States and State Legislatures

Kerala Government’s Response to COVID-19 (January 30, 2020 - April 22, 2020)

On January 17, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare acknowledged the emergence of COVID-19 that was spreading across China. On January 30, 2020, the country’s first COVID-19 positive case was reported in Kerala.  By March 11, 2020, the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic.  This blog summarises the key policy measures taken by government of Kerala to respond to the pandemic.  

As on April 22, Kerala has had 427 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which 307 have recovered (highest rate of recovery in the country). Only three deaths have been recorded in the state so far.

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Pre-lockdown period: Early measures for containment

Following the first confirmed case involving a returnee from Wuhan, China, the initial responses by the state were aimed at surveilling, identifying, and conducting risk-based categorisation of all passenger arrivals from China and others who had come in close contact with these travellers. As two more cases were confirmed on February 2 and 3, the state government declared a health emergency in the state. 

Subsequently, a health advisory was issued to track, identify, and test all travellers with a travel history to Wuhan since January 15, 2020.  Such passengers and their close contacts were to be kept in isolation for 28 days.  The advisory also directed all lodging establishments to maintain a register of travellers with travel histories to corona-affected countries. A similar advisory was issued for student returnees as well. With no further confirmed cases being reported immediately, on February 12, the state withdrew the health emergency.  However, a high state of response and surveillance continued to be applied.

Second wave of infections

When a second wave of infections began spreading in early March, the government took several multi-pronged measures to address the threat. The following measures were taken in this regard:

  • Health measures: Revised guidelines for the clinical management of COVID19 patients, covering testing, quarantine, hospital admission, and discharge, were issued.  
     
  • Instructions were issued regarding airport safety protocols as well as testing of foreign nationals entering and exiting the state. All foreign arrivals, even if asymptomatic, were to be kept in isolation until their test reports were available. 
     
  • Further guidelines and precautions on social distancing and various hygiene norms, such as, use of sanitsers, were also issued to malls, shopping centres, and salons
     
  • Movement restrictions: All non-medical educational institutions, including anganwadis and madrassas were immediately shut down till March 31 and exams of classes 1-7 were postponed. Exams for classes 8 and above were to be held as scheduled. University exams were also postponed till March 31.
     
  • Government departments were asked to make temporary arrangements regarding working hours of their employees. Officials were also instructed to look into welfare measures for migrant workers.
     
  • Guidelines were also issued to private establishments regarding working time, safety measures, and leave for employees.
     
  • Administrative Measures: On March 17, COVID19 was declared a notified disaster, thus becoming eligible for funds from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). SDRF is the primary fund available with state governments for responses to notified disasters. Notifying a disaster enables states to spend more from the SDRF to fight the said disaster.
     
  • In order to better coordinate the state’s response, the government issued instructions to constitute COVID-19 cells in all departments. Meetings and inspections by government officials were also to be avoided. 
     
  • Local Self Government institutions were assigned various roles and responsibilities. These include: (i) running awareness programs, such as, ‘Break the Chain’ initiative, (ii) conducting sanitation and cleanliness drives, (iii) regular outreach to home isolated/quarantined persons, (iv) activating committee system to manage responsibilities, (v) ensuring availability of essential commodities, (vi) categorising and ensuring available response mechanisms, such as, material resources, volunteers, medical resources etc, and (vii) ensuring special attention to vulnerable populations, such as senior citizens, and persons with co-morbidities or undergoing special treatments. 

The lockdown period

On March 23, Kerala announced a state-wide lockdown till March 31.  A day later, the central government announced a nation-wide 21-day lockdown.  

Restrictions imposed under the state’s order included: (i) stoppage of all forms of passenger transport services, (ii) prohibition of a gathering of more than five persons, and (iii) closure of all commercial establishments, officers, and factories, except those exempted.  Use of taxis, autos or private vehicles was permitted only for procurement of essential commodities or for medical emergencies. Establishments providing essential goods and services such as banks, media, telecom services, petrol bunks, and hospitals were permitted to operate.  

On April 15, the central government extended the lockdown till May 3.  Some of the key measures undertaken during the lockdown period are: 

Administrative Measures

  • A round-the-clock war room, comprising members of different departments, was set up to monitor and supervise all COVID-19 containment activities. 
     
  • Corona media cell was set up to monitor and tackle the threat of fake news surrounding COVID19.  
     
  • With the legislature not in session, the Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020 was promulgated by the Governor of Kerala on March 26. The Ordinance empowers the state government to undertake necessary measures and specify regulations to counter the threat of an epidemic disease.  It also specifies a penalty for those who violate orders made under this Ordinance. 

Healthcare Measures

Essential Goods and Services

  • On March 25, the state declared a list of essential services under the Kerala Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1994. 
     
  • Various exemptions from lockdown were issued to services that were later deemed essential. These include: (i) shops and bakeries, including departmental stores, (ii) online food deliveries, (iii) parcel services, for delivery of essential goods, (iv) automobile service workshops, (v) shops and service centres for mobile phones, computers etc, only on Sundays, and (vi) plumbers and electricians to undertake maintenance work in houses and flats. 
     
  • On April 3, orders were issued to set up community kitchens under the aegis of Kudumbasree and Local Self Governments (LSGs). Kudumbasree is the poverty eradication and women empowerment programme implemented by the Kerala government. As on April 20, a total of 339 Community Kitchens have been functioning in 249 panchayats across 14 districts of the state. They have served a total of 5,91,687 meals since April 4, 2020. The government has also instructed LSGs to hire volunteers for the kitchen and pay them an honorarium of Rs. 400 (for one-time service) or Rs. 650 (for the whole-day).

Welfare Measures

  • Under SDRF norms, funds were released to the Health Department for relief and response activities for COVID-19. 
     
  • Each District Collector has been allocated Rs. 50 lakh for carrying out various COVID-19 outbreak-related control and prevention activities.
     
  • Financial assistance has been sanctioned to (i) fishermen, (ii) artists, (iii) lottery agents and sellers, and (iii) elephants and other such animals being looked after. 
     
  • A 2000-crore worth Chief Minister’s Helping Hand Loan Scheme was announced for people facing lockdown-related unemployment and hardships. The scheme will be operationalised through neighbourhood groups under the aegis of Kudumbasree. 

Post-lockdown strategies – Strategies easing lockdown relaxations

  • Expert Committee: On April 4, an Expert Committee was constituted by the government and on April 6, the Committee submitted its Report on the guidelines for post-lockdown regulations. It recommended a conditional, three-phase strategy, with districts being the unit of implementation. Relaxations would be progressively eased in each phase depending on criteria, such as, (i) number of new confirmed cases, (ii) percentage increase/decrease in number of persons under home surveillance, and (iii) no emergence of hotspots.. 
     
  • Containment Guidelines: After the lockdown was extended till May 3, the state released revised guidelines for containment, that recommended classification of districts into four zones, based on number of cases and disease threat. The zones – Red, Orange A, Orange B, and Green – would have different, graded restrictions, with Red having stringent restrictions in the form of a lockdown till May 3. The Orange A and B zones would have a lockdown till April 24 and 20 respectively, followed by a partial relaxation thereafter. Green zone would have a lockdown till April 20 and relaxation in restrictions thereafter.
     
  • Based on the above order, the state issued an advisory for industrial units to follow while resuming operations. Some of the Standard Operating Procedures to be followed include: (i) conducting disinfectation of premises, machinery, and vehicles, (ii) arranging exclusive transportation facilities with vehicles operating at 30-40% capacity, (iii) mandatory thermal scanning of people, (iv) following hygiene and social distancing norms, including a cap on elevator capacities and size of meetings (v) mandatory corona-related insurance cover for workers, (vi) mandatory use of CCTVs, and (vii) preparing a list of nearby COVID-19 hospitals .

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

Government of Chhattisgarh’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the central and state governments have implemented several measures to reduce the spread of the disease and provide relief for those affected by the it.  In this blog, we look at some of the key measures taken by the Government of Chhattisgarh with regard to public health, ensuring supply of essential commodities and providing relief to affected persons.  

COVID-19 cases in the State

As of April 21, 2020, Chhattisgarh has 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19.  Of these, 11 are active cases, and 25 patients have been cured or discharged.   This is illustrated below in Figure 1. 

Figure 1: Day wise COVID-19 Cases in Chhattisgarh

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Sources: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India; PRS.

Key measures taken by the State Government

On March 13, 2020, the Department of Health and Family Welfare notified the Chhattisgarh Epidemic Disease, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020.   Key provisions of the regulations include: 

  • The district collector can take necessary actions such as sealing geographical area of the district and ban vehicular movement, in order to prevent the spread of the epidemic.  Further, the district administration may take measures such as closure of schools, offices and banning public gatherings. 
     
  • In order to avoid rumours and unauthenticated information, no person or institution can use any print or electronic media for information regarding COVID-I9 without prior permission of Health Department.
     
  • All health facilities (including private) should have COVID-19 corners for screening of suspected cases.  Further, they should record travel history of a person if he has travelled to an area affected by COVID-19.  

Movement restrictions:  Following these regulations, the government announced several additional measures to restrict movement of people to contain the spread of COVID-19.

  • On March 19, the Transport department stopped running of all inter-state buses in the state to restrict movement to and from the state.  On March 21, all city bus services in urban areas of the state were suspended. This was followed by stoppage of all transport including auto, taxi and e-rickshaws.
     
  • On March 22, the government announced a lockdown in all urban areas of the state till March 31 during which all offices, institutions and other activities were to remain closed.   Essential services such as medical shops, vegetable shops, petrol pumps, electricity and water supply services were open.    
         
  • On March 25, the central government announced on a 21-day country-wide lockdown till April 14.  On April 14, the lockdown was further extended till May 3, 2020. 

Essential Goods and Services: Following the lockdown, the government notified certain additional essential goods and services that will remain unaffected by the lockdown.   These are noted below:  

  • On March 13, 2020, the central government notified hand sanitisers, surgical masks and N-95 masks as Essential Commodities.  This implies that the government can regulate the product, supply and pricing of these items.   Following this, the state government notified that the district administration should monitor the price of surgical masks, N-95 masks and hand sanitisers in each district of the state.
     
  • On March 24, the state department of Food and Public Distribution notified certain additional essential goods and services under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.  These include: (i) wheat and rice mills, (ii) operations of items used in acquirement or storage of items under the Public Distribution System, such as fertilisers, (iii) supply of Petrol, Diesel, CNG and LPG, among others.
     
  • On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines on the measures to be taken by state governments until May 3.  As per these guidelines, select activities will be permitted in less-affected districts from April 20 onwards to reduce the hardships faced by people.  Permitted activities include: (i) health services such as hospitals, clinics, and vets, (ii) agriculture and related activities such as fisheries and plantations, (iii) MNERGA work, (iv) construction activities, and (v) industrial establishments.

Relief measures:  During the lockdown, the state government announced several measures to provide relief to the affected individuals.  Key measures include: 

  • Rice for two months will be provided in April to all beneficiaries under the Public Distribution System.  Antyodaya & Annapurna ration card holders will also get sugar and salt for two months in April.  Two quintal of rice is allocated to every gram panchayat, which can be utilised for distribution to individuals without ration cards, subject to a maximum of 5 kg for an individual. 
     
  • 4 kg of rice at primary level and 6 kg at upper primary level will be provided to school children under the Mid-day Meal Scheme, on account of closure of schools.  Further, arrangements will be made to provide ready to eat take home rations for undernourished children between the age of 3 to 6 at Aanganwadi centres.  
  • The government approved sanction of MLA funds for corona virus prevention and other necessary arrangements and support.  The Chief Minister announced that there will be no mandatory deduction from salaries of state government officials and employees for pandemic relief. 
     
  • The state’s Labour Department sanctioned Rs 3.8 crore to aid labourers affected due to lockdown. 
     
  • Pending taxes, interest and penalties of bus and truck operators of nearly Rs 331 crore to be waived off.  

Health Measures:  Over the last few weeks, the government issued several guidelines and orders on containment of the virus, patient handling and protection of healthcare workers.  Some of these are noted below:

  • On March 23, the government of Chhattisgarh declared Corona Virus as a "Notified Infectious Disease" under the Chhattisgarh Public Health Act, 1949.  Further, it notified measures to be taken for prevention of spread of COVID-19 at industries and workplaces.  These included restricting the number of employees at workplaces, and ensuring sanitisation at workplace.  
     
  • Guidelines regarding bio-medical waste in quarantine homes and camps were notified.  These guidelines provide that all workers involved in waste collection should be provided with personal protective equipment.  Further, vehicles carrying such waste should be sanitised with 1% hypochlorite after every trip. 
     
  • On April 11, the Department of Health and Family Welfare made it mandatory to wear a mask for all persons while stepping out of their house for any public place. 
     
  • The department also released guidelines for patients cured of COVID-19.  These guidelines provide that such persons should be escorted to their home district from the hospital and regular monitoring and supervision of their health should be ensured by the district administration.   
     
  • Further, the department released guidelines for continuation of other hospital services during COVID-19 outbreak.  The guidelines provide that the patients should be advised on phone as far as possible, and should be given separate timings for in-person appointments to avoid congestion at hospitals.  On April 18, the Chief Minister announced an online health consultation website for patients, through which patients can seek free of cost advice from doctors.   

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

Government of Bihar’s response to COVID-19 (till Apr 19, 2020)

On March 22, Bihar registered its first two cases of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), one of whom died the same day.  Since then, the number of cases has increased steadily. As of April 19, Bihar has 86 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which 47 are active cases and 37 have recovered.  33 new cases have been registered since last week. One more death has been registered since March 22.

Given the highly contagious nature of the disease, on March 22, the Government of Bihar announced a state-wide lockdown till March 31.  This was followed by a nation-wide lockdown enforced by the central government between March 25 and April 14, now extended up to May 3.  During the lockdown, severe restrictions have been placed on the movement of individuals. Establishments have remained closed, except those providing essential goods and services.  Restrictions are likely to be relaxed in less-affected districts post-April 20.

In this blog, we look at key measures taken by the state government in response to COVID-19 so far.

Early-stage: screening of travellers, awareness on precautionary measures

The initial responses from the state government were aimed towards: (i) raising awareness about precautionary measures to be taken against the disease, and (ii) screening of international travellers.  In this context, on February 25, the Bihar State Health Society issued advisories for: (i) measures to be taken in schools and colleges, and (ii) reporting of airline passengers and tourists with symptomatic cases to the district health administration.  On March 11, 104 Call Centre was designated as the COVID-19 control room, to address public queries related to the disease.

Prior to lockdown: limiting mass gatherings, mobilisation of the public health system

Limiting mass gatherings

Between March 13 and March 18, the state government issued orders to shut down various premises until March 31. These include Anganwadi centres, educational institutions, and commercial establishments such as cinema halls, parks, and shopping malls. The government staff was directed to come to office on alternate days. Gathering of more than 50 persons at one place was prohibited including any mass family gathering (except marriages).  The transport department was asked to restrict both public and private transport.

Healthcare measures

Welfare measures

  • On March 16, the Chief Minister announced that treatment costs for COVID-19 for residents of Bihar will be sponsored from the Chief Minister Medical Assistance Fund.  Moreover, the state government will provide assistance of four lakh rupees to the family of a person dying due to COVID-19.

  • The government issued directions to provide direct cash transfer in place of the food provided under the Mid-Day Meal scheme in schools, and at Anganwadi centres.

Essential goods and services

On March 21, the Food and Consumer Protection Department directed the district administration to ensure implementation of the Bihar Essential Article (Display of Prices and Stocks) Order, 1977.  The Order requires sellers of specified items to display stock and price for the public’s reference.  The specified items include food items, edible oilseeds, and petroleum products.  The Department also directed the district administration to send proposals for adding any new items to the list of specified items.

During lockdown: strengthening medical response, welfare measures

Upon announcement of the lockdown on March 22, state-level and district-level coordination committees were set up.  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 society from issues being faced during the lockdown, and (iii) addressing difficulties with the supply of essential goods and services.

Healthcare measures

  • On March 25, the Health Department constituted the Bihar COVID-19 Emergency Response Team which is responsible for the control and coordination of all health-related response.

  • Protocols for containment and treatment: Directions have been issued to implement several guidelines related to containment and treatment measures.  These include: (i) set up and operationalization of isolation centres and quarantine centres, (ii) containment plan to address local transmission and community transmission through cluster containment strategy, (iii) surveillance program for Influenza-like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI), (iv) handling of waste generated during treatment/diagnosis/quarantine, and (v) sanitation of residence and nearby areas of a COVID-19 positive person.

  • Door-to-door screening campaign: On April 14, the Chief Minister issued directions to start door-to-door screening campaign for suspected cases in affected districts including Siwan, Begusarai, and Nalanda.  Such screening campaign will also be run in districts in border-areas, and an area within 3 km radius of the residence of COVID-19 positive patients.

  • Increasing manpower: The government invited medical professionals including doctors, nurses, and paramedics to volunteer.  It also directed the district administration to engage retired doctors, nurses, and paramedics from defence services for volunteer work.  Leaves of all employees of the Health Department were cancelled until April 30.  The Health Department deputed AYUSH practitioners to assist at isolation and quarantine centres.

  • Dedicated infrastructure for COVID-19: On April 5, certain government hospitals were designated as exclusive hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 patients.  The Health Department also directed certain big private hospitals in Patna to stop OPD services.

  • Other health-related measures: On March 23, the state government announced payment of one-month basic salary as an incentive to all doctors and health workers.  On April 13, the Health Department issued an order prohibiting spitting in public places by tobacco, cigarette, and Pan users.  Further, the state government announced that it will procure test kits from the private sector.

Welfare measures

  • Relief package: On March 23, the state government announced a relief package for people affected due to lockdown.  Key features of the relief package are: 

  1. ration of one-month to all ration cardholders for free,

  2. one-time cash transfer of Rs 1,000 per family to ration cardholders,

  3. payment of pensions for three months in advance to all pensioners including pension for old age persons, widows, and physically challenged, and

  4. release of pending scholarships to all students.

  • Help for migrants: On March 26, Rs 100 crore was allocated from the Chief Minister Relief Fund to provide aid to the migrants from Bihar stuck in other parts of the country due to the lockdown.  On April 2, the state government announced that a one-time cash transfer of Rs 1,000 will be provided to the migrants.  On April 13, an additional Rs 50 crore was allocated from the Relief Fund for this purpose.  State-wise nodal officers have been appointed for coordination of relief efforts for migrants.  The state government is running 10 food centres in Delhi to help migrants from Bihar.

  • Relief camps: On March 28, the state government decided to start relief camps along the border (including Nepal border) offering food, shelter, and medical help to persons coming in the state.  Community kitchens and relief camps have been started in government school campuses to provide food and shelter. 

  • Electricity tariff:  On April 8, the State Cabinet approved the proposals for: (i) reducing electricity tariff for domestic and agricultural consumers by 10 paise per unit and (ii) waiving the monthly meter fee.

Measures for businesses and agricultural activities

  • The state government provided certain relaxations to businesses in matters related to taxation.  These include:

  1. extension in the deadline for payment of GST from March 31 to June 30, no interest or penalty charges to be levied for late payment in certain cases,

  2. three-month extension in the deadline for one-time settlement scheme for pre-GST tax disputes, and

  3. cancellation of orders regarding attachment of bank accounts of certain tax defaulters.

  • On April 16, the Chief Minister issued directions to start procurement of wheat through the Primary Agriculture Credit Society (PACS).

Essential goods and services

Other Measures

Education:  On April 8, the cabinet approved the proposal to promote students of Class I to XI (except class X) without annual examination.

Legislature:  Salaries of MLAs and MLCs have been reduced by 15% for one year.  The amount will be donated to the state’s Corona relief fund.

Labour and employment:  On April 16, the Chief Minister issued directions to resume public works under the Saat Nischay Programme, Jal Jeevan Hariyali Yojana, and MNREGA.

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

Government of West Bengal’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (till April 18, 2020)

With the spread of COVID-19, along with the central government, state governments have also announced several policy decisions to contain and prevent the spread of the virus.  In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the government of West Bengal in this regard as of April 18, 2020. 

As of April 18, 2020, there have been 287 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in West Bengal. Of these, 55 have been discharged and 10 have died.  To manage patients, there are 66 COVID hospitals, eight testing laboratories, and 582 institutional quarantine centres in the state. 

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Early response: Leading up to lockdown

Between January and February, the state government's efforts were aimed at raising awareness among citizens on COVID-19.  These include advisories on observing precautionary measures, and informing citizens on travel restrictions, home isolation, and screening protocols for foreign returnees.

On March 2, the state government responded to the growing number of suspected cases by issuing guidelines for preparedness by government medical colleges and hospitals.   These covered admission, isolation and management of suspected COVID-19 cases.  These instructions were extended to private medical colleges and hospitals on March 7.  A week later, the government issued protocols for monitoring travellers at various state checkposts by joint teams of state police and paramedical staff, and for reference of symptomatic patients to isolation facilities in the district.  All cases had to be reported on a daily basis to district surveillance teams.  The government also announced the closure of all educational institutions in the state (government and private) till March 31.  

On March 16, the government notified the West Bengal Epidemic Disease COVID-19 Regulations, 2020.  These regulations specify screening and treatment protocol for COVID-19 patients, and empower the district administration to take containment measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.   

The next day, the state reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19.  The government proceeded to issue orders: (i) for segregating isolation wards for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases, (ii) specifying treatment protocols for confirmed cases, (iii) establishing medical boards in all COVID-19 hospitals with representation from different medical disciplines, and (iv) establishing fever clinics for suspected patients.  Anganwadi centres and creches were also closed, with provisions to ensure supply of two kilograms of rice and potatoes to each beneficiary.  

On March 21, the government ordered the closure of certain establishments to restrict non-essential social gatherings till March 31, 2020.  This included closure of restaurants, clubs, amusement parks, and museums.  Further, all trains entering the state and inter-state buses were banned till March 31, 2020.

Subsequently, the government announced a lockdown.  In addition to steps for physical containment, the government also undertook various health and welfare measures.  These are detailed below.

Measures taken post-lockdown

On March 22, a lockdown was announced in 23 areas of the state until March 27.  Restrictions during the lockdown included: (i) prohibition on public gatherings of over seven people, (ii) suspension of public transport, and (iii) closure of shops, commercial establishments, offices and factories.  Establishments providing essential goods and services such as health services, print media, banks, groceries, and e-commerce delivery of food and groceries, were excluded from the restrictions.  Over the next few weeks, steps were taken to expand these exemptions, and to regulate the movement of goods and services.

  • List of essential goods and services:  On March 24, the lockdown was extended till March 31 in the entire state, and the exemptions were expanded to include industries producing coal, power, steel, or fertilisers.   After the centre notified a 21-day lockdown, the list of exemptions in the state was gradually expanded to include agricultural operations, fish production, tea garden operations, and operations in krishak bazars for marketing agricultural produce.  At the same time, restrictions were placed on hoarding of masks and hand sanitisers.  

  • Last week, after the central government extended the lockdown till May 3,  orders were passed for resumption of government offices from April 20 onwards at a strength of 25% of workforce.  Similar permission was also granted for restricted operations in jute mills, and IT/IT enabled services.  

  • Regulating movement of goods and services:  A pass system was introduced on March 25 to regulate the movement of persons supplying essential goods and services.  Transportation of non-essential cargo was prohibited till March 31, 2020.  However, as a one-time measure, permission was granted on March 26 to such vehicles to reach their destination.  Two days later, the government ordered for the seamless movement of commodities in all district borders and interstate areas. 

Health Measures

On March 26, a Committee of Experts was constituted to advise on strategies for isolation, quarantine, testing, health infrastructure, and disease prevention.  The Committee has been issuing protocols on clinical management of COVID-19 cases.  The government also established various monitoring committees on setting up isolation hospitals, managing critical care, and to audit the cause of deaths related to COVID-19 patients.  

To respond to the increasing number of patients, the government acquired private healthcare facilities in April.  Further, to expand its testing capacity, the government recommended sample pooling for COVID-19 testing yesterday.

In addition to these measures, the government also issued several guidelines, advisories and orders on containment of the virus, patient handling and protecting healthcare workers.  Some of these are detailed below: 

  • For healthcare facilities:  Advisory for setting up of isolation facilities, orders for establishment of fever clinics to segregate patients with severe symptoms, separation zones for suspected cases to protect healthcare personnel, and use of hydroxychloroquine for asymptomatic healthcare workers.

  • For government:  Guidelines for cluster containment and treatment strategies to contain COVID-19 in hi-risk spots, directions for awareness generation among rural population for containment, and arranging for counselling sessions for quarantined patients.

Welfare/Austerity Measures

  • Creation of relief fund:  The “West Bengal State Emergency Relief Fund” was created on March 23 to mobilise additional resources to cope with the emergency.  On April 2, austerity measures were announced by the government.   These include prohibition on announcement of new schemes, unless required in urgent public interest.

  • Distribution of food:  Free entitlement of wheat and rice was announced on March 26 to beneficiaries under some food subsidy schemes (including the Antyodaya Anna Yojana) until September, 2020.

  • Measures for workers:   Directions were notified in March for provisions on shelter, food, quarantine, wage payment, and continued tenancy for workers.   

  • Free insurance cover was announced on April 1 for treatment of certain categories of persons, including heathcare workers, and police.

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

Madhya Pradesh Government’s Response to COVID-19 (January 2020- April 17, 2020)

As of April 17, Madhya Pradesh has 1,120 confirmed cases of COVID-19 - the fifth-highest among all states in India.  The Government of Madhya Pradesh issued one of its initial COVID-19 related orders around January 28, 2020, advising healthcare workers to use appropriate protective gear when examining patients from Wuhan, China.   Since then, the government has taken several actions to contain the spread and impact of COVID-19.  In this blog, we look at key measures taken so far.

Figure 1: Day-wise COVID-19 cases in Madhya Pradesh

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Early stages: Focus on screening international travellers

On January 28, the state government issued directions to monitor international travellers from specified countries, test and maintain surveillance on those who are symptomatic.  A further order required district administrators to monitor and report on all passengers who arrived from China between December 31, 2019 and January 29, 2020.  While efforts were largely focused on screening and testing, the first quarantine restrictions for symptomatic travellers from China, entering India after January 15, were imposed on January 31.  Those leaving quarantine were subsequently kept under surveillance and their health conditions reported on for a period of 14 days.  By February 13, a constant presence of a medical team at the airport was required to test foreign passengers from an increasing list of countries and send daily reports.  

February and early March: Improving public health capacity, restricting social gatherings

The next steps from the government were aimed towards adapting the public health infrastructure to handle the evolving situation.  Following are some of the steps taken in this regard:

  • A helpline, with a dedicated call centre, was set up to inform citizens about COVID-19 and its prevention.
  • The regional directors of the Directorate of Health Services, Government of Madhya Pradesh, were instructed to ensure availability of N-95 masks and PPE kits in their region.
  • The Health Department issued guidelines to the Chief Medical and Health Officials in the State regarding the collection and transport of COVID-19 test samples.
  • Medical professionals in public hospitals were ordered to attend a national training.
  • An order was issued to improve arrangements for quarantine and isolation wards.
  • Leaves were cancelled for all employees/officers of the Health Department. 
  • To grant certain rights to establish effective control over outbreak affected areas and take swift actions, section 71 of the Madhya Pradesh Public Health Act, 1949 was invoked.  This section of the Act provides all Chief Medical and Health Officers and Civil Surgeon cum Chief Hospital Superintendents rights set out therein.  

As the number of cases in India increased through March, the MP government turned focus and issued orders directly concerning their citizens.   Several measures were undertaken to spread awareness about COVID-19 and implement social distancing.  

  • dedicated portal was created for COVID-19 related information.  
  • An order was issued to close several establishments including schools, colleges, cinema halls, gyms and swimming pools.  Biometric attendance was stopped at all government workplaces. 
  • On March 20, the government issued an order (effective till June 15) requiring suppliers of masks and sanitizers to: (i) maintain a fixed price and (ii) keep and present fortnightly, a record of purchase and sales of the essential items.  The order also prevented them from refusing to sell to any customer. 

March 21 Onwards

On March 21, MP reported four cases of COVID-19. On March 23, the government released the Madhya Pradesh Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state.  These regulations specify special administrative powers and protocol for hospitals (government and private) to follow while treating COVID-19 patients. These regulations are valid for one year. Over and above general instructions to maintain social distancing and personal hygiene, the government has undertaken specific measures to: (i) increase healthcare capacity, (ii) institute welfare protection for the economically vulnerable population, (iii) strengthen the administrative structure and data collection, and (iv) ensure supply of essential goods and services.  These measures include-

Healthcare measures

  • Preparation of hospitals for the treatment of COVID-19 including postponing elective surgeries, ensuring an adequate supply of PPE kits. 
  • On March 28, the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre was designated as a state-level COVID-19 hospital.  This order was reversed on April 15. 
  • District collectors were empowered to appoint doctors and other healthcare workers as required in their districts in a fast-tracked manner.
  • Establishing a telemedicine unit in each of the 51 district hospitals
  • Facilitating the appointment of final year undergraduate nursing students as nurses
  • On March 29, the government launched the SAARTHAK app for daily monitoring and tracking of quarantined and corona positive patients
  • The government released a strategy document to contain COVID-19. This strategy places emphasis on identification of suspected cases, isolation, testing of high-risk contacts, and treatment (called the I. I. T. T. strategy)

Welfare measures

  • One-time financial assistance of Rs 1,000 will be provided to construction labourers
  • One-time financial assistance of Rs 2,000 will be provided to families of Sahariya, Baiga and Bharia tribes
  • Social security pensions for two months will be paid in advance to pensioners
  • People without eligibility slips under the National Food Security Scheme to be allowed to receive ration 

Administrative measures

  • Senior officials were designated to coordinate with various states to resolve issues regarding migrant labour.
  • District Crisis Management groups were formed to coordinate state-level policy and the local implementation machinery.

Supply of essential goods and services

  • On April 8, the government implemented the Essential Services Management Act,1979. The Act among other things, prohibits anyone employed in essential services to refuse to work.
  • E-pass procurement facility was started to ensure smooth inter-district and across states flow of essential goods & services.  

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

Uttarakhand Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020 - April 15, 2020)

With the spread of COVID-19, along with the central government, the state governments have also announced several policy decisions to contain and prevent the spread of the virus.   In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the Uttarakhand Government in this regard as of April 16, 2020.

As of April 15, 2020, 2,413 samples have been sent for testing in Uttarakhand.  Of these, 37 have been found COVID-19 positive and the results of 354 samples are awaited.  Of the 37 confirmed cases, 9 patients have been cured/discharged.[1]

Movement Restrictions

To contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Government of Uttarakhand took the following measures for restricting the movement of people in the state.
 

  • On March 20, the Department of Health restricted the entry of all tourists (domestic and foreign) into the state.[2]  The Department further issued orders for the closure of all educational institutions, gyms, swimming pools, museums, cultural and social centres, and theatres until March 31.[3]
     

  • On March 22, the state announced a complete lockdown till March 31.[4]  Restrictions during the lockdown included: (i) prohibiting the gathering of more than five people at any public place, (ii) suspending all public transport including taxis and auto-rickshaws, and (iii) closure of all shops, commercial establishments, offices and factories.  Establishments providing essential goods and services were excluded from the lockdown restrictions.  These include: police, medical and health, print and electronic media, food, groceries, and their transportation, among others.4 
     

  • On March 25, the central government announced on a 21-day country-wide lockdown till April 14.[5]  On April 14, the lockdown was further extended till May 3, 2020.[6]  
     

  • On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines on the measures to be taken by state governments until May 3.[7]  As per these guidelines, select activities will be permitted from April 20 onwards, to mitigate hardship to the public due.  These activities include health services, agriculture and related activities, certain financial sector activities, operation of Anganwadis, MNREGA works, and cargo movement, among others.  Further, subject to certain conditions, commercial and private establishments, industrial establishments, government offices, and construction activities will also be permitted.7 

Health Measures

Uttarakhand Epidemic Disease COVID-19 Regulations 2020

On March 15, 2020, the government notified the Uttarakhand Epidemic Disease COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 for the containment of COVID-19 in the state.[8]  Key features of the regulations include the following: 

  • All hospitals (government and private) must have dedicated flu corners for the screening of suspected COVID-19 cases.  
     

  • The spread of any misinformation must be avoided.  No person or organisation can use any print or electronic media for information regarding COVID-19 without prior permission of the state health department.

Guidelines for citizens, healthcare facilities and government departments

The state issued several guidelines and advisories on various subjects related to the containment of the virus.[9] These guidelines have been targeted towards citizens, healthcare facilities, as well as government departments. Some of these guidelines are given below: 

  • For citizens: These include guidelines on the use of masks by the public, guidelines for home quarantine, and advisory to not consume tobacco to prevent the virus.8   
     

  • For healthcare facilities: Guidelines for health care facilities include: sample collection, packaging and transport guidelines, infection prevention control for suspected cases, clinical management of COVID – 19, and discharge policy for COVID-19 patients, among others.8
     

  • For government: Guidelines for government departments include: guidelines for cluster containment, strategy, advisory on the use of hydroxychloroquine for high-risk population, and guidelines for quarantine facilities for COVID-19.8

Administrative Measures

On March 21, the state government cancelled all leaves for employees from the Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare and ordered all the employees on leave to report back.[10]  Further, on March 19, the state government announced that the administrative control of all properties and accommodations under the tourism department and other government enterprises will be given to the respective District Magistrates, temporarily.[11]  

Education

On March 21, the state government postponed the correction of all state board examination booklets, which were to be corrected from April 1 to April 15, 2020.[12]  The government also postponed exams for the Forest Research Institute, which were supposed to be conducted in March.[13]  

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

 

[1] Dehradun Health Bulletin on Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19), Status as on April 15, 2020 Time: 05:30 PM, Uttarakhand State Control Room COVID -19, Health and Family Welfare, Uttarakhand, http://health.uk.gov.in/files/Corrected-15-04-2020-Health-Bulletin.pdf.

[2] Order No. 48/PS-Secy(H)/2020, Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare, March 20, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/427.UK_Advisory_for_Tourists_20_Mar.pdf.

[3] Advisory on social distancing measure in view of spread of COVID-19 disease, Government of Uttarakhand, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/1835.UK_Social_Distancing_Advisory_Uttarakhand.pdf.

[4] Order No. UKHFWS/PS-MDNHM/2019-20/217, Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare and Medical Education, March 22, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/432.UK_Order_Lockdown_Mar_22.pdf.

[5] Order No. 1-29/2020-PP, National Disaster Management Authority, March 24, 2020, https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/ndma%20order%20copy.pdf.

[6] “PM addresses the nation for 4th time in 4 Weeks in India’s fight against COVID-19” Press Release, Prime Minister’s office, April 14, 2020, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1614255.

[8] Notification No. 370/XXVIII(1)/2020-01(06)/2020, Department of Medical Health and Medical Education, March 15, 2020, http://health.uk.gov.in/files/The_Uttarakhand__Epidemic__Disease__COVID-19_Regulation_2020.pdf.

[9] Website of Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare, Corona (COVID19) updates, Government of Uttarakhand, last visited on March 16, http://health.uk.gov.in/pages/display/140-novel-corona-virus-guidelines-and-advisory-.

[10] Order No. 1P/Ra0pu0/miscellaneous/1/2018, Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare, March 19, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/430.UK_DG-Order-Cancellalation_of_Leave_Health_Workers_21_Mar.pdf.

[11] Order No. 42/Secy Health/2020, Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare, March 19, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/1826.UK_Advisory_for_KMVN_and_GMVN_Mar19.pdf

[12] Advisory No. 123/XXIV-B-5/2020/03(01)/2020, Secretary Uttarakhand Government, March 21, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/429.UK_Advisory_for_Board_Student_of_Uttarakhand_21_Mar.pdf.

[13] Advisory No. 122/XXIV-B-5/2020/03(01)/2020, Secretary Uttarakhand Government, March 21, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/1828.UK_Advisory_for_Board_Student_of_FRI_Uttarakhand_Mar21.pdf.

Government of Karnataka’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (Feb 2020–April 14, 2020)

As of April 13, 2020, there have been 260 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Karnataka.  Of these, 70 have been discharged and 10 have died.[1]  In order to contain the spread of the disease, both, the Central and State governments have come up with a series of policy responses.  In this blog, we take a look at the key measures taken by the Government of Karnataka in this regard as of April 14, 2020.

Movement restrictions

To contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Government of Karnataka took the following measures to restrict the movement of people in the state:
 

  • On March 13, the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare ordered the closure of various establishments such as theatres, pubs, gyms, malls, swimming pools, and educational institutions until March 21.  The order also directed all international passenger arrivals to be mandatorily home quarantined for 14 days.[2]
     
  • On March 20, the above order was revised to extend the closure of said establishments until April 1.  The order also banned all religious gatherings.[3]
     
  • Further, on March 23, all bus services to and from the nine districts that had reported COVID-19 positive cases were completely stopped until April 1.[4]
     
  • The central government later announced a 21-day country-wide lockdown starting March 25.[5] This was followed by the announcement of a pass system by the Bengaluru Commissioner of Police on March 25 to regulate the movement of people in Bengaluru City.[6]
     
  • On April 6, District Collectors were empowered to issue inter-district transport passes.[7]
     
  • On April 14, the Prime Minister announced the extension of the lockdown till May 3, 2020.[8] On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines on the measures to be taken by governments until May 3. As per these guidelines, to mitigate hardship to the public, select activities will be permitted from April 20 onwards. These include health services, agriculture and related activities, financial sector, MNREGA works, cargo movement etc. In addition, subject to conditions, commercial and private establishments, industrial establishments, government offices, construction activities etc, will also be permitted.[9]

Essential Goods and Services

  • The pass system in Bengaluru City facilitated the movement of personnel involved in manufacturing and providing essential goods and services. 
     
  • On April 2, the government announced that it will distribute the excess stock of milk to poor people for free.[10]
     
  • On April 6, the government declared that rations for the month of April will be supplied to people without the usual OTP authentication process.[11]

Health Measures

Karnataka Epidemic Disease COVID-19 Regulations 2020

On March 11, 2020, the government released the Karnataka Epidemic Disease COVID-19 Regulations 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID19 in the state.  These regulations specify the protocol for hospitals to follow for screening and treating COVID-19 patients. These regulations are valid for one year.[12]

Preventive measures

On February 5, 2020, the Department of Health & Family Welfare and AYUSH services issued the Terms of Reference for district-level teams to take preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19.[13] The terms relate to various administrative and complementary aspects related to COVID19 management. These include activities of various teams, human resource management, training and awareness generation etc.

Following this, on April 6, 2020, the Department also issued instructions to all districts to prepare a District Level Crisis Management Plan to prevent large outbreaks of COVID-19.[14]

Setting up of fever clinics, isolation centres etc

On March 4, the state government issued guidelines to the district administration to ensure hospitals maintain a 10-bed isolation ward for COVID-19 patients.[15]  

On March 31, the government issued orders to establish fever clinics as the first points of contact for COVID-19 suspect patients.  These fever clinics would have COVID-19 Rapid Response team of one doctor, two nurses and a health care worker.[16]

Personnel measures

On March 30, the Department of Health & Family Welfare invited applications from doctors for immediate appointment (on contract basis) in Urban Primary Health Centres in Bengaluru City.[17]  Subsequently, on April 2, the state government issued orders to extend the tenure of retiring medical professionals from March 31, 2020 to June 30, 2020.[18]

On March 26, all Registered Medical Practitioners were permitted to provide telemedicine services during the lockdown period. Telemedicine services will be available for minor, non-COVID-19 ailments, and  existing patients only.[19]

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


[1] Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) Media Bulletin, Karnataka, Department of Health and Family Welfare, last accessed on April 15, 2020, https://karunadu.karnataka.gov.in/hfw/kannada/nCovDocs/14-04-2020(English).pdf

[2] GOK order No. DD/SSU/COVID-19/17/19-20, Directorate of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Karnataka, March 13, 2020, 

https://karunadu.karnataka.gov.in/hfw/kannada/nCovDocs/Notification(Covid-19)-Dir-HFWS.pdf

[3] Revised GOK order No. DD/SSU/COVID-19/17/19-20, Directorate of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Karnataka, March 20, 2020  https://karunadu.karnataka.gov.in/hfw/kannada/nCovDocs/Revised-Order-COVID-19(20-03-2020).pdf

[4] Order No. STA-6/SCP/PR-20/2019-20, Directorate of Transport, Government of Karnataka, March 23, 2020, https://transport.karnataka.gov.in/storage/pdf-files/restrictions.pdf

[5] Order No. 1-29/2020-PP, National Disaster Management Authority, March 24, 2020, https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/ndma%20order%20copy.pdf.

[6] Order No.02 / CP-BLR/Covid-19/2020, Commissioner of Police, Bengaluru City, March 25, 2020, https://karnataka.gov.in/storage/pdf-files/covid_rules/Covid_pass.pdf

[7] Order of Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, April 6, 2020, https://ksuwssb.karnataka.gov.in/frontend/opt1/images/covid/Orders/IMG-20200406-WA0005.jpg

[8] “PM addresses the nation for 4th time in 4 Weeks in India’s fight against COVID-19” Press Release, Prime Minister’s office, April 14, 2020, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1614255

[12]Karnataka Epidemic Disease COVID-19 Regulations 2020, Government of Karnataka, March 11, 2020,  https://karunadu.karnataka.gov.in/hfw/kannada/nCovDocs/Exercise-of-Powers-COVID-10(11-03-2020).pdf

[13] No. JRO(1A)/148/2019-20, Department of Health & Family Welfare and AYUSH Services Government of Karnataka, February 5, 2020, https://ksuwssb.karnataka.gov.in/frontend/opt1/images/covid/Circulars/%E0%B2%B8%E0%B3%81%E0%B2%A4%E0%B3%8D%E0%B2%A4%E0%B3%8B%E0%B2%B2%E0%B3%86%20%E0%B3%A8%E0%B3%AA.pdf  

[15]Circular No. HFW 47 CGM 2020 (P), Government of Karnataka, March 3, 2020,   https://karunadu.karnataka.gov.in/hfw/kannada/nCovDocs/Guidelines-Isolation-Ward.pdf

Andhra Pradesh Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020 - April 14, 2020)

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 disease to be a global pandemic.  Along with the Central government, State governments have announced several policy decisions to prevent and contain the spread of the virus in their respective states.  In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the Andhra Pradesh Government in this regard as of April 14, 2020.

As of April 14, 2020, there are 473 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Andhra Pradesh.  Of these, 14 patients have been cured/discharged and 9 have died.[1]

Movement Restrictions

To contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Government of Andhra Pradesh took the following measures for restricting the movement of people in the state.

  • On March 18 and 19, the Department of Health issued orders to close educational institutions and non-essential commercial establishments such as cinema halls, gyms, malls, and swimming pools until March 31.[2]
     
  • On March 22, the state announced a complete lockdown till March 31.  Gathering of more than four people was prohibited at any public place.  Establishments providing essential goods and services were excluded from the lockdown restrictions.2  This was followed by the central government’s announcement on a 21-day country-wide lockdown starting March 25.[3]  On April 14, the Prime Minister announced the extension of lockdown till May 3, 2020.[4]

Essential Goods and Services

The state government exempted certain essential commodities and services such as fruits, vegetables, milk, groceries, public distribution system through Fair Price Shops, and medicines from the lockdown.  It also formed the District Level Committees headed by Joint Collector for fixing and monitoring the prices of essential food items.2

On April 3, the government declared that all government and private health care and medical facilities will be considered as essential services for a period of six months.2 

Welfare Measures

The state government has announced the following welfare measures for the people who are in distress due to the lockdown. 

  • One kilogram of red gram dal, and the ration of rice for the month of April will be provided for free to all rice cardholders.2
     
  • A one-time support of Rs 1,000 will be provided to all rice card holding families for buying essential commodities such as groceries and vegetables.2
     
  • The state government will provide free ration to NGOs running old age homes and child care institutions.  This free ration will include 10 kg of rice and one kg of red gram dal per resident.[5]
     
  • On March 31, the State Government directed the district administration to set up Special Shelter Centres in urban areas for providing food and shelter to the migrant workers and homeless in the state.2

Health Measures

Andhra Pradesh Epidemic Disease COVID-19 Regulations 2020

On March 13, 2020, the government notified the Andhra Pradesh Epidemic Disease COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 for containment of COVID in the state.  As per these regulations, both government and private hospitals must have dedicated COVID-19 isolation facilities.2

Setting up of quarantine centres at district and constituency level

On March 25, the Department of Health issued orders for setting up a 100-bed quarantine centre in every constituency and 200-bed quarantine centre at the district level.[6]  On March 31, certain hospitals were designated as exclusive hospitals for treating Corona positive patients.  These include: (i) four hospitals at the state level and (ii) 13 hospitals at district level (one hospital per district).2

Ban on spitting in public places

On April 12, the government issued an order prohibiting the use and spitting of smokeless tobacco or chewable tobacco/non-tobacco product, sputum in public places.[7]

Administrative Measures

The government announced 100% deferment of salaries of all the elected representatives of the state and 10% to 60% deferment for all the government employees of the state.[8]  Employees of the Medical and Health Department, Police Department, and sanitation workers employed in rural and urban local bodies are exempted from salary deferment.[9]

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


[1] COVID-19: Andhra Pradesh, Department of Health, Medical and Family Welfare website, last accessed on April 14, 2020, http://hmfw.ap.gov.in/covid_dashboard.aspx.

[2] Compendium of Instructions, Department of Health, Medical and Family Welfare, Government of Andhra Pradesh, http://hmfw.ap.gov.in/COVID-19%20IEC/COMPENDIUM%20OF%20INSTRUCTIONS%20-%20COVID19.pdf.

[3] Order No. 1-29/2020-PP, National Disaster Management Authority, March 24, 2020, https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/ndma%20order%20copy.pdf.

[4] “PM addresses the nation for 4th time in 4 Weeks in India’s fight against COVID-19” Press Release, Prime Minister’s office, April 14, 2020, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1614255.

[5] G.O.RT.No. 58, Department for Women, Children, Differently Abled & Senior Citizens Welfare, Government of Andhra Pradesh, March 29, 2020.

[6] Order No.4/COVID-19/2020, Department of Health, Medical and Family Welfare, Government of Andhra Pradesh, March 25, 2020  http://hmfw.ap.gov.in/COVID-19%20IEC/4.GOI%20Guidelines%20and%20Advisories/InstantOrders/COVID%20INSTANT%20ORDER%20-%204.pdf.pdf.

[7] G.O.RT.No. 237, Department of Health, Medical and Family Welfare, Government of Andhra Pradesh, April 12, 2020.

[8] G.O.Ms.No.:26, Department of Finance, Government of Andhra Pradesh, March 31, 2020.

[9] G.O.Ms.No.:27, Department of Finance, Government of Andhra Pradesh, April 4, 2020.

Committees in state legislatures

The Governor of Rajasthan promulgated two Ordinances amending the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and Indian Penal Code, 1860 applicable in Rajasthan on September 7. The Ordinances restrain any investigation to be conducted against a judge, magistrate or public servant without prior sanction of the government. The decision to grant sanction will have to be taken within six months, failing which such sanction will be deemed to have been granted.  The Ordinances also restrain any person from reporting on the individual in question until sanction for investigation is granted. Two Bills replacing these Ordinances were introduced in the Rajasthan Assembly by the state Home Minister last week, on October 23.[i] After introduction, the Bills were referred to a 15-member select committee comprising of legislators from the state Assembly, and headed by the Home Minister of Rajasthan. This blog examines the role of committees and some of the practices observed in state legislatures.

Purpose of committees in legislatures

In India, state legislatures sit for 31 days a year on an average.*  Several Bills are passed within a few days of their introduction. One of the primary responsibilities of the legislature is to hold the executive accountable, and examine potential laws. Due to paucity of time, it is difficult for the members go through all the bills and discuss them in detail. To address this issue, various committees are set up in Parliament and state assemblies where smaller group of members examine Bills in detail, and allow for an informed debate in the legislature. Apart from scrutinising legislation, committees also examine budgetary allocations for various departments and other policies of the government.  These mini-legislatures provide a forum for law makers to develop expertise, engage with citizens and seek inputs from stakeholders. Since these committees consist of members from different parties, they provide a platform for building consensus on various issues.

Figure 1: Average sitting days in a year (2012-16)
Sitting days in a year 1
Sources: Website of various state assemblies as on October 30, 2017.

Types of committees

There are broadly three types of committees: (i) Financial committees: These scrutinise the expenditure of the government and recommend efficient ways of spending funds (example: Public Accounts Committee and Estimates Committee), (ii) Department-Related Standing Committees (DRSC): These scrutinise performance of departments under a ministry, (iii) Other committees: These deal with day-to-day functioning of the legislature (example: Business Advisory Committee, Papers Laid, Rules, etc.)  While there are 3 financial committees and 24 department related committees in Parliament, the number of committees in state legislatures varies.  For example, Kerala has 14 subject committees examining all departments, while Delhi has seven standing committees scrutinising performance of various departments. [ii],[iii] However, not all states have a provision for specific DRSCs or subject committees.

Similar to Parliament, state legislatures also have a provision to form a select committee to examine a particular legislation or a subject.  Such a committee is disbanded after it presents a report with its findings or recommendations. Several Bills in states are referred to select committees. However, the practice in some state legislatures with respect to select committees deviate from those in the Parliament.

Independence of select committee from the executive

The rules in several states provide for the minister in-charge piloting the bill to be an ex-officio member of the select committee. These states include Rajasthan, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana. Moreover, in Manipur, the rules provide for the minister to be chairman of the select committee. Note that the minister is part of the executive.  His inclusion in the committee may be in conflict with the committee’s role of scrutinising the functioning of the executive.

The practice of including ministers in committees is in contrast with the protocol followed in Parliament where a minister is not part of any DRSC or select committee. As committees of the legislature hold the executive accountable, having a minister on the select committee undermines the role of legislature as an oversight mechanism. A minister, as a representative of the executive being part of such committees may impede the ability of committees to effectively hold the executive accountable.

The two Bills introduced in the Rajasthan Assembly last week were referred to a select committee headed by the Home Minister of the state.  There have been several instances in other state legislatures where the minister introducing a bill was chairman of the select committee examining it. In Goa, a bill empowering the government to acquire land for development of public services is headed by the Revenue Minister of the state.[iv] Similarly, in Arunachal Pradesh, the select committee examining a bill for establishment of a university was headed by the Education Minister.[v] In Maharashtra as well, the Education Minister was chairman of the select committee scrutinising a bill granting greater autonomy to state universities.[vi]  For rigorous scrutiny of legislation, it is essential that the committees are independent of the executive.

Strengthening state legislature committees [vii]

The functioning of committees in states can be strengthened in various ways. Some of these include:

(i) Examination of Bills by assembly committees: In the absence of DRSCs, most bills are passed without detailed scrutiny while some bills are occasionally referred to select committees. In Parliament, bills pertaining to a certain ministry are referred to the respective DRSCs for scrutiny. To strengthen legislatures, DRSCs must examine all bills introduced in the assembly.

(ii) Scrutiny of budgets: Several states do not have DRSCs to examine budgetary proposals. Some states like Goa, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have a budget committee to examine budget proposals. Post the 14th Finance commission, there is a higher devolution of funds to state governments from the centre.  With states increasingly spending more, it is necessary for them to have DRSCs that scrutinise the allocations and expenditures to various departments before they are approved by state assemblies.

 

*Based on the average sitting days for 18 state assemblies from 2012-2016.

[i] The Code of Criminal Procedure (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2017 http://www.rajassembly.nic.in/BillsPdf/Bill39-2017.pdf;The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2017 http://www.rajassembly.nic.in/BillsPdf/Bill38-2017.pdf.

[ii] List of subject committees http://niyamasabha.org/codes/comm.htm.

[iii] Delhi Legislative Assembly National Capital Territory Of Delhi Composition Of House Committees
2017 – 2018, http://delhiassembly.nic.in/Committee/Committee_2017_2018.htm.

[iv] The Goa Requisition and Acquisition of Property Bill, 2017 http://www.goavidhansabha.gov.in/uploads/bills/468_draft_BN18OF2017-AI-REQUI.pdf.

[v] The Kameng Professional and Technical University Arunachal Pradesh Bill 2017 http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/detailsnew.asp?id=oct1717/oth057.

[vi] Maharashtra Public Universities Bill, 2016 http://mls.org.in/pdf/university_bill_english.pdf.

[vii] Strengthening State Legislatures http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Conference%202016/Strengthening%20...

Legislative performance of State Assemblies

As the dust settles around the 16th Lok Sabha, attention must now shift to the state assemblies, some of which have been newly constituted like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and the few that will go into elections in the next few months like Maharashtra and Haryana. There are 30 state legislative assemblies not including the newly formed state of Seemandhara. In our federal structure, laws framed by the state assemblies are no less important and deserve the same diligence and debate as laws made by Parliament. A brief look in to the performance of some of our state assemblies reveals that these institutions which form the cornerstones of our democracy need some serious attention. State Assemblies: business hours The current Haryana Legislative Assembly that comes to the end of its five year term in October this year has held 10 sessions since 2009 till March 2014, meeting for a total of 54 days – an average of 11 days per year. In comparison, the Lok Sabha sat for an average of 69 days each year from 2009 to 2014. Among state assemblies, only Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh sat for fewer days than Haryana. In the same period the Kerala Assembly sat for an average of 50 days per year, while Tamil Nadu Assembly sat for 44 days. In its previous term, the Gujarat Legislative Assembly sat for a total of 157 days – an average of 31 days each year. Similarly, the current Goa Legislative Assembly sat for 24 days in 2012 and for 39 days in 2013. Over the last 10 years, the Assembly sat for an average of 26 days a year.  It recorded the highest number of sitting days in the last 10 years, at 39 days. Law making in the states In most states, Bills are passed with little or no discussion. Most Bills are introduced and passed on the last day of each session, which gives Members hardly any opportunity to examine or discuss legislation in detail. Unlike Parliament, where most Bills are referred to a department related standing committee which studies the Bill in greater detail, in most states such committees are non-existent.  The exceptions are Kerala which has constituted subject committees for this purpose and states like Goa and Himachal Pradesh where Select Committees are constituted for important Bills. The current Haryana Assembly has passed 129 Bills, all of which were passed on the same day as they were introduced. Upto 23 Bills were passed on a single day, which left hardly any time for substantial discussion. In the twelfth Gujarat Assembly, over 90% of all Bills were passed on the same day as they were introduced. In the Budget Session of 2011, 31 Bills were passed of which 21 were introduced and passed within three sitting days. Of the 40 Bills passed by the Goa Assembly till May 2013, three Bills were referred to Select Committees. Excluding Appropriation Bills, the Assembly passed 32 Bills, which were taken up together for discussion and passing in five days. Almost all Bills were passed within three days of introduction. On average, each Bill was discussed for four minutes. In 2012, the West Bengal Legislative Assembly passed a total of 39 Bills, including Appropriation Bills.  Most Bills were passed on the same day they were introduced in the Assembly.  In 2011, a total of 23 Bills were passed. On average, five Members participated in the discussions on each Bill. In 2012, the Delhi Legislative Assembly passed 11 Bills. Only one of the 11 Bills was discussed for more than 10 minutes. The performance of the Chhattisgarh and Bihar Vidhan Sabhas follow the same pattern. Over the last few years, some assemblies such as Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana have taken some positive steps which include setting up subject committees and permitting live telecast of Assembly proceedings. Every legislator- in Parliament and the states - is accountable to his voter. Weak democratic institutions deprive legislators of their right to oversee the government as enshrined in the Constitution. Inadequate number of sitting days, lack of discussion on Bills, and passing of the Budget and demands for grants without discussion are symptoms of institutional ennui and do not do justice to the enormous import of these legislative bodies. Serious thought and public debate is needed to reinvigorate these ‘temples of democracy’ and provide elected representatives with the opportunity to exercise their right to legislative scrutiny, hold government to account, and represent their constituents.