Labour ministry allows EPF withdrawal amid lockdown
The labour ministry has allowed over 6 crore subscribers of retirement fund body EPFO to withdraw an amount not exceeding their three months basic pay and dearness allowance from their EPF account in view of the lockdown to fight Covid-19.
Besides, Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) also introduced online claim settlement facility without manual intervention on Saturday morning for all KYC complaint subscribers during the lockdown.
The ministry has issued a notification in this regard on March 28, 2020 to amend the Employees' Provident Fund Scheme 1952, a labour ministry statement said.
The decision is taken in view of lockdown across the country to fight Covid-19.
The notification permitted non-refundable withdrawal not exceeding the basic wages and dearness allowance for three months or up to 75 per cent of the amount standing to the credit of their EPF account, which ever is less, the ministry said.
The Covid-19 has been declared pandemic and therefore employees working in establishments and factories across entire India, who are members of the EPF Scheme, 1952 are eligible for the benefits of non-refundable advance.
A sub-para (3) under para 68L has been inserted in the EPF scheme, 1952.
The amended Employees Provident Fund (Amendment) scheme, 2020, has come into force from March 28.
Following the notification, EPFO has issued directions to its field offices for promptly processing any applications received from members to help them fight the situation.
In its communication, EPFO has stated that officers and staff must process claims of EPF subscribers promptly so that relief reaches the worker and his family to help them fight with COVID-19.
"We are happy to inform that our online claim filing facility for Covid-19 withdrawals has been successfully launched at 11 am today (Saturday). IT (information technology) division of the EPFO has devised a system of auto settlement of claims through our centralized server in respect of all such members whose KYC (know your customer) data is fully updated and compliant.
"It is going to be a paradigm shift in claim settlements that will be possible to settle within 3 days. This facility will stop manual intervention. The EPF claims will be settled fully online," an official said.
Centre asks states, UTs to seal borders
The Centre on Sunday asked state governments and Union Territory administrations to effectively seal state and district borders to stop the movement of migrant workers, who will be put in 14-days quarantine at destinations for violating the lockdown.
During a video conference with chief secretaries and DGPs, cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba and Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla asked them to ensure that there is no movement of people across cities or on highways as the lockdown continues.
"There has been movement of migrant workers in some parts of the country. Directions were issued that district and state borders should be effectively sealed," an official statement said.
States were directed to ensure that there is no movement of people across cities or on highways and there should be strict implementation of the lockdown.
Only the movement of goods should be allowed.
Those who have violated the lockdown and travelled during the period of lockdown will be subject to minimum 14 days of quarantine in government quarantine facilities, the statement said.
Later, at a press conference, joint secretary in the ministry of home affairs Punya Salila Srivastava said those migrant workers who have violated the lockdown and travelled during the curb will be put in 14 days quarantine at their destinations.
"We have asked the States to make arrangements for shelters so that the migrant workers who have violated the lockdown and travelled could be put in quarantined for 14 days at their destinations. Health workers are being prepared for this," Srivastava said at a press conference in New Delhi.
In an order issued on Sunday, the home ministry said, "The migrant people, who have moved out to reach their home states/ home towns, must be kept in the nearest shelter by the respective State/Union Territory government quarantine facilities after proper screening for a minimum period of 14 days as per standard health protocol".
In the official statement, the government said district magistrates and SPs should be made personally responsible for the implementation of these directions.
The two top central government officials told the chiefs of police and civil administrations of all states to make adequate arrangements for food and shelter for the poor and needy people, including migrant labourers, be made at the place of their work.
The cabinet secretary and home ministry officials are in constant touch with the state chief secretaries and the DGPs.
Video conferences were held by the cabinet secretary and the home secretary on Saturday evening as well as Sunday morning with the chief secretaries and the DGPs.
"It was noted that, by and large, there has been effective implementation of the lockdown guidelines across all States and UTs. Essential supplies have also been maintained. Situation is being monitored round the clock and necessary measures are being taken as required," the statement said.
The central government had on Saturday issued orders for the use of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) funds for this purpose.
Sufficient funds are available with states in this head, it said.
States have been also told to ensure timely payment of wages to labourers at their place of work during the period of lockdown without any cut.
House rent should not be demanded from the labourers for this period. Action should be taken against those who are asking labourers or students to vacate the premises, the statement said.
Detailed instructions on monitoring of such persons during quarantine have been issued to the states.
It was impressed upon all the states that three weeks of strict enforcement is essential to contain the spread of coronavirus. This is in the interest of everyone, the statement said.
A large number of migrant workers have left their work places in different parts of the country in last few days and walking down to their native places, hundreds of kilometres away facing hardships on the way.
The migrant workers have no option but to walk as there is no transport available after the announcement of the nationwide lockdown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday in a bid to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Seeing their plight, some state governments have made arrangements for their transport, accommodation and food of late.
PM seeks forgiveness for tough decisions
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday sought the nation's forgiveness for imposing a monumental lockdown on the country, saying it was a question of life and death and expressed confidence that "we will definitely win the battle" against the coronavirus menace that has claimed 25 lives in India so far.
In his monthly Mann ki Baat radio address to the nation, Modi also praised the front-line workers in the fight against the virus as well as countless workers in the essential services who are ensuring the country doesn't come to a complete standstill in the 21-day lockdown announced on March 24.
"I seek forgiveness ... I strongly feel, you will forgive me. When I see my poor brothers and sisters, then I definitely feel that they would say what kind of Prime Minister is this who has put us in this trouble. I specially seek their forgiveness. You had to undergo problems. I understand but there is no other way out to fight the coronavirus for a country with a population of 130 crore," he said. "But this is a battle for life and death."
According to the Health Ministry Update released an hour before Modi's address, India recorded a total of 979 cases and 25 deaths so far.
The Prime Minister said looking at what the world is going through, this (lockdown) was the "only way left."
"After all, the safety of you and your families has to be ensured. Once again, I apologise for any inconvenience, any hardship caused to you," he said.
To drive home his point, Modi referred to an ancient Indian adage that means an illness and its scourge should be nipped in the bud because when it becomes incurable with passage of time its treatment is very difficult.
He also described as "unfortunate" incidents where some of those suspected coronavirus carriers under home quarantine are being ill-treated or ostracised by others.
"I am greatly pained to learn of these instances. This is very unfortunate. We need to understand that in the current circumstances, we need to ensure social distance, not human or emotional distance. These people are not criminals, " he said.
He pointed out that these people are merely suspected to be infected with the virus.
"These people have isolated and quarantined themselves to protect other people from getting infected," he said.
"Coronavirus is bent on killing people therefore entire humanity must unite and resolve to eliminate it," he said in the address that lasted more than 30 minutes and featured his interaction with two former coronavirus patients and two doctors.
He said while talks on a variety of issues in the programme, this month, he will restrict himself to coronavirus as it would not be appropriate to talk of other things.
The lockdown is a means to protect yourself, he said.
"You have to protect yourself and your family. For the next many days, you have to continue displaying this patience; abide by the 'Lakshman Rekha'," he stressed.
In a stern warning to those not following rules during the 21-day lockdown, the Prime Minister said no one wants to overstep the law and break rules wilfully.
"But there are some who are doing so, since they are not trying to understand the gravity of the matter. To them I will say that if they don't comply with the lockdown rule, it will be difficult to save ourselves from the scourge of coronavirus," he said.
Community spread hasn't begun: Maharashtra Deputy CM
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Sunday said there were no cases of community transmission of the novel coronavirus in the state and all COVID-19 patients here were those who had come from abroad or the ones who had come in contact with infected persons.
In a series of tweets, Pawar said the the third stage of the outbreak, that is community transmission, had not yet been reached, and asked people to ensure it stayed that way by not venturing out onto the streets.
The state is under a 21-day lockdown from Wednesday to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
"The increased number of COVID-19 cases in the state are from people who are in close contact with the people returning from abroad," he tweeted.
Some people got infected during their international tours and carried it here and their relatives, mostly family members, contracted the coronavirus infection, he said.
"We are still not in the third stage, also known as community transmission phase. People should make a resolution that they would not venture out on streets," he said, and called it the only way to break the spread cycle.
Cases rise to 33 in Haryana
The total number of coronavirus cases in Haryana rose to 33, officials said on Sunday.
The total number of positive cases of Covid-19 in Haryana stand at 33.
Over 15,000 cases booked in Tamil Nadu for violating lockdown
The Tamil Nadu police on Sunday said it has booked 15,610 cases for violations relating to the Section 144 Cr Pc in force in the state as part of the 21-day lockdown tp contain spread of coronavirus.
According to police, total number of cases for violations of lockdown rules was 15,610 and the total First Information Reports registered was 14,815.
Encouraging people to stay indoors to follow the government order, police department continue to patrol roads and have deployed barricades in major arterial roads and urged violators of the government order to stay indoors.
The Cr PC Section 144 order prohibits assembly of more than five individuals.
Police said it has seized 11,565 vehicles from the violators and the total fines imposed on them was Rs 4.80 lakh.
Newly recruited CAPF doctors asked to join immediately; retired officials alerted
Over 450 doctors recruited recently as medical officers in the CAPFs have been asked to join service "immediately" as the forces are ramping up their healthcare setup to combat COVID-19, a top paramilitary officer said on Sunday.
Retired medical officers have been "alerted" and modalities are being worked on to hire doctors on contractual service to man the chain of the forces' country-wide hospitals and quarantine centres that have a combined strength of more than 7,200 beds, ITBP Director General (DG) Surjeet Singh Deswal told PTI.
"Over 450 doctors who were recruited as medical officers for all the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) recently have been called to join duty immediately...with no loss of time.
"They will enhance our strength in combating the situation arising out of the coronavirus outbreak in the country," Deswal said.
A senior official said the plan was formulated at the ITBP headquarters and top-level sanctions were obtained from the Union Home Ministry before summoning these doctors.
These doctors, the DG said, were recruited recently by the government for the CAPFs and ITBP was the nodal agency for their recruitment.
The CAPFs have a combined strength of over 2,000 doctors and specialists at present apart from other paramedical staff.
Migrant workers hit streets in Kerala seeking transportation to native places
Seeking transportation to travel to their native places, hundreds of migrant workers on Sunday hit the streets near Changanassery violating the 21-day lockdown announced by the government to prevent spread of novel coronavirus.
Soon after the incident was reported from Payippad village, a shocked Kerala government quickly stepped in to defuse the tension by deploying police force and sending Kottayam district authorities to pacify the agitating migrant workers, who are called guest labourers in the state.
The Kottayam district Collector and Superintendent of Police held talks with the agitating migrant workers on the streets of Payippad village town and managed to send them back to their camps.
Maharashtra cases touch 186
With three more persons testing positive for coronavirus in Maharashtra, the number of such patients in the state has gone up to 196, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Sunday.
However, he did not specify the places where these three new patients belong to.
"Three more people have tested positive, taking the tally to 196. However, 34 people have been discharged so far in the state. So the number of active COVID-19 patients in the state is 155," Tope said.
All the cured and discharged people have been advised to observe mandatory home quarantine for 14 days from the date of discharge, he said.
"The current count of COVID-19 patients in the state is 196- Mumbai and Thane Region 107, Pune 37, Nagpur 13, Ahmednagar 3, Ratnagiri 1, Aurangabad 1, Yavatmal 3, Miraj 25, Satara 2, Sindhudurg 1, Kolhapur 1, Jalgaon 1 and Buldhana 1," he said.
"Of the total number of discharged people, 14 are from Mumbai, 15 from Pune, one each from Nagpur and Aurangabad and three from Yavatmal, taking the total to 34. There are only 155 active cases in reality," he said.
Railway extends its medical services to all central govt employees
Indian Railways has extended services of all its hospitals and dispensaries to all central government employees and their families in view of the spread of coronavirus, a Railway Board order said.
The services include those of all 128 hospitals and 586 dispensaries of the Indian Railways all over the country.
"In view of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Ministry of Railways has decided that the services of railway hospitals and health units across the country would be available for use by all Central government employees, on showing their identity cards, at railway hospitals and health Units," the order stated.
As of now the facilities could be availed by present and retired railway staffers only.
Maharashtra CM assures help, asks migrant workers not to leave
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday assured that his government will take care of all migrant labourers and provide them basic necessities like food and water.
The 'Shiv Bhojan' scheme offering meal at Rs 10 will now be available at Rs 5 from April 1, he said in a webcast.
Thackeray said the state has already set up 163 centres across the state to provide food and water to the migrant labourers.
"The state will protect them and provide food, but they should not leave their place. I understand that they are anxious but they should not leave. They should avoid increasing the risk of infection, he said.
In view of the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, several migrant labourers are left with no work and hence, they are leaving the state to return to their native places.
Haryana govt provides over 800 buses for migrant workers in Uttar Pradesh
The Haryana government has provided over 800 state roadways buses to Uttar Pradesh to ferry migrant workers stranded on the Delhi-Ghaziabad border to their villages, officials said on Sunday.
The decision was taken in view of the current situation on the border with large number of migrant workers assembling near Anand Vihar bus terminus, Haryana Transport Minister Mool Chand Sharma told PTI over phone.
"The UP government had made a request to us to provide nearly 1,000 buses," he said.
According to a senior official of the Transport Department, 825 Haryana Roadways buses reached Ghaziabad on Saturday night and since then these have been at the disposal of the Uttar Pradesh government.
"The buses have been sent from Karnal, Panipat, Sonipat, Rohtak, Jhajjar, Gurugram, Faridabad, Palwal and Nuh, the places in Haryana which are close to the national capital," he said.
The buses have been sanitised, drivers and conductors provided masks and hand sanitisers and all other necessary precautions are being taken, he said.
6,600 people sent for quarantine in Uttar Pradesh
The Balrampur district administration has started quarantining more than 6,600 people who have arrived from abroad and other states here amid the nationwide lockdown, an official said on Sunday.
District Magistrate Karuna Karunesh said, "To stop the spread of coronavirus, as many as 6,137 people coming from other states have been identified and sent to quarantine centres. Apart from this, 513 people who arrived from foreign countries including 125 people who arrived from Saudi Arabia and 99 from Oman have been quarantined."
Symptoms of coronavirus have not been detected in any of them, he added.
The DM appealed to the people to stay indoors and not venture out of their homes.
People have been told to adhere to social distancing, he said, adding that two control rooms have been set up in the district in light of the virus outbreak.
Don't sack workers: Punjab govt to industries
The Punjab government has issued an advisory to industries and commercial establishments in the state, asking them not to terminate employees or deduct their wages, as non-essential factories remain shut due to a countrywide lockdown to combat coronavirus.
Any employee who takes leave due to the Covid-19 pandemic should be treated on duty as also the workers of factories or units made non-operational by any government order over coronavirus, the advisory said.
Principal secretary (labour) V. K. Janjua said the department felt that termination of workforce or deduction in their salaries would hamper the morale of workers in this fight to contain the virus.
We have issued an advisory, he told PTI on Sunday.
Notably, on Saturday, reports emerged from neighbouring Haryana about migrant workers setting out on foot to go back to their homes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. All modes of transport have been suspended due to the countrywide lockdown announced on March 24.
In the advisory, the labour department has asked all employers, owners of factories, shops and commercial establishments not to terminate the services or deduct the wages of their workers, particularly casual or contractual ones.
If any employee/worker of such unit takes leave due to this pandemic (coronavirus), he may be treated as on duty without any deduction in wages for this period. If the place of employment has been made non-operational due to Covid-19 by any order/advisory of the government, the employee of such unit should be deemed to be on duty, said an advisory.
One more tests positive in Bihar, tally 11
A woman tested positive for COVID-19 in Bihar on Sunday, taking the total number of cases in the state to 11, an official said here.
Among those who have tested positive, as many as six had come into contact with a deceased patient, hailing from Munger district, who died at AIIMS, Patna, on Saturday last week, a day before his test reports confirmed he had COVID 19.
A female relative of his, who attended his funeral and then returned to her home in Lakhisarai district, has tested positive, state epidemiologist Ragini Mishra said, adding that she is currently admitted to the NMCH hospital here.
Aged 38 years, the deceased had returned from Qatar where he worked as a welder and was hospitalised on account of renal failure.
Altogether 11 people have tested positive for COVID 19 in Bihar till Sunday, the health department official said.
According to the department, samples of 670 people have been collected for testing so far out of which 565 tested negative, three were rejected while results were awaited for 91.
Kejriwal appeals to migrants not to leave Delhi
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday appealed to migrant workers not to leave for their native places during the 21-day nationwide lockdown in the interest of the country.
Taking to Twitter, he asked the migrant workers to stay wherever they were as the risk of the coronavirus spreading increases due to large gatherings.
Thousands of migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand have started walking back to their homes due to the lockdown.
In his tweets in Hindi, Kejriwal said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also appealed to people to stay wherever they are.
"I assure you that the Delhi government has made sufficient arrangements for your food and accommodation. For now, do not go to your villages in the country's interest," the chief minister wrote on Twitter.
दिल्ली से अपने गाँव जा रहे लोगों से मेरी अपील। pic.twitter.com/VTOGZVZFkh— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 29, 2020
So far, 49 coronavirus cases have been reported in the national capital.
Death in Mumbai; Maharashtra toll 7
The test reports of a 40-year-old woman who died in Mumbai on Saturday have come out positive for coronavirus, taking the death toll of Covid-19 patients in Maharashtra to seven, a civic official said on Sunday.
The woman was admitted to a civic hospital here on Saturday after she complained of severe respiratory distress, the official said.
"She died on Saturday and her sample was sent for testing. The report came out positive for coronavirus. She is the seventh person who died of COVID-19 in the state," the official said.
"The woman was complaining of breathlessness and chest pain since last three-four days. She was also suffering from hypertension," the official added.
SpiceJet pilot tests positive
SpiceJet said on Sunday that one of its pilots who did not fly any international flight in March has tested positive for coronavirus.
"One of our colleagues, a first officer with SpiceJet, has tested positive for COVID-19. The test report came on March 28. He did not operate any international flight in March 2020," a spokesperson of the airline told PTI.
"The last domestic flight that he operated was on March 21 from Chennai to Delhi and since then he had quarantined himself at home," the spokesperson added.
As a precautionary measure, the spokesperson said, all crew and staff who had been in direct contact with him have been asked to self-quarantine by staying at home for the next 14 days.
The spokesperson said, "All measures are being taken to provide appropriate medical care to him. Safety of our passengers and employees is our topmost priority."
India is currently under a 21-day lockdown till April 14 to stop the spread of the Covid-19, and consequently, all international and domestic flights have been suspended for this period.
"We have been diligently following the guidelines issued by the WHO and the government of India. All our aircraft are being disinfected thoroughly since the end of January and the disinfectants used are as per the WHO standards," the spokesperson said.
2nd death in J&K
A 65-year-old man who had tested positive for the coronavirus died at a hospital on Sunday, taking the death toll due to COVID-19 in Jammu and Kashmir to two, officials said.
The man, hailing from the Tangmarg area in Baramulla district, had tested positive for the coronavirus at SMHS hospital on Saturday where he was undergoing treatment, they said.
The officials said he was shifted to the Chest Diseases Hospital after testing positive but died early Sunday morning.
With this the death toll due to the pandemic in the Union territory has risen to two.
A 65-year-old man had died of the virus on Thursday.
As many as 13 persons tested positive for the deadly virus on Saturday, taking the total number of cases in Jammu and Kashmir to 33.
This was the highest number of positive cases reported in the UT on a single day.
There are 29 active cases in the union territory while two patients have recovered.
Indians evacuated from Iran
A batch of 275 Indians evacuated from coronavirus-hit Iran arrived at the Jodhpur airport on Sunday morning, an official said.
He said a preliminary screening of the passengers was conducted at the airport and thereafter, they were shifted to the Army Wellness Facility set up at the Jodhpur Military Station.
Additional chief secretary (health) Rohit Kumar Singh said of the 275 passengers, there were 133 women and 142 men, including two infants and four children.
Fifth death in Ahmedabad
A 45-year-old Covid-19 patient died in Ahmedabad on Sunday morning, taking the total number of deaths due to coronavirus in the state to five, the health department said.
The man was also suffering from diabetes, it said.
With this, the number of deaths due to coronavirus in Ahmedabad has gone up to three.
Earlier, one death each was reported from Bhavnagar and Surat.
Till Saturday evening,the number of coronavirus cases in the state stood at 55.