With 4,203 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Maharashtra has the highest number of cases in the country as of April 20, 2020. Of these, 507 have been cured, and 223 have died. In this blog, we summarise some of the key decisions taken by the Government of Maharashtra for containing the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
Measures taken prior to lockdown
By March 12, the state had registered 11 cases of COVID-19. Consequently, the state government took measures to: (i) prepare hospitals for screening and testing of patients, and (ii) limit mass gathering given the highly contagious nature of the disease. The measures taken by the government before the lockdown are summarised below.
On March 14, the government notified the Maharashtra COVID-19 regulations to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state. Key features of the regulations include: (i) screening of COVID-19 patients in hospitals, (ii) home quarantine for people who have travelled through the affected areas, and (iii) procedures to be followed in the containment zones, among others.
On March 15, with 31 COVID-19 cases in the state, the Department of Public Health ordered the closure of cinema halls, swimming pools, gyms, theatres, and museums until March 31. On March 16, all educational institutions and hostels in the state were closed till March 31. The teaching staff was advised to work from home. All exams were also deferred until March 31.
On March 13, the Maharashtra government constituted a high-level committee to formulate guidelines for mitigating of the spread of COVID-19 in the state. The responsibilities of the committee included: (i) taking a daily review of the status of COVID-19 in the state, and (ii) implementing the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health.
On March 17, the first casualty due to COVID-19 occurred in the state. On March 19, the government put restrictions on meetings in the government offices and issued safety guidelines to be followed in these meetings.
On March 20, considering the unmitigated spread of COVID-19 in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur, the attendance in government offices was restricted to 25%. Subsequently, on March 23, the government limited the attendance in government offices to 5% across the state.
Measures taken post-lockdown
To further restrict the movement of individuals, in order to contain the spread of the disease, the state government enforced a state-wide lockdown on March 23. This lockdown, applicable till March 31, involved: (i) closing down of state borders, (ii) suspension of public transport services, and (iii) banning the congregation of more than five people at any public place. Entities engaged in the supply of essential goods and services were excluded from this lockdown. This was followed by a nation-wide lockdown enforced by the central government between March 25 and April 14, now extended till May 3. Before the extension announced by the central government, the state government extended the lockdown in the state till April 30.
On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines on the measures to be taken by state governments until May 3. As per these guidelines, select activities will be permitted in less-affected districts from April 20 onwards to reduce the hardships faced by people. Some of the permitted activities are (i) agriculture and related activities, (ii) MNERGA works, (iii) construction activities, (iv) industrial establishments, (v) health services, (vi) certain financial sector activities among others subject to certain conditions.
To address the hardship being faced by residents of the state due to lockdown, the state took several welfare measures summarised as follows:
On March 30, the School Education Department issued directions to all schools in the state to postpone the collection of school fees until the lockdown is over.
The Department of Tribal Development issued directions to provide food/dietary components at home to women beneficiaries and children under Bharat Ratna Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Amrut Aahar Yojana.
The state government issued directives to the private establishments, industries and companies to pay full salaries and wages to their employees.
On April 7, the state Cabinet decided to provide wheat and rice at a subsidised price to all Above Poverty line ration card holders and Shiv Bhojan at Rs 5 for next three months in all Shiv Bhojan centres.
On April 17, the Housing Department notified that landlords/house owners should defer the rent collection for three months. No eviction will be allowed due to non-payment of rent during this period.
On March 29, the public works department issued directions suspending the collection of tolls at PWD and MSRDC toll plazas for goods transport until further direction.
MLA Local Development Program: Under MLALAD program, a one-time special exception to use the MLALAD funds was given to legislators for the purchase of medical equipment and materials for COVID-19 during the year 2020-21.
Analysing the impact on the economy of the state: On April 13, the government constituted an Expert Committee and a Cabinet Sub-Committee to analyse the implications of COVID-19 on the economy of the state. These committees will also suggest measures to revive the economy of the state.
Orders relating to Mumbai city
On April 8, the city administration made it compulsory for all people to wear masks in public places.
On April 10, the Commissioner of Police, Greater Mumbai issued an order prohibiting any kind of fake or distorted information on all social media and messaging applications. The order is valid until April 24.
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.
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.