February 22, 2021

Assam Government increases daily wage of tea garden workers to INR 217 from INR 167

Livelihoods: The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Assam has approved a proposal to hike the daily wage of tea garden workers in the state by INR 50. Consequently, the daily wage of tea garden workers has increased from INR 167 to INR 217.

Assam’s Transport Minister, Chandra Mohan Patowary, said that the cabinet approved the sub-committee’s recommendations, after discussions with tea garden owners and workers’ unions. Chandra Mohan Patowary further said that the government had earlier hiked the daily wage of the tea garden workers by INR 30.

“We have so far increased the daily wage of the tea garden workers by INR 80,” he said.

The cabinet also approved a proposal to constitute a one-member committee to fix an equal wage of small tea garden workers.

Assam produces roughly 55 percent of India’s tea and has over 10 lakh tea workers in the organised sector. The tea tribe community hold determining votes in 30 to 35 assembly seats.

The state is likely to go into assembly elections in April 2021 and wage revision of tea workers is an election issue. At a public meeting in Sivasagar on February 4th, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that his party will pay tea garden workers in Assam a daily wage of INR 365 if they come to power.

On February 6th, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman distributed financial assistance of INR 3,000 each to around 8 lakh tea garden workers.

Read this article to understand how labour rights have worsened post-lockdown.

May 20, 2021

Home Ministry extends validity period of FCRA registration certificates

Fundraising & Communications: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued a circular extending the validity of FCRA registration certificates to September 30th, 2021. This applies to all FCRA licences that have expired or will expire between September 29th, 2020 and May 31st, 2021. The decision to extend the deadline has been driven by the exigencies arising from the COVID-19 situation.

FCRA refers to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010, which permits charitable organisations based in India to raise funds from foreign sources.

The order also clarified that nonprofits that have already opened an account and have the requisite permission to receive foreign aid, can henceforth receive it only in these newly-opened accounts.

The FCRA law was amended in September 2020 to include a clause that mandated that all nonprofits receiving foreign aid must necessarily open an account in State Bank of India’s New Delhi Main Branch. The government had initially set the deadline for this account opening as March 31st, 2021; it later extended it to June 30th, 2021 after several nonprofits argued in court that there had been delays because necessary approvals from MHA had not been received.

Several organisations have not been able to receive foreign funds during the crisis caused by the second wave, and this has impacted their COVID-19 relief efforts. Relaxing the foreign funding rules could significantly help organisations ramp up their operations to help individuals, supply critical healthcare equipment, and respond to communities in rural areas.

Read this article to know how amending the FCRA can have unforeseen implications.

May 20, 2021

Corporate spending on oxygen support and medical equipment now counts as CSR

Philanthropy & CSR: The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has issued a circular that allows corporate spending on health infrastructure for COVID-19 care to qualify as corporate social responsibility (CSR) expenditure.

This includes setting up medical oxygen generation and storage plants, manufacturing and supply of oxygen concentrators, ventilators, cylinders, and other medical equipment to counter COVID-19.  

The announcement comes at a time when all efforts are being directed towards expediting efforts to support the country’s healthcare infrastructure.

According to the circular, companies can now undertake projects and activities in collaboration with other companies using CSR funds. Additionally, they can contribute to specified research and development projects, as well as publicly funded universities and certain organisations that conduct research in science, technology, engineering, and medicine.

The government had earlier clarified that setting up makeshift hospitals and temporary COVID-19 care facilities would also be considered a CSR activity. Rajesh Verma, the Corporate Affairs Secretary, has requested businesses to consider converting vacant office buildings into COVID-19 facilities to cater to the rapidly increasing caseload.

Read this article to understand why media attention on COVID-19 deaths due to lack of oxygen in big cities has skewed donor priorities.

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