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Odisha Govt To Bring Ordinance To Enhance Punishment For Non-Compliance Of COVID-19 Guidelines

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Bhubaneswar: Alarmed at the unabated surge in Covid-19 cases in the State, the Odisha Government on Wednesday decided to bring an ordinance to enhance the punishment for non-compliance of the guidelines laid down for containing the spread of the viral infection.

The State cabinet meeting chaired by CM Naveen Patnaik decided to ensure strict observance of guidelines for containing the spread of Covid-19, Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy said.

It has been decided to enhance the punishment as provided in section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend up to Rs one lakh or with both, he said.

As the state Assembly is not in session, it is proposed that necessary amendment to the Act in its application to Odisha may be effected by promulgation of an ordinance, the chief secretary said.

The move to make the punishment for violation of Covid-19 guidelines tougher was significant as the coronavirus caseload in the state touched 50,672 and the death toll 305.

For ensuring strict observance of guidelines, Tripathy said, it is necessary to enhance the penalty amount as provided in the Epidemic Diseases Act in order to regulate the non-compliance of mask use, spitting at public places, violation of social distancing norms and other matters to bring a sense of higher discipline.

The state government has already initiated various measures to contain the epidemic and has framed Odisha COVID- 19 Regulations, 2020 exercising the power conferred under sections 2 and 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act.

The Cabinet also accorded post-facto approval of the decisions taken earlier by an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) for prevention and containment of Covid-19 and procurement of medical equipment, testing kits and other necessities, he said.

The Cabinet also decided to amend the Court Fees Act, 1870 in its application to the state to provide payment of court-fee and for a refund through electronic mode (e-payment), in addition to the prevailing system of through stamps to enable the litigants and other stakeholders to electronically file cases and thereby have easy access to judicial process, Tripathy said.

With industrial activity taking a beating due to Covid-19 pandemic, the Cabinet decided to amend some rules pertaining to the industrial sector in order to spur industrialization in the post-pandemic period in the state, he said.

It was decided to amend the Factories Act 1948 to increase the threshold of workers in power aided industrial units from 10 to 20 whereas the limit has been raised to 40 from 20 workers in units without the aid of power, the chief secretary said.

The units engaging manpower less than 20 where manufacturing process is being carried on with the aid of power and manpower less than 40 where it is being run without the aid of power will be exempted from license, renewal, approval of plans, payment of fees and regular inspections, Tripathy said.

He said industrial units will be allowed to allot overtime working hours during one quarter for 115 hours, as against the earlier limit of 55 hours. It was also decided to amend the Act so that women workers can be engaged from 7 pm to 6 am subject to their safety and security.

The Cabinet also approved a proposal for reduction of the number of days for which a worker has to work in a factory for allowing him to leave with wages in the subsequent year from existing 240 days to 180 days.

Tripathy said these amendments aim at facilitating investment, generating additional employment besides minimising hardships caused to MSMEs due to the pandemic. The aim is to create a more conducive atmosphere.

The Cabinet also approved a proposal for promulgation of an Ordinance to amend Section 1(4) of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 to make it applicable to every establishment in which 50 or more workmen are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding twelve months as contract labour.

As a result, the establishments and contractors employing less than 50 contract labourers will not be required to obtain registration certificate or license, the chief secretary said.

The Cabinet, which approved 20 proposals, also decided to pave way for providing provisional trade license on the same day on submission of relevant documents. The validity of the trade license will be five years.

The Cabinet approved a proposal to amend Section 172 of the Odisha Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 so as to empower the state government to make provision for issue of removal of difficulties Order for another two years till five years from the date of commencement of the Act, he said.

(PTI)

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