March 5, 2021

Child labour in vulnerable communities in Tamil Nadu increases to nearly 80 percent

Rights: A rapid survey study released by Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) showed that in the 24 districts surveyed in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the number of children working, from vulnerable communities, increased from 231 to 650 compared to the pre-COVID-19 period.

The proportion of working children from Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities has increased nearly three-fold from 28.2 percent to 79.6 percent due to COVID-19 and resultant school closures. 

According to the report, 30.8 percent of the children were working in the manufacturing sector, and 26.4 percent in the service sector. Children were also employed in agriculture and home-based cottage industries.

More than 94 percent of the children said that they had started working due to the financial difficulties faced by their parents, and family pressure. The pandemic and the accompanying loss of livelihoods has pushed many families into poverty. As a result, children were being made to work to earn some income, even after the lockdown.

The study has suggested measures to address this issue of rising child labour. These include providing minimum guaranteed employment for adults in families, coverage of vulnerable families under social protection schemes, and the strict enforcement of labour laws. It also suggested the activation of village-level child protection committees.

Read this article on how COVID-19 has increased the risk of child labour and what civil society can do to protect vulnerable children.

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.