As of April 22, 2020, Sikkim does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19. As of April 21, 2020, 87 samples have been sent for testing from Sikkim. Of these, 80 have tested negative for COVID-19, and the results of seven samples are awaited. The state has announced several policy decisions to prevent the spread of the virus and provide relief for those affected by it. In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the Sikkim state government in this regard as of April 22, 2020.
Response before national lockdown
On March 16, the state government responded to the growing number of suspected cases in India by notifying certain directions to be applicable till April 15, 2020. These included: (i) banning the entry of all domestic and foreign tourists in to the state, (ii) closing all educational institutes and anganwadis, (iii) prohibiting the use of recreational facilities such as, casinos, gym, and cinemas, (iii) closing three out of five check posts (border opening) for all visitors in to the state and opening the other two only for medical and police teams, and (iv) banning private industries from getting migrant workers from outside the state and avoiding large concentration of workers at one place.
On March 19, assembly of more than five people was prohibited in the state until April 15, 2020. The government ordered the suspension of all non-essential work on March 19. The supply of all essential commodities such as food grains, vegetables, sanitisers and masks was allowed. Further, the formation of a sub-divisional task force to detect suspected cases was ordered.
On March 22, the government regulated intra-state movement of private vehicles, two-wheelers and taxis on an odd-even basis (allowing plying of vehicles on alternate days as per the number plate) until April 15, 2020. The government also reduced the budget session of the state to two days on March 23.
On March 25, the central government announced on a 21-day country-wide lockdown till April 14. During the lockdown the state government took various steps for physical containment, health, financial and welfare measures. These are detailed below.
Measures taken during lockdown
Certain movement restrictions were put across the state. These include:
Essential Goods and Services
On April 5, the state government issued an order requiring establishments such as shops, hotels, private offices, and commercial establishments to remain closed until April 15. Establishments which were permitted to remain functional include law enforcement agencies, health services, electricity and water services, petrol pumps, and media. Shops for PDS, groceries, vegetables, milk and, medicines were only allowed remain open from 9 am to 4 pm.
On March 31, the Sikkim government identified and set up dedicated isolation wards and treatment centres in the STNM hospital, Sochakgang as a precautionary measure. The government also issued directions for citizens to avoid getting infected by coronavirus. These included social distancing, and maintaining proper hygiene.
On April 18, the state government made it mandatory for all the public, students, teachers, and government employees, to install the Aarogya Setu application. The government of India launched a mobile app called ‘Aarogya Setu’ to enable people to assess the risk of catching COVID-19 on April 2, 2020. The app uses Bluetooth and Global Positioning System (GPS) based device location for contact tracing in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Certain relaxations after 20th April
On April 14, the nation-wide lockdown was further extended till May 3, 2020. On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines outlining select activities which will be permitted from April 20 onwards. These activities include health services, agriculture related activities, certain financial sector activities, operation of Anganwadis, MNREGA works, and cargo movement. Further, subject to certain conditions, commercial and private establishments, industrial establishments, government offices, and construction activities will also be permitted. The Sikkim government took the following steps in the same line.
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.