With the increasing number of novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) cases in India, the Prime Minister, in his fourth speech post the COVID-19 outbreak in India on 14th April 2020, announced that the nationwide lockdown (which has been in effect from 25th March 2020) imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in India, has been extended till 3rd May 2020.
Revised Consolidated Guidelines
The Ministry of Home Affairs issued an Order (on 14th March 2020) under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 stating that the lockdown measures stipulated under the Consolidated Guidelines of Ministry Home Affairs to contain the COVID-19 epidemic, will continue to remain in force up to 3rd May 2020. In light of the Order mentioned hereinabove, the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued Revised Consolidated Guidelines (on 15th March 2020) regarding the additional activities that would be permitted with effect from 20th April 2020 to alleviate the hardship to the public. It is important to note that these Revised Consolidated Guidelines would not be applicable to hotspots (i.e. areas or clusters with significant spread of COVID-19) and containment zones, as demarcated by State Governments/ Union Territories/ District Administrations.
The additional activities as contained under the Revised Consolidated Guidelines would be made functional by the State Governments/ Union Territories/ District Administrations only upon the strict compliance of the existing guidelines already in place and may be withdrawn in case of violation of any of the lockdown measures/ guidelines. The State Governments/ Union Territories/ District Administrations have also been directed to ensure that all preparatory arrangements with regards to social distancing at workplaces, factories, establishments, and other sectoral requirements are made, prior to these additional activities being functional.
In light of the Order mentioned hereinabove, the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued Revised Consolidated Guidelines (on 15th March 2020) regarding the additional activities that would be permitted with effect from 20th April 2020 to alleviate the hardship to the public.
The Revised Consolidated Guidelines are aimed at operating those sectors of the economy which are critical from the perspective of rural and agricultural development and job creation, while maintaining strict protocols in areas where safety is of greatest importance to contain the spread of COVID-19. The financial sector along with the rural sector has also been given the permission to operate.
Sectors permitted to operate
- All health services
- All agriculture related activities including fisheries, plantation etc as well as MNREGA works
- Financial sector such as RBI, SEBI, exchanges, other nodal bodies, banks and ATMs to remain fully functional
- Social sectors for elder care/ disabled persons/ children to be fully operational.
- Public utilities such as oil and gas, water, waste management, postal services, etc
- Movement of Cargo and Supply of Essential Goods (covered in detail below)
- IT and ITeS companies
- Warehousing and cold storage
- E-commerce with special permissions for delivery
- Private Security Agencies
- Services by self employed persons (plumbers, etc.)
- Construction of roads and renewable energy projects
- Industries in rural areas
- Drugs and Pharma industries
- SEZ units
- Food processing units
- Coal production and mining
- Manufacturing of packaging material and many more
All such activities shall come into effect in a phased manner after 20th April 2020.
The Revised Consolidated Guidelines also prescribe the National Directives, which shall be enforced by the District Magistrate for COVID-19 management, the Standing Operating Procedures for social distancing at workplaces, factories and establishments and the penal provisions under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and Indian Penal Code, 1860 for violation of the lockdown measures/ guidelines.
Movement of Cargo and Supply of Essential Goods
Goods traffic will be allowed to ply is the assurance of the MHA circular. Railways and airways for transportation of cargo shall function. ICDs shall be allowed to function including certain authorised CHAs. Land ports can be operated for supply of essentials. Trucks can move with 2 drivers and 1 helper subject to certain restrictions.
Movement of staff and contract labour for the above purposes under precaution shall be permitted to operate.
As regards essentials there is a breather to large and small stores (Kiranas) who can operate without any time limits subject to following social distancing and ensuring that they are open for supply of essentials only.
Employer Obligations to continue
The Order of Ministry of Home Affairs (dated March 29, 2020) directed the employers of all industries, shops and commercial establishments to pay wages to all their workers on the due date, without any deductions, during the period of the lockdown. The Order also directed the State/ Union Territory Governments to ensure adequate arrangements of temporary shelters, provision of food, etc. for migrant workers and daily wagers. The landlords are required to refrain from demanding rent from workers (migrant workers or otherwise) living in rented properties, for 1 month. Any non-compliance under the said Order shall attract penal provisions as stipulated under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 leading to imprisonment of 1 year. For more information on this – see our previous posts here and here.
The period for filing ESI contribution for the month of February and March was earlier extended to 15th April 2020 and 15th May 2020 respectively. Now, the period for filing ESI contribution for the month of February has been further extended to 15th May, 2020 (from earlier extended period i.e. 15th April 2020).
Relief for ESIC Contributions
Pursuant to the relief measures being extended by the Government to various business entities and workers, the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (“ESIC”) has further extended the period for filing ESI contribution for its stakeholders. The period for filing ESI contribution for the month of February and March was earlier extended to 15th April 2020 and 15th May 2020 respectively. Now, the period for filing ESI contribution for the month of February has been further extended to 15th May, 2020 (from earlier extended period i.e. 15th April 2020). No penalty or interest or damage will be levied on establishments during this period.
Protection to Migrant Workers
Ministry of Labour and Employment has set up 20 control rooms under the Office of Chief Labour Commissioner on pan India basis to address issues relating to wage related grievances of workers and to mitigate the problems of migrant workers through coordination with various State Governments.
The states are not to be left far behind. We have seen more stringent measures taken by various states, some of those are detailed below:
Extension of lock-down: The Government of Maharashtra on 13th April 2020 issued a notification for extending of lockdown in the State of Maharashtra upto 30th April 2020.
Advisory to Employers made Mandatory: The Industries, Energy and Labour Department of Maharashtra issued an Order dated 31st March 2020 (in Marathi) which essentially provided that all employees and workers (including employees provided by contractors, outsourced workers, temporary workers and daily wage workers) of private establishments, factories, companies, shops (except essential services), etc. who are constrained to stay at home due to the COVID-19 lockdown shall be deemed to be on duty and shall be paid their full salary and allowances by the employers. Any violation of the provisions of the said Order will be punishable as per the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. What was earlier a mere advisory is sought to be made mandatory with this order. We had done an earlier post when this information was not available.
Extension of lock-down: The Government of Telangana on 12th April 2020 issued and order for extension of the lockdown period in the State of Telangana upto 30th April 2020.
Relief of Migrant workers: The Government of Telangana also notified (on 30th March 2020) certain relief measures for the migrant workers such as provision of ration and money to enable the migrant workers to take care of their essential requirements and facilities such as water, medicines, etc. without any difficulty.