Friday, May 1, 2020

Lockdown extended for two more weeks

PRESS RELEASE EXTENSION OF LOCKDOWN FOR A FURTHER PERIOD OF TWO WEEKS WITH EFFECT FROM MAY 4, 2020.
 After a comprehensive review, and in view of the Lockdown measures having led to significant gains in the COVID-19 situation in the country, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India (GoI) issued an Order under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, today, to further extend the Lockdown for a further period of two weeks beyond May 4, 2020. MHA also issued new guidelines to regulate different activities in this period, based on the risk profiling of the districts of the country into Red (hotspot), Green and Orange Zones. The guidelines have permitted considerable relaxations in the districts falling in the Green and Orange Zones. 2. The criteria for identification of districts as Red, Green and Orange Zones have been spelt out in detail in the letter dated April 30, 2020, issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), GoI. The Green Zones will be districts with either zero confirmed cases till date; or, no confirmed case in the last 21 days. The classification of districts as Red Zones will take into account the total number of active cases, doubling rate of confirmed cases, extent of testing and surveillance feedback from the districts. Those districts, which are neither defined as Red nor Green, shall be classified as Orange zones. The classification of districts into Red, Green and Orange Zones will be shared by MoHFW with the States and Union Territories (UTs) on a weekly basis, or earlier, as required. While States and UTs can include additional districts as Red and Orange Zones, they may not lower the classification of a district included by MoHFW in the list of Red or Orange Zones. 2 3. A number of districts of the country have, within their boundaries, one or more Municipal Corporations (MCs). It has been observed that due to higher population density within the MCs, and consequent greater inter-mixing of people, the incidence of COVID-19 within the boundary of the MC(s) is higher than in the rest of the district. In the new guidelines, therefore, it has been provided that such districts will be classified into two Zones, i.e., one Zone for the area under the boundary of the MC(s); and, another for the area falling outside the boundary of the MC(s). If the area outside the boundary of the MC(s) has reported no case for the last 21 days, it will be allowed to be classified as one stage lower than the overall classification of the district as either Red or Orange. Hence, this area will be classified as Orange, in case the district is overall Red; or as Green, in case the district is overall Orange. This classification will enable more economic and other activities in that area of the district, which is relatively less affected by the incidence of COVID-19, while also ensuring that due caution continues to be exercised so that these areas remain free from COVID-19 cases. This dispensation has been made only in respect of districts having Municipal Corporation (s). 4. The most sensitive areas of the country, from the spread of COVID19 point of view, and falling within the Red and Orange Zones, are designated as Containment Zones. These are areas where there is significant risk of spread of the infection. The containment areas would be defined by respective District Administrations, taking into account the total number of active cases, their geographical spread, and the need to have well demarcated perimeters from the enforcement point of view. The local authority shall ensure 100% coverage of Aarogya Setu app among the residents of the Containment Zone. Containment Zones would have intensified surveillance protocols, with contact tracing, house to house 3 surveillance, home/ institutional quarantining of persons based on their risk assessment, and clinical management. Strict perimeter control would need to be ensured, so that there is no movement of people in and out of these Zones, except for medical emergencies, and for maintaining supply of essential goods and services. No other activity is permitted within the Containment Zones. 5. Under the new guidelines, a limited number of activities will remain prohibited throughout the country, irrespective of the Zone. These include travel by air, rail, metro and inter-State movement by road; running of schools, colleges, and other educational and training/ coaching institutions; hospitality services, including hotels and restaurants; places of large public gatherings, such as cinema halls, malls, gymnasiums, sports complexes etc; social, political, cultural and other kinds of gatherings; and, religious places/ places of worship for public. However, movement of persons by air, rail and road is allowed for select purposes, and for purposes as permitted by MHA. 6. The new guidelines also prescribe certain measures for well being and safety of persons. Hence, movement of individuals, for all nonessential activities, shall remain strictly prohibited between 7 pm to 7 am. Local authorities shall issue orders under appropriate provisions of law, such as prohibitory orders [curfew] under Section 144 of CrPC, for this purpose, and ensure strict compliance. In all zones, persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, shall stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes. Out-Patient Departments (OPDs) and Medical clinics shall be permitted to operate in Red, Orange and Green Zones, with social distancing norms and other safety precautions; however, these will not be permitted within the Containment Zones. 4 7. In the Red Zones, outside the Containment Zones, certain activities are prohibited in addition to those prohibited throughout the country. These are: plying of cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws; running of taxis and cab aggregators; intra-district and inter-district plying of buses; and, barber shops, spas and saloons. 8. Certain other activities have been allowed in the Red Zones with restrictions. Movement of individuals and vehicles is allowed only for permitted activities, with a maximum of 2 persons (besides the driver) in four-wheeler vehicles, and with no pillion rider in the case of two-wheelers. Industrial establishments in urban areas, viz., Special Economic Zones (SEZs), Export Oriented Units (EOUs), industrial estates and industrial townships with access control have been permitted. The other industrial activities permitted are manufacturing units of essential goods, including drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, their raw material and intermediates; production units, which require continuous process, and their supply chain; manufacturing of IT hardware; jute industry with staggered shifts and social distancing; and, manufacturing units of packaging material. Construction activities in urban areas have been limited to in-situ construction (where workers are available on site and no workers are required to be brought in from outside) and construction of renewable energy projects. Shops in urban areas, for non-essential goods, are not allowed in malls, markets and market complexes. However, all standalone (single) shops, neighborhood (colony) shops and shops in residential complexes are permitted to remain open in urban areas, without any distinction of essential and non-essential. ECommerce activities, in the Red Zones, are permitted only in respect of essential goods. Private offices can operate with upto 33% strength as per requirement, with the remaining persons working from home. All 5 Government offices shall function with senior officers of the level of Deputy Secretary and above at full strength, and the remaining staff attending upto 33% as per requirement. However, Defense and Security services, Health and Family Welfare, Police, Prisons, Home Guards, Civil Defence, Fire and Emergency Services, Disaster management and related services, National Informatics Centre (NIC), Customs, Food Corporation of India (FCI), National Cadet Corps (NCC), Nehru Yuvak Kendra (NYK) and Municipal services shall function without any restrictions; delivery of public services shall be ensured and necessary staff will be deployed for such purpose. 9. A large number of other activities are allowed in the Red Zones. All industrial and construction activities in rural areas, including MNREGA works, food-processing units and brick-kilns are permitted; besides, in rural areas, without distinction to the nature of goods, all shops, except in shopping malls are permitted. All agriculture activities, e.g., sowing, harvesting, procurement and marketing operations in the agricultural supply chain are permitted. Animal husbandry activities are fully permitted, including inland and marine fisheries. All plantation activities are allowed, including their processing and marketing. All health services (including AYUSH) are to remain functional, including transport of medical personnel and patients through air ambulances. A large part of the financial sector remains open, which includes banks, non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), insurance and capital market activities, and credit co-operative societies. Operation of homes for children, senior citizens, destitutes, women and widows etc.; and operation of Anganwadis has also been permitted. Public utilities, e.g., utilities in power, water, sanitation, waste management, telecommunications and internet will remain open, and courier and postal services will be allowed to operate. 6 10. Most of the commercial and private establishments have been allowed in the Red Zones. These include print and electronic media, IT and IT enabled services, data and call centres, cold storage and warehousing services, private security and facility management services, and services provided by self-employed persons, except for barbers etc., as mentioned earlier. Manufacturing units of essential goods, including drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, their raw material and intermediates; production units, which require continuous process, and their supply chain; Jute industry with staggered shifts and social distancing; and manufacturing of IT hardware and manufacturing units of packaging material will continue to be permitted. 11. In the Orange Zones, in addition to activities permitted in Red Zone, taxis and cab aggregators will be permitted with 1 driver and 1 passenger only. Inter-district movement of individuals and vehicles will be allowed for permitted activities only. Four wheeler vehicles will have maximum two passengers besides the driver and pillion riding will be allowed on twowheelers. 12. In the Green Zones, all activities are permitted except the limited number of activities which are prohibited throughout the country, irrespective of the Zone. However buses can operate with upto 50% seating capacity and bus depots can operate with upto 50% capacity. 13. All goods traffic is to be permitted. No State/ UT shall stop the movement of cargo for cross land-border trade under Treaties with neighbouring countries. No separate pass of any sort is needed for such movement, which is essential for maintaining the supply chain of goods and services across the country during the lockdown period. 14. All other activities will be permitted activities, which are not specifically prohibited, or which are permitted with restrictions in the 7 various Zones, under these guidelines. However, States/ UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, and with the primary objective of keeping the spread of COVID-19 in check, may allow only select activities from out of the permitted activities, with such restrictions as felt necessary. 15. No separate/ fresh permissions will be required from authorities for activities already permitted to operate under the guidelines on Lockdown measures up to May 3, 2020. The Standard Operating Protocols (SOPs) issued by MHA will continue to operate such as transit arrangement for foreign national(s) in India; release of quarantine persons; movement of stranded labour within States/ UTs; sign-on and sign-off of Indian seafarers, movement of stranded migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons by road and rail. 16. State/ UT Governments are mandated to strictly enforce the lockdown guidelines and they shall not dilute these guidelines issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, in any manner. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Central employees to download "Arogya Setu" App mandatorily

".......(i) All the officers, staff (including outsourced staff) working in Central Government should download 'Aarogyasetu' App on their mobile phones, immediately.
 (ii) Before starting for office, they must review their status on 'Aarogyasetu' and commute only when the app shows 'safe' or 'low risk' status.
 (iii) The officers/staff are advised that in case the App shows a message that he/she has a 'moderate' or 'high risk' calculated on the basis of Bluetooth proximity ("recent contact with infected person"), he/she should not come to office and self isolate for 14 days or till the status becomes 'safe' or 'low risk'....."
View the O.M. dated 29.04.2020

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Central Government freezes D.A. for employees, pensioners

The finance ministry on Thursday decided to put on hold increment in dearness allowance (DA) for 50 lakh central government employees and 61 lakh pensioners till July 2021 due to the Covid-19 crisis. 
"In view of the crisis arising out of Covid-19, it has been decided that additional installment of dearness allowance payable to central government employees and dearness relief (DR) to central government pensioners due from January 1, 2020, shall not be paid. 
"The additional instalment of DA and DR due from July 1, 2020, and January 1, 2021, shall also not be paid," the department of expenditure said in an office memorandum. 
However, DA and DR at current rates will continue to be paid. 
Click here for the O.M.
According to sources, the combined savings on account of freezing of these instalments of DA and DR to central government employees and pensioners would be Rs 37,530 crore in the current financial year and 2021-22. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Will the Central Govt. offices reopen on 20th April 2020?

Confusions growing on relaxation to be made available from 20th April 2020. Whether Central Govt. offices, will reopen ?
According to Ministry of Home order dated 15.04 2020, Offices like Income Tax to are to function with 100 % attendance of Deputy Secretary and levels above that. Remaining officers and staff to attend upto 33% as per requirement. (Para 18 of Page 7 of MHA order dated 15.04.2020.
Click here to view the above order
National Directive for COVID 19 management and Standard Operating Procedure for social distancing in work places, offices are also annexed with the order.

With response to the above order from MHA, JCA (An umbrella body of Income Tax promotee officers and staff association) asked the Chairman, CBDT to ensure following arrangements in order to reopen the office abiding by the instruction and guideline contained therein.
"In view of the above instructions/guidelines, your kind-self is requested to issue following necessary directions to all PCCsIT and other Officers In-charge: a) Obtain valid NOC or approval from States/UTs/District Administration that all preparatory arrangements as well as other sectoral requirements are in place and functional in appropriate manner. b) After obtaining the above approval/NOC, the local administration should ascertain as to how many Officers/Officials are residing in the declared Hotspots or adjoining states where revised relaxed guidelines are not applicable. Only after identifying such Officers & Officials, the PCCsIT in consultation with local administration and Associations, issues necessary orders for 33% functional requirement. c) Since, as per point No 1, no public transport, Metro Rail Services, Interdistrict and Interstate movement of Individuals is restricted to the activities permitted under these guidelines, all PCCsIT may please be directed to ensure arrangements of transport facilities for to and fro from Office with maintenance of Social Distancing."
Click here to view the above letter from JCA 
It is expected that other associations may request the authority to ensure above requirements in order to make office functional from 20th April 2020.


Friday, April 10, 2020

GPF Interest Rate slashed by 0.8%

GPF Interest rate slashed to 7.1% for the quarter April to June 2020.



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