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PM Garib Kalyan Yojana: Rs 1.70 Lakh Crore Relief Package for Poor, Rs 50 Lakh Insurance For Health Workers

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PM Gareeb Kalyan Relief Package for poor in India in covid19 outbreak 2
  • Insurance cover of Rs 50 Lakh per health worker fighting COVID-19 to be provided under Insurance Scheme
  • 80 crore poor people will to get 5 kg wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses for free every month for the next three months
  • 20 crore women Jan Dhan account holders to get Rs 500 per month for next three months
  • Increase in MNREGA wage to Rs 202 a day from Rs 182 to benefit 13.62 crore families
  • Ex-gratia of Rs 1,000 to 3 crore poor senior citizen, poor widows and poor disabled
  • Government to front-load Rs 2,000 paid to farmers in first week of April under existing PM Kisan Yojana to benefit 8.7 crore farmers
  • Central Government has given orders to State Governments to use Building and Construction Workers Welfare Fund to provide relief to Construction Workers

The Union Finance & Corporate Affairs Minister Niramla Sitharaman today announced Rs 1.70 Lakh Crore relief package under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana for the poor to help them fight the battle against Corona Virus. While addressing the press conference here today, Sitharaman said

“Today’s measures are intended at reaching out to the poorest of the poor, with food and money in hands, so that they do not face difficulties in buying essential supplies and meeting essential needs.”

Following are the components of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package: —

PRADHAN MANTRI GARIB KALYAN PACKAGE

  1. Insurance scheme for health workers fighting COVID-19 in Government Hospitals and Health Care Centres
  • Safai karamcharis, ward-boys, nurses, ASHA workers, paramedics, technicians, doctors and specialists and other health workers would be covered by a Special insurance Scheme.
  • Any health professional, who while treating Covid-19 patients, meet with some accident, then he/she would be compensated with an amount of Rs 50 lakh under the scheme.
  • All government health centres, wellness centres and hospitals of Centre as well as States would be covered under this scheme  approximately 22 lakh health workers would be provided insurance cover to fight this pandemic.
  1. PM Garib Kalyan Ann (अन्न) Yojana
  • Government of India would not allow anybody, especially any poor family, to suffer on account of non-availability of foodgrains due to disruption in the next three months.
  • 80 crore individuals, i.e, roughly two-thirds of India’s population would be covered under this scheme.
  • Each one of them would be provided double of their current entitlement over next three months. 
  • This additionality would be free of cost.

Pulses:

  • To ensure adequate availability of protein to all the above mentioned individuals, 1 kg per family, would be provided pulses according to regional preferences for next three months.
  • These pulses would be provided free of cost by the Government of India.

III. Under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana,

Benefit to farmers:

  • The first instalment of Rs 2,000 due in 2020-21 will be front-loaded and paid in April 2020 itself under the PM KISAN Yojana.
  • It would cover 8.7 crore farmers

 

  1. Cash transfers Under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana:
  • A total of 20.40 crores PMJDY women account-holders would be given an ex-gratia of Rs 500 per month for next three months.

Gas cylinders:

  • Under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana, gas cylinders, free of cost, would be provided to 8 crore poor families for the next three months.

Help to low wage earners in organised sectors:

  • Wage-earners below Rs 15,000 per month in businesses having less than 100 workers are at risk of losing their employment.
  • Under this package, government proposes to pay 24 percent of their monthly wages into their PF accounts for next three months.
  • This would prevent disruption in their employment.

Support for senior citizens (above 60 years), widows and Divyang:

  • There are around 3 crore aged widows and people in Divyang category who are vulnerable due to economic disruption caused by COVID-19.
  • Government will give them Rs 1,000 to tide over difficulties during next three months.

MNREGA

  • Under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana, MNREGA wages would be increased by Rs 20 with effect from 1 April, 2020. Wage increase under MNREGA will provide an additional Rs 2,000 benefit annually to a worker.
  • This will benefit approximately 13.62 crore families.
  1. Self-Help groups:

  • Women organised through 63 lakhs Self Help Groups (SHGs) support 6.85 crore households.
  1. Limit of collateral free lending would be increased from Rs 10 to Rs 20 lakhs.
  2. Other components of PM Garib Kalyan package

Organised sector:

  • Employees’ Provident Fund Regulations will be amended to include Pandemic as the reason to allow non-refundable advance of 75 percent of the amount or three months of the wages, whichever is lower, from their accounts.
  • Families of four crore workers registered under EPF can take benefit of this window.

Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Fund:

  • Welfare Fund for Building and Other Constructions Workers has been created under a Central Government Act.
  • There are around 3.5 Crore registered workers in the Fund.
  • State Governments will be given directions to utilise this fund to provide assistance and support to these workers to protect them against economic disruptions.

District Mineral Fund

  • The State Government will be asked to utilise the funds available under District Mineral Fund (DMF) for supplementing and augmenting facilities of medical testing, screening and other requirements in connection with preventing the spread of CVID-19 pandemic as well as treating the patients affected with this pandemic.

 

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South Asian Activists Join Hands to Form SAPAN (South Asia Peace Action Network)

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SAPAN initiative

Peace activists from India and Pakistan on March 28th through a virtual session resolved to float a South Asia Peace Action Network (SAPAN) to bring “peace-monger” groups and individuals working towards peace and stability in the region under one umbrella. These activists have been working on these issues for a long time and were talking about such a network much before the recent attempts at reconciliation between Delhi and Islamabad. Through this network they plan to urge both governments to reduce hostility and work towards a peaceful South Asia.

India and Pakistan peace activists came together for a virtual brainstorming session on March 28, inspired by the work of giants like Dr Mubashir Hasan, Asma Jahangir, Kuldip Nayar and Nikhil Chakravarty. On the agenda was the way forward for the movement, how to invigorate it by involving more allies, younger people and expatriates. The meeting coincidentally capitalised on a rare moment in recent years where there has been a deliberate lowering of hostility by both governments. With the recent announcement of a ceasefire by both armies and the meeting of the Indus Water Commissioners last week, a thaw between the two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours does not seem impossible.

Regional Context, Education and Peace Journalism

“There is a need to place the India-Pakistan issue into a regional context’,’ said Beena Sarwar, senior journalist and editor of Aman Ki Asha, or ‘hope for peace. Then, Milind Champanerkar a Pune based writer and winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2017 also stated that “more progressive groups should emerge in both countries and should make peace building efforts in numerous regional languages of both countries as it would help more on the ground”. Rubina Saigol a Feminist scholar and Educationalist who was a pioneering member of the Women’s Action Forum, Pakistan, talked about how negative nationalism and infighting within the specified countries are derailing the peace process and laid emphasis on having Peace education programs for especially the youth of India and Pakistan which could help in tackling hyper-nationalism and could invariably lead to lesser defence budgets. Further, while speaking about the role of media in fuelling tensions between both countries renowned journalist Raza Rumi, editor Naya Daur said,  “There is conflict reporting, but we haven’t placed enough emphasis on peace journalism,’’ specifying that something needs to be done to build the existing peace constituencies on both sides.

 People to People Contact

Participants stressed the importance of urging both governments to normalise relations between the two countries and allow free movement of people across the borders.

“We need to broaden the peace constituency by bringing people together, learning from each other on issues that affect us and that have the potential to change our future”, said Ravi Nitesh, co-founder of the youth group Aaghaz-e-Dosti. Sheema Kermani, a Social activist from Sindh, Pakistan, also the founder of the Tehrik-e-Niswan Cultural Action Group said that “South Asia requires open borders and more people to people contact”, also emphasizing the fact that a better Visa policy shall be in place concerning India and Pakistan.

Siraj Khan, President of the Pakistani Association of Greater Boston who has also worked a lot in India emphasized having a better Visa regime in India and Pakistan and stated that “the artist connection is the biggest peace-builder, and more focus should be put on connecting artists of both countries”.

COVID and Beyond

Furthermore, Jatin Desai, former General Secretary of Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy, the region’s largest and oldest people-to-people group said that “Things are moving ahead. It is a very important moment, and we must take advantage of it,’’ stating that the pandemic has underscored the need for better cooperation within the region and had forced the governments on both sides to moot better connectivity projects. Farooq Tariq a Lahore based activist and General Secretary of Pakistan Kissan Rabita stated that South Asian governments shall all work together in providing Covid vaccinations for their people.

Thus, all activists hoped the current thaw in India-Pakistan relations will lead to more exchanges between the countries which will further strengthen South Asia. Participants in several breakout rooms at the meeting discussing the way forward strongly felt the need to counter the vitriol on social media targeting those who speak for peace. Other noted participants in the discussions included human rights activist Rita Manchanda, artist Salima Hashmi, former Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, labour activist Karamat Ali, author Urvashi Butalia, General Secretary PIPFPD India chapter Vijayan M.J., Sanjoy Hazarika of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Magsaysay awardee Dr Sandeep Panday, editor Kashmir Times Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, senior journalist Panneerselvan, and former Indian Navy chief Ramu Ramdas who is also a Magsaysay awardee, besides several prominent Rotarians from both sides, among others.

Source: Aman Ki Asha, Beena Sarwar, Mandira Nayar, Vishal Sharma and some other peace activists present in the virtual session

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Read All New Rules, Guidelines for Social Media and OTT Platforms Issued by Indian Govt

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New Social media rules in India

New Delhi– The Government of India, following a recent tussle with social media platform (Twitter) and an OTT platform, has announced new rules to tighten the noose around them. The Government has rolled out its oversight mechanism in relation to social media platform as well as digital media and OTT platforms etc.

Yesterday, the Government announced Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. The Government said these rules have been framed under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011.

Now, OTTs will have to self-classify the content into five age-based categories. These platforms were yet to release any statement in agreement or disagreement of these Rules. 

The justification given includes “misuse of social media by criminals, anti-national elements, prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, abusive language, defamatory and obscene contents and blatant disrespect to religious sentiments, prohibiting the publishing of content that the government deems unlawful, inducement for recruitment of terrorists, circulation of obscene content, the spread of disharmony, financial frauds, incitement of violence, public order etc., alarming issue of pornography on social media and its effect on children and society.”

“India is the world’s largest open Internet society and the Government welcomes social media companies to operate in India, do business and also earn profits. However, they will have to be accountable to the Constitution and laws of India,” the Government said.

New Rules, Guidelines 

These guidelines include a provision to make messaging apps to break their end-to-end encryption policy to identify the origin of the messages or the users who first sent them.

“Significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily like messaging would enable identification of the first originator of the information that is required only for prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years. The intermediary shall not be required to disclose the contents of any message or any other information to the first originator.”

The Government has also included it in its rules that these platforms would have to submit a monthly report to the government giving details of compliance with the government’s order.

“Publish a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints as well as details of contents removed proactively by the significant social media intermediary.”

The social media platforms would also have to remove or prevent the publishing of whatever content the government prohibits.

“An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the Appropriate Govt. or its agencies through authorized officer should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.”

“Intermediaries shall remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that exposes the private areas of individuals, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or sexual act or is in the nature of impersonation including morphed images etc. Such a complaint can be filed either by the individual or by any other person on his/her behalf.”

Though the Government has justified the formation of these Rules to safeguard the country and the interest of its people, the announcement has sparked a debate over the future of the right to speech and freedom of expression of opinion.

Currently, in India, there are 53 Crore WhatsApp users, 44.8 Crore YouTube users, 41 Crore Facebook users, 21 Crore Instagram users, and 75 Crore Twitter users.

The reason behind these new Rules, the government said,

“Persistent spread of fake news has compelled many media platforms to create fact-check mechanisms. Rampant abuse of social media to share morphed images of women and contents related to revenge porn have often threatened the dignity of women. Misuse of social media for settling corporate rivalries in blatantly unethical manner has become a major concern for businesses. Instances of use of abusive language, defamatory and obscene contents and blatant disrespect to religious sentiments through platforms are growing.”

“Over the years, the increasing instances of misuse of social media by criminals, anti-national elements have brought new challenges for law enforcement agencies. These include inducement for recruitment of terrorists, circulation of obscene content, the spread of disharmony, financial frauds, incitement of violence, public order etc.”

In respect of news and current affairs publishers are expected to follow the journalistic conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Network Act, which is already applicable to print and TV. Hence, only a level playing field has been proposed.

The Rules has divided social media into two categories -social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries. This distinction is based on the number of users on the social media platform. The government is empowered to notify the threshold of user base that will distinguish between social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries.

Part- II of these Rules would be administered by the Ministry of Electronics and IT, while Part-III relating to the Code of Ethics and procedure and safeguards in relation to digital media would be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Digital Media Ethics Code Relating to Digital Media and OTT Platforms to Be Administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting:

“Since the matter relates to digital platforms, therefore, a conscious decision was taken that issues relating to digital media and OTT and other creative programmes on the Internet shall be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting but the overall architecture shall be under the Information Technology Act, which governs digital platforms.”

The government said that the Rules establish a soft-touch self-regulatory architecture and a Code of Ethics and three-tier grievance redressal mechanism for news publishers and OTT Platforms and digital media.

Notified under section 87 of the Information Technology Act, these Rules empower the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to implement Part-III of the Rules which prescribe the following:

  1. Code of Ethics for online news, OTT platforms and digital media: This Code of Ethics prescribe the guidelines to be followed by OTT platforms and online news and digital media entities.
  2. Self-Classification of Content: The OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age-based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”. The publisher of online curated content shall prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content, and advising on viewer description (if applicable) at the beginning of every programme enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme.
  3. Publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media.
  4. The platforms would have to form a self-regulatory body. There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body would be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and have not more than six members. Such a body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.
  5. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will formulate an oversight mechanism. It will publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances.  

At the same time, a debate is on the role of social media during protests expressing dissent that have been bothering the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at large. In fact, it’s the fundamental tendency of the governments irrespective of their ideologies to show the least tolerance towards public dissent. While, mainstream news channels well under the control of the government, social media platforms weren’t. Recent tussle between the Indian government and Twitter over removal or suspending thousands of accounts including that of Kisan Ekta Morcha and several other individuals and activists had aptly explains it.  

Moreover, manipulation of existing rules (like UAPA) for suppression of dissent in several cases has come into light during the ongoing farmers’ protest over three contentious farm laws.  

Featured Image: Tracy Le Blanc

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Videos: Uttarakhand ‘Glacier Break’ Triggers Massive Flooding, Several Dead, Over 150 Missing

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Uttarakhand flood videos

Uttarakhand-A “glacier break” at Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district today triggered a massive flood in the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers. While A dozen bodies have already been recovered, over 150 people are feared are still missing and feared to be dead. These people are mostly those working inside power projects. About 16 people, who were stuck in a tunnel of Tapovan dam, had been rescued at the time of writing. Efforts were on to rescue others trapped in another tunnel, which was being coordinated by the Army and ITBP. This natural disaster has also triggered debate among ecologists and environmental activists over building too many dams in the Himalayan region.

Videos of this tragic, as well as, horrifying incident have appeared on social media platforms. Videos showed scary scenes of the water tearing through a narrow valley below the power plant and destroying almost everything which came in its spate appeared.

According to the initial report issued by the Union Government, due to the glacier burst near Joshimath and avalanche, the flow of water increased greatly and first the water level started rising in the Rishiganga River and later in Alaknanda River. The massive flood washed away the Rishiganga small hydro project of 13.2 MW.

The flash flood also affected the downstream hydro project of NTPC at Tapovan on the river Dhauliganga, which is a tributary of the river Alaknanda.

There is no danger of downstream flooding and the rise in water level has been contained, as per the information given by the Central Water Commission (CWC).  There is also no threat to the neighbouring villages.  At the same time, the concerned agencies of the Centre and the State were asked to keep a strict vigil on the situation, and a team from DRDO, which monitors avalanches, is being flown in for surveillance and reconnaissance.  MD, NTPC has been asked to reach the affected site immediately.

Rescue and Relief Operations by the Centre and State Government are in full swing and 3 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have reached the spot. More than 200 ITBP personnel are on the spot, and one column and Engineering Task Force (ETF) of Army, with all rescue equipment, have been deployed.  Navy divers are being flown in and aircraft/ helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) are on standby.

“We are focusing on the second tunnel, that is tunnel number one, we’ve learnt that around 30 people are trapped there. We will be carrying out night operations also. Our teams are already on the job and we hope that we’ll be able to rescue them,” Vivek Pandey, ITBP, PRO, Uttarakhand told ANI.

IMD said that there is no rainfall warning in the region for the next two days. Efforts are being made to ensure that all missing people are traced and accounted for, the Government said.

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