March 1, 2021

NITI Aayog recommends steps to improve primary education

Education: The NITI Aayog has recommended a daily four-hour play-based timetable for children in anganwadis, a survey to identify the three crore out-of-school children, and a focus on improving foundational literacy and numeracy. The national think tank made these suggestions in its report prepared for the Governing Council meeting chaired by the Prime Minister.

According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, 27 percent of children between the ages of three and six years, don’t have access to any pre-school education. To address this issue, NITI Aayog has suggested setting a daily four-hour play-based timetable in anganwadis. As of now, formal schooling in government schools starts with Grade 1, but once the National Education Policy (NEP) gets implemented, children of ages three to six years will also be a part of the formal education system.

NITI Aayog has also asked states to consider introducing local and contextualised teaching-learning material for students. Along with that, it also suggested preparing a 10-year roadmap for starting balvatikas—creches in anganwadis for young children—in every primary school, starting this year.

According to the report, there are over three crore out-of-school children across the country. It has therefore recommended a household survey to be conducted this year to identify all the out-of-school children. Furthermore, it also highlighted the need for a 10-year projection of need analysis of infrastructure to understand steps that need to be taken to increase access to education for all children in the country.

We will only achieve tangible gains in education if we prioritise critical elements of the new National Education Policy. Read this article to know more.

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.