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India to accept help from abroad for PM-CARES Fund

NEW DELHI, April 1: The Indian government has decided to accept contributions from abroad for the PM-CARES Fund created to fight the Covid-19 outbreak, marking a shift from its earlier position of refusing foreign donations during crises.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity the decision was in line with the unprecedented situation created by the coronavirus outbreak that has resulted in more than 912,565 infections and around 42,000 deaths globally.

“The pandemic is unprecedented and when the prime minister spoke to envoys [via video conference on Monday], he asked them to make efforts for contributions towards this fund. A decision has been taken to accept contributions from abroad in the PM-CARES Fund,” said a person who declined to be named.

The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) Fund was set up in view of several spontaneous requests from India and abroad for making contributions to support the government’s fight against Covid-19, the people said.

Contributions to the fund can be made by individuals and organisations, both in India and abroad, in view of the expressed interest to contribute to the government’s efforts and keeping in mind the “unprecedented nature” of the pandemic, the people said.

In 2018, the government refused all foreign aid, including a reported offer of $100 million from the United Arab Emirates, for disaster relief following floods in Kerala that displaced millions of people. Offers of help from Thailand, Qatar and the Maldives too were declined.

This was in line with a long-standing policy put in place after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, and at the time, the external affairs ministry had said in a statement that the “government is committed to meeting the requirements for relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts”.

The people cited above pointed out that no foreign governments had so far come forward to donate to the PM-CARES Fund, which has largely attracted pledges from NRIs and people of Indian origin based in several countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed the heads of Indian missions around the world to explore the possibility of sourcing medical equipment needed to fight Covid-19 – especially personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, ventilators, and three-ply, surgical and N95 masks – as there is a huge shortage in the country, the people cited above said.

In the case of China, some relief materials were coming to India from independent sources as donations while the mission in Beijing is looking at procuring available equipment on a commercial basis, the people said.

“The embassy in Beijing is working on this and we are looking at various options and sources,” said a second person. “There is a huge shortage and we will source materials from wherever they are available.”

At the same time, domestic companies are being encouraged by the health and textile ministries to ramp up production of PPE and medical equipment, the people said.

India redefines Kashmir’s domicile law

NEW DELHI, April 1: Nearly eight months after the Centre scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, the government has redefined domicile rules for the union territory and ordered that only people who fulfill this criteria are eligible to be appointed to junior posts in the bureaucracy and the constabulary.

The new domicile condition in the recruitment law is designed to address concerns that the union territory status for Jammu and Kashmir would lead to demographic changes since people from any part of the country could apply for jobs and settle in J&K.

The domicile rule would apply for recruitment to all posts that come with a basic salary of Rs 25,500.

Before Parliament scrapped Article 370, only people considered permanent residents of the erstwhile state could get jobs in the state government. When a delegation of Kashmiri politicians met Home Minister Amit Shah last month, he had assured them that the Centre did not intend to carry out demographic changes in the union territory.

Shah had also promised that the new domicile rule for J&K would be better than any other state.

But the new rule triggered howls of protest from Jammu and Kashmir parties.

Altaf Bukhari of the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party, who had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah on his Delhi visit last month, was the first to lash out at the move. The former PDP minister who has floated a new party described the order as a casual attempt, cosmetic in nature, and designed to hoodwink the people of J&K. He asked Shah to put the notification on hold.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah criticised the timing of the order as well. ”Insult is heaped on injury when we see the law offers none of the protections that had been promised,” he tweeted.

As evidence, Omar Abdullah pointed to Altaf Bukhari’s reaction.

“You can imagine how hollow the domicile law is from the fact that even the new party created with Delhi’s blessings, whose leaders were lobbying in Delhi for this law, have been forced to criticise the #JKdomicilelaw,” he said.

According to Tuesday evening’s notification by the home ministry, any person who has stayed in J&K for 15 years or has studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10th/12th examination will be deemed as domicile.

The government order said children of central government officials, All India Services, officials of Public Sector Undertakings and autonomous bodies of central government, public sector banks, officials of statutory bodies, officials of central universities and recognized research institutes of central government who have served in Jammu and Kashmir for a total period of 10 years will also be considered to be domiciled in the union territory.

Children of residents of Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir who reside outside the union territory in connection with their employment, business or other professional or vocational reasons will also be treated to be domiciled in the UT if their parents fulfil the eligibility criteria to get a domicile certificate.


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