April 15, 2021

Urban unemployment nears 10 percent amid fresh COVID-19 curbs

Livelihoods: Urban unemployment has increased to 9.81 percent in the week that ended on April 11th 2021 as against 7.72 percent in the week that ended on March 28th 2021, following the imposition of curbs and partial lockdowns in several states.

According to data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the spike in unemployment numbers is not just confined to urban India—the national unemployment rate and rural joblessness have also risen sharply in the past two weeks. While the national unemployment rate was 6.65 percent in the week that ended on March 28th, it went up to 8.58 percent in the week that ended on April 11th. Rural unemployment rose to eight percent from 6.18 percent in the same period.

This rise in unemployment numbers reflects the impact of the second wave of COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed on the labour market. According to economists, the informal sector has been hit the hardest followed by the retail and hospitality industries.

“When you put a night curfew or weekend restrictions, it’s the informal sector that gets impacted the most as they do sizeable business in the evening and on weekends. If the business is low, it’s very obvious that the manpower requirement—let’s say in urban markets and trading centres—will be low. The market or shop clusters get impacted, hampering jobs,” Arup Mitra, a professor of economics at Delhi University, told Live Mint.

India has nearly 14.7 lakh active cases as of April 15th 2021, according to the Ministry of Health. A total of 1,84,372 new infections were registered in the last 24 hours, and the death count increased to 1,72,085 people with 1,027 daily new fatalities.

Explore these tips on how to deal with job loss.

May 20, 2021

Home Ministry extends validity period of FCRA registration certificates

Fundraising & Communications: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued a circular extending the validity of FCRA registration certificates to September 30th, 2021. This applies to all FCRA licences that have expired or will expire between September 29th, 2020 and May 31st, 2021. The decision to extend the deadline has been driven by the exigencies arising from the COVID-19 situation.

FCRA refers to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010, which permits charitable organisations based in India to raise funds from foreign sources.

The order also clarified that nonprofits that have already opened an account and have the requisite permission to receive foreign aid, can henceforth receive it only in these newly-opened accounts.

The FCRA law was amended in September 2020 to include a clause that mandated that all nonprofits receiving foreign aid must necessarily open an account in State Bank of India’s New Delhi Main Branch. The government had initially set the deadline for this account opening as March 31st, 2021; it later extended it to June 30th, 2021 after several nonprofits argued in court that there had been delays because necessary approvals from MHA had not been received.

Several organisations have not been able to receive foreign funds during the crisis caused by the second wave, and this has impacted their COVID-19 relief efforts. Relaxing the foreign funding rules could significantly help organisations ramp up their operations to help individuals, supply critical healthcare equipment, and respond to communities in rural areas.

Read this article to know how amending the FCRA can have unforeseen implications.

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May 20, 2021

Corporate spending on oxygen support and medical equipment now counts as CSR

Philanthropy & CSR: The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has issued a circular that allows corporate spending on health infrastructure for COVID-19 care to qualify as corporate social responsibility (CSR) expenditure.

This includes setting up medical oxygen generation and storage plants, manufacturing and supply of oxygen concentrators, ventilators, cylinders, and other medical equipment to counter COVID-19.  

The announcement comes at a time when all efforts are being directed towards expediting efforts to support the country’s healthcare infrastructure.

According to the circular, companies can now undertake projects and activities in collaboration with other companies using CSR funds. Additionally, they can contribute to specified research and development projects, as well as publicly funded universities and certain organisations that conduct research in science, technology, engineering, and medicine.

The government had earlier clarified that setting up makeshift hospitals and temporary COVID-19 care facilities would also be considered a CSR activity. Rajesh Verma, the Corporate Affairs Secretary, has requested businesses to consider converting vacant office buildings into COVID-19 facilities to cater to the rapidly increasing caseload.

Read this article to understand why media attention on COVID-19 deaths due to lack of oxygen in big cities has skewed donor priorities.