Policy Buzz: Coronavirus-focus Edition
20 March 2020
Keep up-to-date with all that is happening in welfare policy with this curated selection of news, published every fortnight. The current edition focusses on the Coronavirus pandemic in India, and the government’s efforts to stem its increase.
COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on 19th March on combating the COVID-19. He elaborated on the duties of citizens during this crisis. He also said that the government will be undertaking a slew of measures to protect citizens from the impact of the pandemic, and made 9 calls-to-action in his address.
- An Economic Response Task Force under Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been announced. It will look into the economic repercussions of the pandemic, and will be in touch with stakeholders of sectors such as tourism and civil aviation.
- COVID-19 has been declared a Notified Disaster, which would mean that the Union and state governments will be able to spend more funds in order to tackle the pandemic. Money from each state’s Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) will be used for temporary accommodation and supply of food, water and medical care for patients and suspected patients quarantined.
- Various state governments have announced measures to tide through the pandemic and its fallout. Kerala has announced a Rs. 20,000 crore package, out of which Rs. 2,000 crore will be used for rural jobs and Rs. 100 crore will be used for free ration this month. The Uttar Pradesh government has promised Rs. 1,000 to more than 35 lakh daily wage and construction workers as sustenance money.
- Suspected cases are being handstamped and tracked via their mobile phones.
- The Lok Sabha has discussed various issues pertaining to the outbreak of COVID-19. These include the status of Indians citizens, especially students who are stuck abroad, screening facilities, racial profiling of citizens from the Northeast.
Health and Nutrition
- The National Health Authority is preparing a COVID-19 special package under the Ayushman Bharat- PMJAY scheme in the event of community-level spread.
- In view of the pandemic, the Supreme Court has issued suo motu notices to state and Union Territories on protecting the mid-day meal services for students in schools, and nutritious meals in Anganwadis for pregnant and lactating women.
- Anganwadi workers in Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala and Odisha have been delivering food to beneficaries following the closure of centres. In Karnataka alone, the decision will impact 35 lakh children.
- The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development submitted a report to the Rajya Sabha in early March, which found that around 40% of government schools in the country don’t have electricity or playgrounds. It detailed other bottlenecks facing the schooling system like budget cuts and low utilisation of funds.
- Nearly 5,000 agitating teachers in Tripura were detained by the police for violating Section 144 CrPC, put in place by the West district administration in the state to curb the spread of coronavirus.
- The money spent on women’s welfare schemes has remained stagnant over the years. Introduced in FY06, 4.8% of the total spending was allocated for women related schemes, which rose to 5.5% in FY09. However, it has stagnated since.