March 18, 2021

New Delhi most polluted capital city in the world for third time in a row

Environment: According to the World Air Quality Report 2020 by Swiss organisation, IQAir, 22 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are in India.  This includes New Delhi, which has been cited as the most polluted capital city in the world for the third year running.

According to the report, while Delhi’s air quality had improved by nearly 15 percent from 2019, it still ranked as the 10th most polluted city in the world, and the most polluted capital city.

IQAir’s World Air Quality Report 2020 gathered air quality data for 106 countries. The findings were based on a country’s annual average of particulate matter PM2.5—airborne particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter. Prolonged exposure to PM2.5 can lead to deadly diseases, including cancer and cardiac problems.

Meerut, Agra, and Muzaffarnagar (all in Uttar Pradesh), Faridabad, Jind, Hisar, Fatehabad, Bandhwari, Gurugram, Yamuna Nagar, Rohtak, and Dharuhera (all in Haryana), and Muzaffarpur in Bihar are the other Indian cities among the 30 most polluted cities in the world.

Despite an 11 percent reduction in the annual average of PM2.5 levels due to the COVID-19 lockdown curbs imposed last year, India emerged as the world’s third most polluted country after Bangladesh and Pakistan. “Air pollution in India is still dangerously high,” the report said.

Earlier in February, a Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of IQAir data said that air pollution caused by PM2.5 fine particulate matter led to the death of 54,000 people in Delhi in 2020. Pollution levels in the city are almost six times above the prescribed WHO limits, and an estimated 1800 deaths per million are on account of PM2.5 air pollution.

Read this article to know what it will take to prioritise climate change.

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.