As of May 29, 2020, there are 1,65,799 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India.  47,352 new cases have been registered in the last week (since May 22).  Out of the confirmed cases so far, 71,106 patients have been cured/discharged and 4,706 have died.  Most cases are in the state of Maharashtra (59,546) followed by the states of Tamil Nadu (19,372), Delhi (16,281) and Gujarat (15,562).  

With the spread of COVID-19, the central government initially undertook many measures to contain the spread of the pandemic, including restrictions on travel and movement through national lockdown.  With gradual resumption of activities, the central government has recently announced measures to ease restrictions on travel and movement.   Further, the government has continued to announce policy decisions to ease the financial stress caused by the pandemic, and to contain further spread of the pandemic.  In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the central government in this regard between May 23 and May 29, 2020.

Figure 1: Day wise number of COVID-19 cases in the country


Source: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; PRS.


RBI announces additional measures to ease financial stress caused by COVID-19

On May 22, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a statement with various development and regulatory policies to ease the financial stress caused by COVID-19.   These measures include: (i) improving liquidity in the market; (ii) support to exports and imports; and (iii) easing capital financing.  Subsequently, following measures have been notified by the RBI: 

  • In March 2020, the RBI had permitted all lending institutions to grant a moratorium of three months on payment of all term loans outstanding as of March 1, 2020.   This has been extended by another three months (till August 31, 2020).  Such deferment will not result in downgrade in asset classification.
  • For working capital such as cash credit or overdraft as well, lending institutions are permitted to allow a deferment of another three months on recovery of interest (till August 31, 2020). 
  • Currently, the exposure limit of a bank to a group of connected counterparties is 25% of the eligible capital base of the bank.  As a one-time measure to ease difficulty in raising funds, this limit has been relaxed to 30% of capital base of bank. 

Travel and Movement 

Domestic Air travel resumes; fare limits set by government

Domestic passenger air travel has been resumed in a phased manned (with one-third capacity of operations) from May 25, 2020 based on the announcement of the Ministry of Civil Aviation on May 21.  To ensure that airlines do not charge excessive fare and to ensure that journey is only for essential purposes, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued an order to limit the minimum and maximum fare that airlines can charge from the passenger.   The routes have been divided in seven sectors based on the approximate duration of the flight.  For routes with shortest duration (for example, Delhi to Chandigarh), the minimum and maximum fare will be Rs 2,000 and Rs 6,000, respectively.  For routes with the longest duration (for example, Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram), the minimum and maximum fare will be Rs 6,500 and Rs 18,600, respectively. 

Further, the Ministry announced that all operational routes under the Regional Connectivity (UDAN) Scheme with up to 500 km of length or operational routes in priority areas (North East region, hilly states or islands) are permitted to resume operations.  This is in addition to the one-third capacity of operations announced earlier. 


Guidelines for international arrivals issued

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued guidelines for international arrivals.  All travellers are required to give an undertaking that they will undergo a 14-day mandatory institutional quarantine at their own cost (7 days in institutional quarantine followed by a 7-day isolation at home).  In emergency cases (such as pregnancy or death in the family), home quarantine will be permitted.  Use of Aarogya Setu app will be mandatory in such cases.  Only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board (flight/ship) after thermal screening.  On arrival, thermal screening will be carried out for all passengers.  The passengers found to be symptomatic will be isolated and taken to a medical facility. 

Movement of migrant labourers

Supreme Court gives an interim order regarding problems of migrant labourers

The Supreme Court of India took cognisance of the problems of migrant labourers who have been stranded in different parts of the country.  In its order, the Court observed that there are lapses being noticed in the process of registration, transportation and in providing food and shelter to the migrant workers.  In view of these difficulties, the Court issued the following interim directions:  

  • Free of cost food should be provided to the migrant workers who are stranded at different places in the country by the concerned state governments.  This information should be publicised and also notified to workers when they are waiting for their turn to board the train or bus.
  • The states should speed up the process of registration of migrant workers and provide help desk for registration.  Complete information regarding the modes of transport must be publicised to the workers.  
  • Fare should not be charged from migrant workers for travel by train or bus. The railway fare shall be shared by the states as per their arrangement.  The originating state of travel must provide water and meal during transportation.   In case of a train journey, Railways must provide water and meal during the journey. 
  • After the migrant workers reach their native place, the receiving state must provide health screening, transport and other facilities free of cost. 
  • Migrant workers found walking on highways or roads must be provided transportation to their destination and all facilities including food and water.

The Court directed the central and state governments to produce record of all necessary details such as the number of migrant workers, the plan to transport them to their destination, and the mechanism of registration. 

Other measures

PM CARES Fund included in the list of CSR eligible activities

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs notified the inclusion of PM CARES fund in the list of activities eligible for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) under the Companies Act, 2013.  Under the Act, companies with net worth, turnover or profits above a specified amount are required to spend 2% of their average net profits in the last three financial years towards CSR activities. This measure will come into effect retrospectively from March 28, 2020, when the fund was setup

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

The National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021 is listed for passage in Rajya Sabha today.  It was passed by Lok Sabha last week.  The Bill creates a regulatory framework for anti-doping rule violations in sports.  It was examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports, and some of their recommendations have been incorporated in the Bill passed by Lok Sabha.  

Doping is the consumption of certain prohibited substances by athletes to enhance performance.  Across the world, doping is regulated and monitored by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which is an independent international agency established in 1999.   WADA’s primary role is to develop, harmonise, and coordinate anti-doping regulations across all sports and countries.   It does so by ensuring proper implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADA Code) and its standards.  In this blog post, we discuss the need of the framework proposed by the Bill, and give insights from the discussion on the Bill in Lok Sabha.  

Doping in India

Recently, two Indian athletes failed the doping test and are facing provisional suspension.   In the past also, Indian athletes have been found in violation of anti-doping rules.  In 2019, according to WADA, most of the doping rule violations were committed by athletes from Russia (19%), followed by Italy (18%), and India (17%).  Most of the doping rule violations were committed in bodybuilding (22%), followed by athletics (18%), cycling (14%), and weightlifting (13%).  In order to curb doping in sports, WADA requires all countries to have a framework regulating anti-doping activities managed by their respective National Anti-Doping Organisations.  

Currently, doping in India is regulated by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), which was established in 2009 as an autonomous body under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.  One issue with the existing framework is that the anti-doping rules are not backed by a legislation and are getting challenged in courts.  Further, NADA is imposing sanctions on athletes without a statutory backing.   Taking into account such instances, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports (2021) had recommended that the Department of Sports bring in an anti-doping legislation.   Other countries such as the USA, UK, Germany, and Japan have enacted legislations to regulate anti-doping activities.  

Framework proposed by the National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021

The Bill seeks to constitute NADA as a statutory body headed by a Director General appointed by the central government.  Functions of the Agency include planning, implementing and monitoring anti-doping activities, and investigating anti-doping rule violations.  A National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel will be set up for determining consequences of anti-doping rule violations.  This panel will consist of legal experts, medical practitioners, and retired athletes.  Further, the Board will constitute an Appeal Panel to hear appeals against decisions of the Disciplinary Panel.  Athletes found in violation of anti-doping rules may be subject to: (i) disqualification of results including forfeiture of medals, points, and prizes, (ii) ineligibility to participate in a competition or event for a prescribed period, (iii) financial sanctions, and (iv) other consequences as may be prescribed.  Consequences for team sports will be specified by regulations.   

Initially, the Bill did not have provisions for protected athletes but after the Standing Committee’s recommendation, provisions for such athletes have been included in the Bill.  Protected persons will be specified by the central government.  As per the WADA Code, a protected person is someone: (i) below the age of 16, or (ii) below the age of 18 and has not participated in any international competition in an open category, or (iii) lacks legal capacity as per their country’s legal framework

Issues and discussion on the Bill in Lok Sabha

During the discussion on the Bill, members highlighted several issues.  We discuss these below-

Independence of NADA 

One of the issues highlighted was the independence of the Director General of NADA.  WADA requires National Doping Organisations to be independent in their functioning as they may experience external pressure from their governments and national sports bodies which could compromise their decisions.  First, under the Bill, the qualifications of the Director General are not specified and are left to be notified through Rules.  Second, the central government may remove the Director General from the office on grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity or “such other ground”.  Leaving these provisions to the discretion of the central government may affect the independence of NADA. 

Privacy of athletes

NADA will have the power to collect certain personal data of athletes such as: (a) sex or gender, (ii) medical history, and (iii) whereabout information of athletes (for out of competition testing and collection of samples).  MPs expressed concerns about maintaining the privacy of athletes.  The Union Sports Minister in his response, assured the House that all international privacy standards will be followed during collection and sharing of data.  Data will be shared with only relevant authorities.

Under the Bill, NADA will collect and use personal data of athletes in accordance with the International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information.   It is one of the eight ‘mandatory’ standards of the World Anti-Doping Code.  One of the amendments moved by the Union Sports Minister removed the provision relating to compliance with the International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information.

Establishing more testing laboratories across states

Currently India has one National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL).  MPs raised the demand to establish testing laboratories across states to increase testing capacity.  The Minister responded by saying that if required in the future, the government will establish more testing laboratories across states.  Further, in order to increase testing capacity, private labs may also be set up.   The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports (2022) also emphasised the need to open more dope testing laboratories, preferably one in each state, to cater to the need of the country and become a leader in the South East Asia region in the areas of anti-doping science and education.

In August, 2019 a six-month suspension was imposed on NDTL for not complying with International Standard for Laboratories (ISL) by WADA.  The suspension was extended for another six months in July, 2020 due to non-conformity with ISL.  The second suspension was to remain in effect until the Laboratory complies with ISL.  However, the suspension was extended for another six months in January, 2021 as COVID-19 impacted WADA’s ability to conduct an on-site assessment of the Laboratory.  In December, 2021 WADA reinstated the accreditation of NDTL.

Raising awareness 

Several athletes in India are not aware about the anti-doping rules and the prohibited substances.  Due to lack of awareness, they end up consuming prohibited substances through supplements.  MPs highlighted the need to conduct more awareness campaigns around anti-doping.  The Minister informed the House that in the past one year, NADA has conducted about 100 hybrid workshops relating to awareness on anti-doping.   The Bill will enable NADA to conduct more awareness campaigns and research in anti-doping.  Further, the central government is working with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to test dietary supplements consumed by athletes.  

While examining the Bill, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports (2022) recommended several measures to improve and strengthen the antidoping ecosystem in the country.  These measures include: (i) enforcing regulatory action towards labelling and use of ‘dope-free’ certified supplements, and (ii) mandating ‘dope-free’ certification by independent bodies for supplements consumed by athletes.