdown.  Further, stranded students in Kota were allowed to return to their respective states. 

  • On April 2, a portal and a helpline were launched to help stranded foreign tourists and NRIs.

  • On April 11, an e-pass facility was launched for movement of people and vehicles. 

Health Measures

  • To identify COVID-19 patients, district officials were instructed to monitor people with ARI/URI/Pneumonia or other breathing difficulties coming into hospital OPDs.  Pharmacists were also instructed to not issue medicines for cold/cough without prescriptions. 

  • A mobile app – Raj COVID Info – was developed by the government for tracking of quarantined people.  Quarantined persons are required to send their selfie clicks at regular intervals, failing which a notification would be sent by the app.  The app also provides a lot of information on COVID-19, such as the number of cases, and press releases by the government.

  • Due to the lockdown, people had restricted access to hospitals and treatment.  Thus, instructions were issued to utilise Mobile Medical Vans for treatment/screening and also as mobile OPDs

  • On April 20, a detailed action plan for prevention and control of COVID-19 was released.  The report recommended: (i) preparation of a containment plan, (ii) formation of RRTs, (iii) testing protocols, (iv) setting up of control room and helpline, (v) designated quarantine centres and COVID-19 hospitals, (vi) roles and responsibilities, and (vii) other logistics. 

Welfare Measures

  • The government issued instructions to make medicines available free of cost to senior citizens and other patients with chronic illnesses through the Chief Minister’s Free Medicine Scheme 

  • Rs 60 crore was allotted to Panchayati Raj Institutions to purchase PPEs and for other prevention activities. 

  • A one-time cash transfer of Rs 1000 to over 15 lakh construction workers was announced.  Similar cash transfer of Rs 1000 was announced for poor people who were deprived of livelihood during the lockdown, particularly those people with no social security benefits.  Eligible families would be selected through the Aadhaar database.  Further, an additional cash transfer of Rs 1500 to needy eligible families from different categories was announced.

  • The state also announced an aid of Rs 50 lakh to the families of frontline workers who lose their lives due to COVID-19.

  • To maintain social distancing, the government will conduct a door-to-door distribution of ration to select beneficiaries in rural areas of the state.  The government also announced the distribution of free wheat for April, May, and June, under the National Food Security Act, 2013.  Ration will also be distributed to stranded migrant families from Pakistan, living in the state.

  • The government announced free tractor & farming equipment on rent in tie-up with farming equipment manufacturers to assist economically weak small & marginal farmers.

Other Measures

  • Education: Project SMILE was launched to connect students and teachers online during the lockdown.  Study material would be sent through specially formed Whatsapp groups.  For each subject, 30-40 minute content videos have been prepared by the Education Department.

  • Industry:  On April 18, new guidelines were issued for industries and enterprises to resume operations from April 20 onwards.  Industries located in rural areas or export units / SEZs in municipal areas where accommodation facilities for workers are present, are allowed to function.  Factories have been permitted to increase the working hours from 8 hours to 12 hours per day, to reduce the requirement of workers in factories.  This exemption has been allowed for the next three months for factories operating at 60% to 65% of manpower capacity.

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Delhi Government’s Response to COVID-19 (till April 23, 2020)

As of April 23, Delhi has 2,248 cases of COVID-19.  After Maharashtra and Gujarat, Delhi has the highest number of cases in the country.  On March 22, when the number of cases rose to 29, the Delhi government announced lockdown in the state until March 31, to contain the spread of COVID-19. This has been followed by a nation-wide lockdown by the central government between March 25 and May 3.  In this blog, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the state government in response to COVID-19 so far.

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Before the lockdown

On March 8, with three cases of COVID-19 in the state, the Department of Health and Family Welfare decided to carry out an awareness drive at various crowded places during Holi.  Along with it, the government also took several other steps for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the state.  Some of these measures are summarised below.

Health Measures

Disinfecting the vehicles: On March 11 and 12, the government ordered to disinfect minibusesschool buses and school cabs daily.

The Delhi Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020: On March 12, with six cases of COVID-19, the Delhi government notified The Delhi Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020.  These regulations are valid for a year.  Key provisions include:

(i)  All government and private hospitals should have dedicated flu corners.

(ii) home quarantine for people who have travelled through the affected areas, and

(iii) Certain persons authorised under the Regulations, with the approval of the State Task Force, can take necessary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, such as: (i) sealing a geographical area, (ii) restricting the movement of vehicles and people, and (iii) initiating active and passive surveillance of COVID-19 cases.

Movement Restrictions

Educational institutions: On March 12, the government ordered the closure of all educational institutions up to March 31.  The students writing examinations were allowed to attend them along with the staff.   However, on March 19, the government ordered the postponement of exams until March 31.

Public gatherings:

  • On March 13, the government issued an order prohibiting the gatherings of over 200 people such as seminars, conferences, and Indian Premier League cricket matches.   This was further restricted to 50 people on March 16, and to 20 people on March 19 when the number of cases rose to 12.
  • Between March 12 and March 16, the government ordered the closure of cinema hallspublic swimming poolsgyms, and night clubs until March 31.   On March 19 and 20, sports complexes and shopping malls were also ordered to be shut down. 

Restaurants and private establishments: On March 19, all restaurants were ordered to discontinue sitting arrangements until March 31.  Private establishments were ordered to allow their employees to work from home till March 31. 

Delhi-Kathmandu bus service: On March 20, the government suspended the Delhi-Kathmandu bus service, officially known as the Maitri Bus Sewa.

During the lockdown

On March 22, when the number of cases rose to 29, the Delhi government announced the lockdown in the state until March 31.  The lockdown involved: (i) suspending the public transport services, (ii) sealing borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, (iii) suspending all domestic and international flights arriving in Delhi, and (iv) banning the congregation of more than five persons at any public place.  This was followed by a nation-wide lockdown enforced by the central government between March 25 and April 14, now extended till May 3

Starting from April 20, the central government allowed certain activities in less-affected districts of the country.  However, the Delhi government, on April 19, announced that there will not be any relaxation in the lockdown in Delhi, until another comprehensive assessment which will be made on April 27.

Welfare Measures

The Delhi government announced several welfare measures to address the difficulties being faced by people during the lockdown.  Key measures include:

Night shelters: The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board is providing free meals to the homeless people staying in the night shelters.  On March 25, a hunger helpline was set up which directs the needy people to the nearest night shelter for food.

Hunger Relief Centers: On March 26, the government directed the District Magistrates to set up at least two hunger relief centres in every municipal ward for providing 500 meals twice (lunch and dinner) every day at each centre. 

Financial assistance: The government is providing one-time financial assistance of Rs 5,000 to drivers of vehicles such as autos, taxis, and e-rickshaws.

Compensation to family members: The Delhi government will be giving compensation of one crore rupees to the family members of the employees who may die due to COVID-19.

Health Measures

Additional manpower: On March 24, the government ordered the hospitals and institutions under the Department of Health and Family Welfare to engage up to 25% additional manpower in outsourced services such as sanitation, security, and nursing assistants. 

Wearing masks made compulsory: On April 8, the government made it compulsory for all people to wear masks in public places, offices, gatherings, meetings, and personal vehicles.

Identification of paid quarantine facilities: On April 13, the government ordered all district magistrates to identify paid quarantine facilities in their respective districts for housing the people who would like to use private facilities on payment basis.   

Creation of a multi-sectoral dedicated team: On April 13, the government ordered for the creation of the Corona Foot Warriors and Containment Team at every booth.  The government aims to enhance ground level intervention through them. 

Setting up Helpline: On April 17, the Department of Health and Family Welfare set up a dedicated 24x7 Whatsapp number for receiving complaints and requests from the people related to COVID-19.

Measures related to Media

The government took the following steps to control the spread of fake news related to COVID-19:

  • On April 1, the government ordered the Director, Directorate of Information and Publicity to regularly monitor the fake news across print and electronic media.  He was appointed as the nodal officer of Delhi’s fact check unit on April 3.    
  • On April 20, the Department of Health and Family Welfare ordered all government hospitals to create a media cell for monitoring the fake news about the functioning of hospitals on social and news media.

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

UP Government’s Response to COVID-19 (till April 22)

As of April 22, Uttar Pradesh has seen 1,449 cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and accounts for 6.8% of the total cases in India.  Of the 1,449 persons infected of the disease, 173 have recovered and 21 have died (3.1% of the total deaths in India due to the disease).  These proportions are quite lower as compared to the state’s share in the country’s population (16.5% as per Census 2011).  However, the same holds for the number of persons tested for COVID-19 as well, as of the 4.85 lakh persons tested in India, 37,490 persons (7.7%) have been tested in Uttar Pradesh.

To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the state government has taken various measures over the past 2-3 months, spanning across areas such as health, law and order, and social welfare.  This includes imposition of lockdown in 16 districts starting March 23, which was extended to the entire state on March 24, before the nation-wide lockdown came into effect.   This blog post looks at the key measures taken by the state government in response to COVID-19 and the lockdown.

Before the lockdown

One of the earliest steps the state government took in response to COVID-19 was on January 27, when it planned to set up a 10-bed isolation ward in every district hospital and medical college, and increased vigilance on the Indo-Nepal border and airports.  Subsequently, on March 15, it ordered all travellers coming from foreign countries to be kept under surveillance and quarantine for a period of 14 days.  Between March 13 and March 17, the government ordered the closure of educational institutionscinema halls, museums, and tourist spots to prevent public gatherings.   On March 20, this was extended to include malls, and all religious, social, and cultural activities.  Further, to prevent unnecessary crowding, government hospitals were ordered to provide emergency services only.

Welfare measures:  The state government also undertook certain relief measures to provide aid to the persons affected due to COVID-19 and the consequent loss of economic activities.  These include: (i) free treatment for all persons infected with COVID-19, (ii) order to all employers to provide 28-days paid leave to infected or quarantined persons under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, (iii) another order under the Act to all shops and factories to provide paid leave to all workers if the government orders temporary closure of their business, (iv) free one-month ration to 1.65 crore registered construction workers and daily wage labourers for April, and (v) Rs 1,000 per month of direct cash support to 20.4 lakh registered construction workers, and to 15 lakh street vendors and other unregistered workers.

During the lockdown

During the lockdown, the state government’s measures have been aimed towards: (i) strengthening the medical response in the state, (ii) providing relief to various sections of the society from issues being faced during the lockdown, including UP migrants in other states, and (iii) addressing difficulties being faced in the supply of essential goods and services.  For implementation of these measures, the government constituted 11 committees on March 26 for the work related to various departments.  On April 13, similar committees were constituted under the respective Ministers.

Healthcare

Medical facilities:   On March 23, committees were constituted in each district to determine the process for purchase of emergency medical equipment.   On March 25, the government ordered each of the 51 government and private medical colleges in the state to set up isolation wards of 200-300 beds.   It also proposed to conduct training programmes at district-level for AYUSH doctors, nursing staff, retired health workers, and officers of army medical corps.   This was subsequently made more comprehensive by including lab technicians, ward boys, and sweepers.

Testing:  On April 3, the government ordered setting up one testing lab in every medical college, or in a district hospital, in case there is no medical college in the district.   On April 20, the government decided to encourage the use of pool testing within the state to contain the spread of COVID-19.   It also approved consideration of plasma therapy as a treatment option for COVID-19.

Funding:  On April 3, the UP COVID Care Fund was set up for strengthening treatment facilities in medical colleges, and for expenditure on personal protection equipment, test kits, ventilators, isolation and quarantine wards, and telemedicine.  Subsequently, two Ordinances were promulgated on April 8 to deduct the salaries and allowances of Ministers, MLAs, and MLCs for 2020-21 by 30% to donate Rs 20 crore to the UP COVID Care Fund.   Further, Rs 1,509 crore was made available for the Fund by suspending the Local Area Development scheme for legislators for a period of one year.  In addition, the government increased the limit of the Contingency Fund from Rs 600 crore to Rs 1,200 crore through an Ordinance to allow for extra-budgetary expenditure on COVID-19 related measures.

Hotspots:  On April 8, the government sealed the hotspot areas across the state by prohibiting any movement in the area.  Only medical, sanitisation, and doorstep delivery teams are allowed to enter and exit the hotspot areas, and all enterprises are required to be completely closed.  The government has also ordered for door-to-door checking of the residents living in hotspot areas.

Essential goods and services

Other than the distribution of ration, the state government is providing food to persons staying in night shelters, with community kitchens being set up for persons who are unable to cook.  On April 17, the government made access to the Public Distribution System (PDS) universal till June 30, irrespective of the availability of ration card and Aadhaar card.  In case of death of a person, his ration card, maintenance allowance, and other benefits will be provided to his family as per their eligibility.

To prevent profiteering from sale of essential goods, on March 28, the government ordered the shopkeepers to display the price list in their shops.   On March 29, the government decided that the supply of electricity and water will be ensured and these connections will not be cut for one month.  Subsequently, it also ordered that fixed charges for electricity will not be levied for industries during the period of lockdown.  On April 3, the government ordered banks to remain open on holidays so that government relief assistance is available to the beneficiaries.

Migrants

From other states:  On March 26, the state government decided that migrant workers travelling through the state to other states such as Bihar will be provided food and shelter, and sent safely to their destination.  Subsequently, on March 28, the government decided to prepare the list of migrants who came to the state, provide them food, and keep them under surveillance and quarantine.  On April 22, the government allowed migrants from other states to go back to their home state if the respective state government decides to take them back.

From UP:  The state government requested other states to provide food and shelter to the migrants from UP present in their states, and requested the migrants to stay where they are.  To provide further support to migrants, the state government appointed senior administrative and police officials as nodal officers for each state where migrants from UP might be present.  These nodal officers are the main points of contact for migrants living in the respective states.  They are also responsible for coordinating with the respective state government and local administration to ensure the essential needs of migrants such as food and shelter are met, and alleviate their difficulties, if any.

On April 19, the government brought nearly 8,000 students who were studying in Kota back to the state.  The government allowed them to be kept in quarantine in their homes provided they download the Aarogya Setu app.

Economy

The state government is encouraging the purchase of produce by Farmer Producer Organisations directly from farms as an alternate option to mandis.   On April 13, the government formed a committee of officials to prepare a workplan for attracting investment made by countries such as USA and Japan, which is moving out of China, to the state.  In this regard, the government is planning to contact the embassies of various countries.  On April 19, it constituted another committee to work towards providing employment to about 5 lakh migrant workers who have returned to the state in the last 45 days.  On April 20, the government also allowed construction work on expressway projects to begin after preparation of an action plan.  In line with the advisories issued by the central government, the state government decided to provide relaxations from the lockdown in districts with less than 10 cases starting April 20.  The district administrations are preparing action plans for opening up industries in these districts, excluding the ones situated in the hotspot areas.

Sikkim Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (till April 22, 2020)

As of April 22, 2020, Sikkim does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19.  As of April 21, 2020, 87 samples have been sent for testing from Sikkim.  Of these, 80 have tested negative for COVID-19, and the results of seven samples are awaited.  The state has announced several policy decisions to prevent the spread of the virus and provide relief for those affected by it.  In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the Sikkim state government in this regard as of April 22, 2020.  

Response before national lockdown

On March 16, the state government responded to the growing number of suspected cases in India by notifying certain directions to be applicable till April 15, 2020.  These included: (i) banning the entry of all domestic and foreign tourists in to the state, (ii) closing all educational institutes and anganwadis, (iii) prohibiting the use of recreational facilities such as, casinos, gym, and cinemas, (iii) closing three out of five check posts (border opening) for all visitors in to the state and opening the other two only for medical and police teams, and (iv) banning private industries from getting migrant workers from outside the state and avoiding large concentration of workers at one place.

On March 19, assembly of more than five people was prohibited in the state until April 15, 2020.  The government ordered the suspension of all non-essential work on March 19.  The supply of all essential commodities such as food grains, vegetables, sanitisers and masks was allowed.  Further, the formation of a sub-divisional task force to detect suspected cases was ordered.  

On March 22, the government regulated intra-state movement of private vehicles, two-wheelers and taxis on an odd-even basis (allowing plying of vehicles on alternate days as per the number plate) until April 15, 2020.  The government also reduced the budget session of the state to two days on March 23. 

On March 25, the central government announced on a 21-day country-wide lockdown till April 14.  During the lockdown the state government took various steps for physical containment, health, financial and welfare measures.  These are detailed below.

Measures taken during lockdown

Movement Restrictions

Certain movement restrictions were put across the state.   These include:

  • Movement of vehicles: Inter-state movement of vehicles was restricted to vehicles transporting essential goods.  These vehicles need to have a permanent pass for such movement.  On April 5, intra-state movement of vehicles was restricted to government officials, transportation of essential commodities, banks and PSUs, and media and cable networks.   Their passes are valid only from 8am to 5pm.
     
  • Validity of passes:  The state government noted that a large number of vehicle passes were issued due to various reasons.  On April 14, the government ordered that all passes issued by District Magistrates, and other Departmental Authorities (except those issued by the police, health department and forest and environment department) will be invalid from April 14.  New passes will be issued only by Magistrates and Block Development Officers.  
     
  • Securing borders:  In view of the COVID-19 pandemic and to check unauthorised cross-border infiltration from China, Nepal, and Bhutan, the state government secured all porous borders along the Rangpo river and other vulnerable areas.

Essential Goods and Services

On April 5, the state government issued an order requiring establishments such as shops, hotels, private offices, and commercial establishments to remain closed until April 15.  Establishments which were permitted to remain functional include law enforcement agencies, health services, electricity and water services, petrol pumps, and media.  Shops for PDS, groceries, vegetables, milk and, medicines were only allowed remain open from 9 am to 4 pm.

  • Valid prescription and label required:  On March 25, the state prohibited the sale of hand sanitisers without drug manufacturing licence label.  It also prohibited sale of N95 masks to general public without valid prescription. 
     
  • Transit camps:  On April 17, the state government notified that transit camps (temporary accommodation) will be set up for drivers and helpers of vehicles carrying essential goods.

Health Measures

On March 31, the Sikkim government identified and set up dedicated isolation wards and treatment centres in the STNM hospital, Sochakgang as a precautionary measure.  The government also issued directions for citizens to avoid getting infected by coronavirus.  These included social distancing, and maintaining proper hygiene.  

On April 18, the state government made it mandatory for all the public, students, teachers, and government employees, to install the Aarogya Setu application.  The government of India launched a mobile app called ‘Aarogya Setu’ to enable people to assess the risk of catching COVID-19 on April 2, 2020.   The app uses Bluetooth and Global Positioning System (GPS) based device location for contact tracing in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Welfare Measures

  • Economic relief package:  On March 27, an economic relief package was announced by the state government.   This included free ration in specific quantities (other than the PDS entitlement) to needy families in rural and urban areas, daily wagers, migrant labourers, casual workers, and stranded people.  Further, the government announced an additional incentive wage of Rs 300/day for tea workers at Temi-tea estate. 
     
  • Food distribution:  On April 16, the government announced that Asha workers will be given Rs 5,000 as honorarium for work done during COVID-19.  Further, it ordered the food and civil supply department to compile a list of all the left out beneficiaries for distribution of food relief packages.
     
  • Relief to stranded patients:  On April 16, the government announced that a financial relief of Rs 30,000 will be provided to each patient undergoing treatment and stranded outside Sikkim from the Chief Minister's relief fund.
     
  • Relief for casual workers:  On March 30, the Sikkim government issued directions to all contractors/ employers to pay migrant and casual labourers on the due date without any deductions due to the lockdown.  The state government also provided grants worth Rs 2,000 to the 7,836 registered building and other construction workers in the state.
     
  • Relief for stranded students:  On March 29, the state announced that it will provide Rs 5,000 to each state student stranded outside Sikkim during the nationwide lockdown.

Certain relaxations after 20th April 

On April 14, the nation-wide lockdown was further extended till May 3, 2020.  On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines outlining select activities which will be permitted from April 20 onwards.  These activities include health services, agriculture related activities, certain financial sector activities, operation of Anganwadis, MNREGA works, and cargo movement.  Further, subject to certain conditions, commercial and private establishments, industrial establishments, government offices, and construction activities will also be permitted.  The Sikkim government took the following steps in the same line.

  • On April 19, the state government gave directions to all government and PSU offices to work with up to one-third of their actual staff strength from April 20 onwards. 
     
  • On April 19, the state government gave directions and standard operating procedures to be followed at manufacturing establishments, work spaces and public places post April 20.  These include: (i) no overlapping shifts, (ii) staggered lunch breaks, (iii) training on good hygiene practices, (iv) compulsory wearing of face cover, and (v) sanitising workplaces between shifts. 

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.