Latest News

Due to reduced capacity on the team at this time, we are updating this page periodically with a specific focus on breaking news related to the social sector.
May 11, 2021
Government halts four key surveys due to COVID-19 second wave

COVID-19: Four key surveys on migrants, domestic workers, jobs created by the transport sector, and the employment potential of professionals, have been suspended by the central government in light of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is likely to delay the national employment policy which would have been based on these surveys.

The government will proceed with the fifth survey—the quarterly employment survey (QES). Unlike in past years though, this survey will be conducted online.

These surveys are important as they can provide a holistic picture of the employment market, and the socioeconomic condition of migrant and informal workers. However, government officials said that with lockdowns and curfews across the country, surveyors will find it difficult to meet the respondents at homes, offices, and worksites. They also added that the surveys will be restarted once the situation improves.

The national surveys which are designed and implemented by the Labour Bureau in consultation with an expert committee, might have to be reworked considering the change in ground realities owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the case of the QES—which is a physical establishment-based survey cutting across companies and industries, the survey is being administered after a gap of four years. The results for this will be released by July-end.

The national jobs and social-economic survey results were expected to form the base of the national employment policy being considered by the government, along with the four labour codes by the Parliament in 2020.

“We have put the four surveys on hold as the surging COVID-19 makes it almost impossible to do the household surveys. We are talking to our expert committee on how to incorporate the new realities in these surveys. It’s a difficult situation, and sending our field workers to houses and offices will have a huge implication on their health and well-being. Second, no one will entertain surveyors at their homes during a second wave,” said D P S Negi, Director General, Labour Bureau, and Chief Labour Commissioner.

He also added that they hope to restart the process in a couple of months once the situation improves. The initial survey was to have been released by November 2021.

 Read this article to understand how rural India can respond to the second wave effectively.

May 11, 2021
In Tamil Nadu, COVID-19 fatalities higher among women and youth in second wave

COVID-19: A comparison of COVID-19 cases and deaths reported in Tamil Nadu reveals that a higher proportion of women and youth have died in the second wave. In the first wave, women accounted for 27 percent of all deaths, whereas in the second they comprise nearly 33.5 percent of all deaths. However, the gender distribution of cases remains the same with women accounting for 40 percent and men 60 percent.

People aged between 21-60 years accounted for 43.6 percent of deaths in the second wave—a sharp rise from the 38.7 percent in the first wave. On the other hand, percentage of deaths among those aged 60 and above have declined from 61 percent in the first wave to 56.3 percent in the second wave. This is despite the fact that the percentage of elderly among cases reported has increased from 13.2 percent in the first wave to 14.4 percent in the second wave.

Overall, the daily deaths reported during the second wave has been increasing, with 1,200 deaths occurring in the past week. Compared to this, there were 7,900 deaths in the 12 weeks between July to September 2020. Case fatality however is lower at 1.03 percent currently compared to 1.62 during the peak of the first wave (July to September). The decline of case fatality is most pronounced among the elderly.

According to Prithvi Mohandas, the managing doctor at MIOT International Hospital, the relaxed curbs, and disregard for precautions has led to more exposure for all age groups. He said that many of the young who needed hospitalisation tended to choose home care and would only go to hospitals when the illness became severe.

Read this article to know about a day in the life of a social worker in Lucknow working to arrange cremations, counselling bereaved families, and help COVID-19 patients find hospital beds.

May 10, 2021
Government releases nearly INR 9,000 crore to panchayats

COVID-19: The Ministry of Finance has released INR 8,923.8 crore to 25 states for providing grants to their gram panchayats to help them fight the second wave of COVID-19. The grants, which have been given out in advance of the scheduled date, are for use by all the three tiers of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs)—village, block, and district.

According to the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission, the first instalment of ‘untied grants’ was to have been released in June 2021. However, in light of the severity of the second wave of COVID-19, and on the advice of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, these funds have been released ahead of schedule.

According to the data released by the finance ministry, Uttar Pradesh’s panchayats received the maximum amount totalling INR 1,441.6 crore, followed by Maharashtra with INR 881.4 crore, Bihar with INR 741.8 crore, and West Bengal at INR 652.2 crore.

Read this article on the unique challenges that confront rural India during the second wave of COVID-19 and ways to respond to it.

May 10, 2021
Lack of FCRA licence impacts flow of relief materials into India

Advocacy & Government: The lack of an FCRA licence is impacting whether charitable organisations (including hospitals) can receive COVID-19 related relief material from overseas.

In addition to aid from various governments across the world, support has been pouring in from individual donors and global foundations as well. However, these donations—whether in-kind or cash—can only be received by those organisations that are registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). 

On May 3rd 2021, the central government allowed the import of relief material from overseas to be exempt from GST. However, no such exemption has been granted from the FCRA law. 

The law has some of the most stringent clauses, and the fear of violating it is impacting the plans of large donors to buy equipment like oxygen plants and concentrators for Indian hospitals, smaller charities, and organisations working in rural areas.

According to a report in The Hindu, foreign donors are keen to donate an oxygen production plant to a large hospital, where nearly two dozen patients had died after oxygen supplies were not replenished in a timely manner. However, the lack of an FCRA licence by the hospital is proving to be an obstacle.

Given that FCRA approvals take time, experts have said the government needs to urgently grant an exemption for all such donations 

“The FCRA law does not provide any blanket exemption for imports exempted by the central government, so no such exemption is available for importers of such COVID aid. It is advisable that the Centre issues a clarification exempting the receiver/importer from complying with the FCRA provisions for approval and other compliances,” said Suresh Surana, founder of tax consulting firm RSM India. 

As per the FCRA law, a donation, delivery or transfer of any article, currency or foreign security, by any person who has received it from any foreign source, either directly or through one or more persons, shall also be deemed to be foreign contribution, Mr Surana pointed out.

Read this explainer on the amendments made to Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010 and their implications.

May 7, 2021
Report on the Social Stock Exchange open to public for review

Philanthropy & CSR: A panel constituted by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in September 2020, to develop a framework for the country’s first Social Stock Exchange (SSE) has submitted its report.

It is now open to the public for review and comments are being sought on the recommendations made by the panel. Suggestions and comments have to be sent to SEBI before June 20th, 2021.

The panel, led by Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, ex-Chairman of NABARD, was mandated to develop a framework to onboard nonprofits and for-profit enterprises on the SSE. This included defining for-profit social enterprises, and prescribing disclosure requirements related to financials, governance, operational performance, and social impact. It was also asked to cover matters related to scope of work, eligibility criteria, and regulation of social auditors.

SEBI has specified that comments should be sent to the following people: Yogita Jadhav (yogitag@sebi.gov.in), Abhishek Rozatkar (abhishekr@sebi.gov.in), and Rajesh Kumar Meena (rajeshm@sebi.gov.in).

For those who would like to send their comments by post, they should be addressed to Yogita Jadhav, General Manager, Corporation Finance Department, DIL-I, Securities and Exchange Board of India, SEBI Bhavan, Plot No. C4-A, “G” Block, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (East), Mumbai – 400 051.

Read this article to know what the Indian Social Stock Exchange can learn from global examples.

May 7, 2021
COVID-19 results in a staggering 77 percent increase in poor households

Livelihoods: A study by Azim Premji University estimates that the first wave of the pandemic pushed the daily earnings of 23 crore Indian families below INR 375—the minimum mandated daily wage suggested by a government committee.

The study titled ‘State of Working India 2021: One year of COVID-19‘ reveals that the number of people living in households with daily incomes below INR 375 was 22.62 crore and 7.24 crore in rural and urban areas respectively at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. By the end of October 2020, these numbers had increased to 36.52 crores in rural areas and 16.38 crores in urban areas. Put together, the numbers saw a 77 percent rise from 29.86 to 52.9 crores.

“This amounts to an increase in the poverty rate by 15 percentage points in rural areas and nearly 20 percentage points in urban areas. Had the pandemic not occurred, poverty would have declined by 5 percentage points in rural areas and 1.5 percentage points in urban areas between 2019 and 2020, and 50 million would have been lifted above this line,” the report added.

In 2019, an expert committee appointed by the government to determine a national minimum wage had proposed an amount of INR 375 per day. This was based on estimated expenses for a family after factoring in a minimum recommended food intake, clothing, fuel, rent, education, medicines, footwear, and transport for wage earners and their families.

The report found that nearly half of formal salaried workers moved into informal work, either as self-employed (30 percent), casual wage (10 percent), or informal salaried workers (9 percent).

The study recommends that to ease the hardships suffered by low-income families during the pandemic, the government should use the public distribution system instead of the Jan Dhan Yojana since the reach of the former is larger, enable a cash transfer of INR 5,000 for three months to vulnerable households, expand NREGA entitlements to 150 days, provide a COVID-19 hardship allowance of INR 30,000 to 2.5 million Anganwadi and ASHA workers, and pilot an urban employment programme with a focus on women workers.

The above measures will amount to approximately INR 5.5 lakh crore of additional spending.

Read this article to understand why it might be time to implement an urban NREGA.