It is a well know fact that Coronavirus originated in Wuhan, in a virology Lab of China. It later spread to more than 150 countries around the world from China. Many countries including USA, Europe and Some Asian countries have become the new epicenters with many cases and deaths reported.
In India initially this virus came through foreign visitors from Asian countries and Europe. Indian Government had taken many preventive measures to minimize the spread of virus by putting the entire country under lock-down for almost three months. Only essential goods and emergency services were allowed to function with both state and central government officials fighting relentlessly against the unseen enemy. Initially the Indian administration had given preference to save the lives of people rather than thinking much about the economy by imposing nation-wide lock-down to curb the spread of virus & pandemic. Initially this was the best available solution with the government which stopped a major disaster in a highly populated country like India. But later the masses could not be kept calm by the government with multiple issues like deteriorating economic conditions, migrant labour movement, blame game or political score points etc which had taken government on a back foot. Indian government was in a tight situation to some relaxation as it was effecting the livelihood of people. Although sudden spike in positive cases were reported in some states with relaxation but government choices with lock-down were eroding in absence of Vaccine.
Here now question arises what is more important to a person? Staying healthy or being able to feed the family? And -What is more important to a nation? Having healthy population or ensuring economic health? Life and Livelihood are the two most important components of an individual’s existence. Without life, there is no livelihood and without livelihood, there is no life of contentment, aspiration and hope. The whole idea of living and not existing goes hand in hand with satisfaction received as recognition for the work accomplished. The most beautiful moments in life are the ones when we express joy, which often happens when we seek it the least. If both these components (life and livelihood) are balanced, we find bliss. It is said that “No price is too great to save one human life!” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “Jaan hai to Jahan Hai”. India with its limited healthcare system and its densely populated cities, chose to try to shut down as much as possible. This hurts livelihood, but may protect lives.
With the emphasis on protecting lives, even at the cost of hurting GDP, India has taken a step in right direction. There is no doubt that GDP will be impacted by the coronavirus. Stock markets, which are fundamentally based on looking into future growth, are unsurprisingly exhibiting huge volatility. No one knows how long this will take, and where we are heading. There is no doubt that the service sectors like tourism, hotels and airlines will be massively hurt by lockdowns and social distancing measures being taken. There will be multiplier effects as incomes get hit. But preventing the spread of coronavirus before it infects more people is critical.
Other countries tackling the threat from COVID-19 in different ways. The Italian authorities were expecting loss of lives but were unwilling to shut down tourist spots, restaurants, universities and schools across the country. The economy was weak and the authorities did not risk it getting weaker. Analysis by Bank of Italy COVID-19 monitoring team states that in democracies, the strategy of trying to save livelihoods at the cost of losing lives can give us the worst possible outcomes. This analysis, coming from a country that made the mistake of trying to prevent loss of livelihood before loss of lives, and ending up losing both livelihoods and lives in the one of the worst tragedies being witnessed today, is an important lesson to be learnt by the rest of world.
The economic effect may be sudden and sharp downturn but one from which we can potentially recover fast. At the moment, some lockdown steps may make people complain, as they lose customers and incomes. But today, the critical thing is to contain the virus before it spreads across the country. Ways need to be found to pay workers, delay loan payments, support businesses to be in a position to bounce back when the lockdown is over. It is time for society to use pandemic as an opportunity towards increasing the value of human life in a more qualitative way to create a society that truly understands what Mahatma Gandhi said: “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”
Now it’s time to understand “Jaan bhi and Jahan bhi”-a future where people understand both aspects, life and livelihood, follow their duties and abide by the directions of the government. This will be important for India’s prosperous and healthy future. Government had announced some effective measures to boost our economy which may lead to India at great heights in near future, but we need to move a step further.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasised “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (Self –reliant India) is the new mantra of development which implies economic system that is employable, energy efficient and environment-friendly which we can use for “National reconstruction”. If we start using products made in India (swadeshi), the democracy of our country can become self-sufficient. Coronavirus outbreak has taught the people the importance of local manufacturing, local market and local supply chain. In this indigenous model, local resources, work force and needs would be integrated into economic activity which will help to improve economy.
- The main focus of self-reliant India would be to strengthen the five pillars – the economy, infrastructure, system, demography and demand which will pave the way for India returning to a higher sustained growth path again. It will strengthen India’s cottage and home industries, small and medium enterprises and other industries. By announcing economic package, the bold reforms across all the sectors-agriculture, taxation, infrastructure, human resource and financial systems would go a long way to attract investment and revive demand in the economy.
- The government now wishes to create a unified market in agriculture commodities, pushing investment in agriculture supply chain through the agriculture infrastructure fund, better price realization for farmers and bringing modern technology in agriculture. Farmers can also use E-commerce sites to sell their products directly to buyers at the price what they feel correct, as per quality of products.
- Economic growth is driven by consumer spending and business investments. But as per the present economic scenario, slowdown in demand, is result of dampening purchasing power, reduced production, investment, drop in employment rate and slower economy. But creating crores of jobs annually would require a large pool of investments- something that the government may struggle to accomplish as it needs to focus on fiscal consolidation to avoid further inflationary pressure.
- We can increase purchasing power by cutting in repo rate means cost of borrowing will be lower for commercial banks and the rate cut will further help banks to lower interest rates for borrowers. So the reduction in lending rates in the economy will clearly benefit loan takers which helps to improve the economy.
- Reducing corporate tax, easing lending norms and relaxing GST rules on short term basis are some of the reforms that could give companies more room for hiring and boosting economy. Though Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman slashed corporate tax rate-to 22% from 30% for domestic companies and proposed a competitive 15% rate for new investment in manufacturing, which will attract private investment from across the globe, improve competitiveness of our private sector, and create more jobs. A further bold reforms of corporate tax reduction to 10% should be focused as above tax cut by finance minister will not garner much strength in current scenario.
- Deregulation relaxes the rules imposed on industry or businesses and have been credited with creating growth. Indian government unleashed a slew of reforms like scrapping fuel subsidies, simplifying labour rules and pledging to open coal mining to private players in a bid to kick-start the economy. Government also reduced paperwork and inspections of factories to ease the burden of manufacturing in India to boost the economy.
- Infrastructure spending to create construction jobs and increase productivity by enabling businesses to operate more efficiently. The main objective is job creation through speeding up investment in the infrastructure. Top priority of Modi Government has been to attract more foreign companies to invest in India.
“Several experts and scientists have said that the virus is going to be a part of our lives for a long time unless the vaccine is developed,” But it is also important to ensure that our life does not revolve only around it. People should work toward their targets while taking precautions and maintaining social distancing.” We are going to have a new normal and should keep adjusting to the new rules. If we do the same mistake again then nothing can stop us from the noose dive.
It is time now to save Lives, protect Livelihoods and safeguard Nature to reduce the risk of future pandemics by respecting nature and accepting the new normal.