Latest News

Stay up to date on the latest developments, curated by the IDR team.
February 26, 2021
Centre withdraws widely-criticised order on international webinars and conferences

Advocacy & Government: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has withdrawn its order that required academic and scientific institutions to seek prior approval before organising any international online seminar or conference.

In a fresh order issued two days ago, the MEA said that the November 25th guidelines regarding political clearance for international conferences, seminars, and training would no longer be applicable in view of the easing of restrictions on travel and assembly of people. All such events would, however, continue to be governed by the same rules and regulations that were applicable to political clearances prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, going forward such webinars will fall under the purview of the home ministry. So far, this ministry has not issued any directives on webinars. There is also some confusion regarding this handover since home ministry guidelines restrict themselves to face-to-face conferences, not online events. They also deal with issuance of visas to international delegates, which is immaterial in case of webinars.

The fresh order comes in the wake of objections to the November 25th order by the scientific community. Two leading academies in the country—Indian Academy of Sciences and Indian National Academy of Sciences—had written to the government seeking withdrawal of the order, saying such restrictions could halt all topical scientific discussions.

Read this article to learn about how to put together a great webinar.

February 26, 2021
Centre opposes same-sex marriage, says it’s not the same as an ‘Indian family unit’

Rights: The central government opposed petitions seeking recognition and registration of same-sex marriages in the country and stated that same-sex marriage was not a fundamental right in the country. It also submitted that same-sex couples living together as partners and having a sexual relationship could not be compared to an ‘Indian family unit’ of a husband, wife, and children.

“In our country, despite statutory recognition of the relationship of marriage between a biological man and a biological woman, marriage necessarily depends upon age-old customs, rituals, practices, cultural ethos, and societal values,” the centre told the Delhi High Court in response to three petitions seeking recognition and registration of same-sex marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act, the Special Marriage Act, and the Foreign Marriage Act.

The affidavit submitted by the government in response to the petitions said that despite the Supreme Court decriminalising Section 377 under the Indian Penal Code, the petitioners cannot claim a fundamental right to same-sex marriage under the laws of the country. It said that such relationships can be governed, regulated, permitted, or proscribed only by a law made by the competent legislature.

The PIL seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act had been filed by Abhijit Iyer Mitra and three others. In October 2020, the Delhi High Court observed that the statute is gender-neutral and must be interpreted in favour of the citizens of India. Meanwhile, four more people from the LGBTQ community approached the Delhi High Court seeking similar provisions.

The matter will next be heard on April 20th, 2021.

February 26, 2021
Rajasthan announces universal healthcare scheme; each family to get INR 5 lakh insurance

Health: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot assured every family in the state that they would get an insurance benefit of INR 5 lakh under the universal healthcare scheme (UHS) announced in the state budget.

While presenting the budget for FY 2021-22, the chief minister announced the Rajasthan Model of Public Health (RMPH), wherein a Right to Health Bill will be introduced with universal health coverage for five crore families, and an allocation of INR 3,500 crore in the upcoming financial year. The two initiatives are aimed at providing preventive, private, and curative care to all while reinforcing the state’s health infrastructure.

“Apart from people covered under Ayushman Bharat Mahatma Gandhi Rajasthan Swasthya Bima Yojana (ABMGRSBY), contract workers and small and marginal farmers can also avail this scheme for free,” Ashok Gehlot said. He added that all those not covered under UHS or ABMGRSBY could avail treatment of INR 5 lakh at any private and government hospital in the state by paying half the annual insurance premium of INR 850.

Other measures under RMPH include ensuring primary healthcare services within three kms or 30 minutes walking distance to each citizen, primary care within 12 kms, and so on. The bill also lays emphasis on the rights of patients, especially with respect to consent. Consent is expected to be made a prerequisite for any healthcare proposed for a person, and providers may have to keep patient records for up to two years and provide them to patients upon request.

Read this article on how universal healthcare can be achieved by leveraging technology, building care networks, and offering universal insurance.

February 25, 2021
Andhra Pradesh releases welfare calendar with 23 schemes for FY22

Advocacy & Government: The Andhra Pradesh government has released a welfare calendar for FY 2021-22. The cabinet has announced a monthly schedule for the implementation of 23 welfare schemes and programmes.

Jagananna Vasathi Deevena, which will benefit more than 15.5 lakh students will be implemented in April 2021. Jagananna Vidya Deevena, a fee reimbursement scheme will be implemented in April, July, and December 2021, and February 2022. Jagananna Vidya Kanuka, which will benefit more than 42 lakh students will be implemented in June 2021.

The cabinet also approved the EBC Nestham scheme for women in the age group of 45-60 years who belong to the Economically Backward Classes category. The government will spend INR 670 crore on this scheme, and beneficiaries will receive financial assistance of INR 15,000 per annum.

Other schemes whose schedule has been announced include Matsyakara Bharosa, Rythu Bharosa, Kapu Nestham, Nethanna Nestham, and Jagananna Thodu.  These are expected to benefit more than five crore people in the state.

Moreover, nearly 5.7 crore people will receive monthly social welfare pensions, with the implementation of YSR Law Nestham, Jagananna Gorumudda, YSR Sampoorna Poshana, financial assistance to imams and mouzams, distribution of house sites, and home delivery of rations.

Read this article on how programme evaluations could improve the effectiveness of public policies and drive more efficient use of public funds.

February 25, 2021
Government sanctions construction of 56,368 houses under urban housing scheme

Urban: The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has approved the construction of 56,368 new houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U).

Under the scheme, the ministry aims to provide pucca houses to all eligible beneficiaries in urban India by 2022. As of now, foundations have been laid for more than 73 lakh houses and nearly 43 lakh have been completed, according to MoHUA.

Durga Shanker Mishra, Secretary, MoHUA, encouraged states and union territories to use online management information systems (MIS) for proper implementation and monitoring of the mission while ensuring 100 percent completion and delivery of PMAY-U houses to all eligible beneficiaries.

Read this study on the gaps and opportunities in low-income housing.

February 25, 2021
Government rolls out intensified immunisation programme across the country

Health: All states and union territories (UTs) have rolled out phase one of Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 3.0 with the aim of covering children and pregnant women who missed their routine immunisation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A statement released by the Health Ministry said that more than 29,000 children and 5,000 pregnant women had been covered on the first day.

The mission, which commenced on February 22nd, 2021 is designed to have two rounds of immunisation sessions lasting 15 days each; phase two will start on March 22nd.  The campaign is being conducted in 250 pre-identified high-risk districts across 29 states and UTs in the country.

IMI 3.0 will particularly target migrant workers and those living in remote areas as there were higher chances of them missing their vaccine doses during the pandemic.

Apart from ensuring strict adherence to COVID appropriate behaviours during the immunisation activities, the ministry has asked states to follow a staggered approach to avoid crowding at vaccination sites.

Read this article on why we need better vaccines to tackle tuberculosis which kills nearly two million people every year.