As of April 30, Telangana has 1,012 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (9th highest in the country). Of these, 367 have been cured, and 26 have died. In this blog, we summarise some of the key decisions taken by the Government of Telangana for containing the spread of COVID-19 in the state and relief measures taken during the lockdown.
For mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Government of Telangana took the following measures for restricting the movement of people in the state.
Closure of commercial establishments: On March 14, the government ordered for the closure of cinema halls, amusement parks, swimming pools, gyms and museums until March 21 which was later extended to March 31.
Lockdown: To further restrict the movement of people, the state and central governments announced lockdown in the state and country. The lockdown included: (i) closing down state borders, (ii) suspension of public transport services, (iii) prohibiting congregation of more than five people. The entities providing essential commodities and services were exempted from these restrictions.
Starting from April 20, the central government allowed certain activities in less-affected districts of the country. However, on April 19, the state government decided not to allow any relaxation in Telangana until May 7.
Telangana Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020: On March 21, the government issued the Telangana Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020. The regulations are valid for one year. Key features of the regulations include:
(i) All government and private hospitals should have dedicated COVID-19 corners,
(ii) People who had travelled through the affected areas should be home quarantined for 14 days,
(iii) Procedures to be followed in the containment zones among others.
Private Hospitals: On March 22, for increasing the availability of healthcare facilities in the state, the government issued an order prohibiting private hospitals from performing any elective surgeries. The hospitals were also instructed to have separate counters for respiratory infections.
Increasing the health workforce in the state: On March 30, the government issued notification for the recruitment of medical professionals on a short term basis.
Prohibition on spitting in public places: On April 6, the Department of Health, Medical and Family Welfare department banned spitting of paan, any chewable tobacco or non-tobacco product, and sputum in public places.
To mitigate the hardships faced by the people, the government took various welfare measures. Some of them are summarized below:
Relief assistance: On March 23, the government announced the following measures:
Factories: On March 24, the government directed the management of factories to pay the wages to all workers during the lockdown period.
Migrant Workers: On March 30, the government decided to provide 12 kg of rice or atta and one time of support of Rs 500 to all migrant workers residing in the state.
Regulation of school fees: On April 21, the government ordered all private schools not to increase any fees during the academic year of 2020-21. The schools will charge only tuition fees on a monthly basis.
Deferment of collection of rent: On April 23, the government notified that house owners should defer the rent collection for three months. Further, the owners should collect the deferred amount in instalments after three months.
Deferment of salaries: The government announced 75% deferment of salaries of all the state legislators, chairperson of all corporations and elected representatives of all local bodies. The government employees will have salary deferment from 10% to 60%. Employees of the Police Department, Medical and Health Department, and sanitation workers employed in all Municipal Corporations and Municipalities are exempted from deferment of salary.
Chief Minister's Special Incentives: The government granted special incentives to certain categories of employees as follows:
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.