Archive for May 6th, 2020

Why India needs a pandemic law desperately

May 6, 2020

Prosenjit Datta in this MC piece writes:

If the government of India’s reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic so far has seemed arbitrary, simultaneously dictatorial, vacillating and rather haphazard in implementation, you could at least partially blame it on the lack of a comprehensive national law and protocol that is designed for any kind of a pandemic. It has instead largely depended on three laws, none of which were originally designed for the kind of challenges it faces today and which contributed to much of the confusion that has been seen since the decision to lock down the country in the last week of March 2020.

In this respect though, India is not alone. It finds itself in the company of practically every country in the world because none of them created a proper pandemic law despite 194 countries signing the World Health Organisation’s International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR). The IHR required the signatories to prepare national plans for pandemic preparedness. Yet, almost none of the countries got around to creating a comprehensive set of rules and a plan to deal with a national or international health scourge.

The US, under George Bush, did see a bill for a comprehensive pandemic preparedness and response being introduced in 2005 and passed the next year. However, the bill, after being passed, saw erratic funding from the government, and though it was modified in 2018, it was found sorely lacking when the novel Coronavirus swept through the country.

Ditto for the European Union that passed something called the Decision 1082/13. This required member states to prepare individual national plans. But as the experience shows, almost none of the member states had a real plan ready bar Germany.

India was also a signatory to the WHO IHS. However, it too does not have any sort of pandemic preparedness protocol or plan. It has depended on three laws – the short Epidemic Act of 1897 that was itself a response to the bubonic plague sweeping the world; the National Disaster Management Act of 2005, which was designed to quickly shut down and isolate a small portion of the country in the event of a natural disaster like an earthquake or a cyclone. And finally, in the initial days of the pandemic, Section 144 that authorises local authorities to ban gatherings and treat people who break the law as rioters.

The trouble with these laws is that they have allowed local administration to arm themselves with wide powers and treat the problem as a law and order issue – focusing more on keeping people indoors and punishing those who try to go out for essential work instead of looking at proper protocols that would suit a national health emergency.


Govt nominates the newly appointed Economics Affairs Secretary on RBI Central Board

May 6, 2020

The Government nominates Shri Tarun Bajaj, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, on RBI Central Board:

The Central Government has nominated Shri Tarun Bajaj, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India as a Director on the Central Board of Reserve Bank of India vice Shri Atanu Chakraborty. The nomination of Shri Tarun Bajaj is effective from May 5, 2020 and until further orders.

The Government ensures that two of the Government nominees are on the Board. However, position of 4th DG remains vacant.

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