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Make plan under NDMA, Epidemic Act for quick response to COVID-like crisis in future: House panel

ANI | Updated: Dec 21, 2020 18:10 IST

New Delhi [India], December 21 (ANI): A national plan should be formulated under National Disaster Management Act (NDMA), 2005 and Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 for co-ordination between the centre, states and UTs for quick response to a crisis like a coronavirus in future, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has recommended in its report on COVID-19.
The panel said that it "would ensure efficacious implementation of all decisions to contain pandemics and equitable/timely distribution of relief at district and sub-divisional levels to the intended beneficiaries in urban and rural areas."
"NDMA is meant for handling disasters that occurs periodically every year and is not meant for handling the pandemic/ epidemic which happens in decades and even once in a century. The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, is outdated as it was framed in the colonial-era and needs revisiting, updation and amendment," it added.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by Rajya Sabha MP Anand Sharma, presented 229th report on 'Management of COVID-19 pandemic and related issues' to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaih Naidu on Monday through video conferencing.
"The panel discussed and examined the various aspects of the seriousness of the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic including its impact on various sectors and also the assessment that has been made by the Government of India about this pandemic in three meetings held on 15 July 2020, 19 August 2020 and 27 August 2020," reads an official release of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.
The panel noted that sudden lockdown imposition resulted in unprecedented disruptions including stoppage of intra and inter-state movement of people, goods, shutdown of factories, hotels, eateries, tourism and other economic activities with severe social and economic fallouts.
The panel noted that in the management of the COVID-19 crisis, "India has demonstrated its capacity to scale up the responses by ramping up of number of laboratories, testing, ICU beds, PPE kits" and it has called for "more allocation for public hospitals to strengthen the public health infrastructure (PHI) to equip them appropriately to handle such pandemics in future."
"Urgent need for a comprehensive public health Act to check and control private hospitals and black-marketing of medicines and ensure product standardisation," it said.
The panel has recommended that the national database of migrant workers should be prepared at the earliest observing that the migrant workers are the backbone of the industrial sector but the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed certain problems in the existing public policy framework.
"Due to the lockdown, the migrant workers lost their jobs. The uncertainty involved with the pandemic and inadequate social security, access to affordable housing, health benefits and other basic amenities led to their migration to their home States. The lack of these benefits points to the in-effective implementation of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act, 1979," it said.
"The task of identifying the location and disbursing relief measures to the migrant workers became very difficult as the Central Government did not have any data of the migrant workers and had to seek it from the States. The committee appreciated the efforts made by the Government to extend various relief measures to the vulnerable sections of the society. However, in the absence of a comprehensive national database, it is difficult to extend the relief measures by the government to the intended beneficiaries," it added.
The panel further recommended that the government should ensure a decent minimum wage, food security and safe living conditions to all the workers employed in both the formal and informal sector by including them in health services, cash transfer and other social programmes.
"The panel strongly recommended that the National Database on migrant workers should be launched at the earliest as it will help in the identification of migrant workers and also in delivering ration and other benefits to them. The database may also include the records of returning migrant labourers including details about their source and destination, earlier employment details and the nature of their skills which will help in skill development and planning for the transit of migrant workers in emergency situations such as the outbreak of pandemic," it said.
The panel also recommended that the government should use different platforms to provide information about the various government schemes and other avenues of employment.
The panel noted the efforts of the government for providing an additional allocation of food grains for distribution under PDS to meet the challenge but cautioned that in the absence of tracking and monitoring mechanisms, it is challenging for both Central and States/UTs Governments to track the intra-State and inter-State movement of the migrant workers and distribute adequate quantities of food grains from PDS shops on time.
"Therefore, the panel recommends that the Ministry of Home Affairs should coordinate with the concerned Central Ministries and the Governments of States/UTs and create a tracking and monitoring mechanism linking all the States/ UTs so that the movement of migrant workers can be tracked on a real-time basis and States can off take the required rations/ supplies from the Central Board, FCI godowns accordingly, without any delay," it said.
The panel opined that Mid-Day Meal Scheme is an essential scheme that motivates the poorest children to go to school and pursue studies.
"But due to the pandemic and closure of schools, they are deprived of mid-day meals. The committee notes that only some of the States have continued the Mid-Day Meal scheme during the pandemic by delivering the dry rations at doorstep/ giving allowances or both. The committee, therefore, strongly recommends that the Ministry of Home Affairs along with the Department of Food and Public Distribution may take up the matter with the State Governments to ensure that the local administrations are delivering the rations/ allowances in time and this should be continued until the schools reopen," it said.
The committee while noting that MSME is one of the sectors most adversely affected by the pandemic, observed that the shock to consumption is severe due to COVID-19 induced lockdowns which resulted in huge loss of jobs, daily wages and daily income in both organised and unorganised sectors but the impact, however, has been more severe in the unorganised sector.
"Therefore, it will take quite some time to mend and regain the pre-COVID-19 momentum. The GDP after having a contraction of 23.9% in Q1 (2020-21) has shown signs of recovery in Q2 (2020-21). This is due to growth in private consumption during the festive season, rise in investment demand and Government intervention through MNREGA. But, more interventions and schemes are required by the Government to support the recovery and to sustain this economic revival in the following quarters," it said. (ANI)