Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
The three months plus national lockdown is being gradually opened up in phases across the nation. India has 2.5 lakh persons infected, with 6300 plus fatalities. In the Northeast, after taking 41 days to reach 100 cases, the positive cases have surged beyond 3000 in just a few days with a sharp rise in cases in all states. Arunachal has 47 cases till date.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created panic in the world with many countries locked down for months, rendering millions of people jobless, leading to massive recession in the economy. In India, about 27 million youths lost their jobs post lockdown and almost 53 percent of businesses were adversely affected or closed. Supply chains have been disrupted and a large number of farmers are also facing uncertainty.
The nationwide lockdown led to closure of industries, hotels, shops, travel, offices, which resulted in millions of job losses leading to the exodus of millions of migrants back to their home states. The lockdown resulted in lesser consumption of petrol/diesel, clothing items, cosmetics, liquor, etc. The interstate travel ban led to disruptions in supply chains, leading to shortage in goods and products. All these led to an economic recession and lack of revenue and tax earnings by the states and the Centre.
If unchecked and unrecovered, this economic crisis may lead to chaos and pandemonium in the nation. Large-scale unemployment among the youth and lesser incomes may lead to increase in crime rates, drug abuse, terrorism and anarchy.
The challenge, therefore, is to recover the economy at the earliest. The Rs 2 lakh crore economic revival stimulus package announced by the Centre may not be sufficient. The national and state leadership must take steps to recover the economy by restarting industrial, commercial and farming activities at the earliest. This will lead to more money with consumers thus increasing their buying power. Industries, agri-horticulture and commercial activities like shops, salons, restaurants, sports activities and interstate/inter-district travel must be restarted at the earliest. All these will add to job creation and thus increase the buying power of consumers. Gradually, educational institutes, schools and colleges should also be opened up.
The government must reduce GST/VAT/income tax rates for at least one year to revive industrial/commercial activities. The government should also ban parallel governance by local organizations from curbing industrial/commercial activities. In Arunachal even farmers are dependent on migrant labourers for farming activities. While opening up and reviving the economy, the health infrastructure must be continuously improved with creation of more Covid hospitals, ICU beds, ventilators, trained medical staff, and testing facilities in every district headquarters. All precautions for Covid-19 must be insisted upon, like social distancing, sanitization, masks, hand hygiene, etc.
While insisting on Covid precautions, unless we open up the economy, long-term economic recession and job losses may lead to social unrest and anarchy. Are we ready to open the lockdown! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)