NO RESPITE FROM COVID

The Covid-19 scenario is getting worse in India. With sharp rises in infection rate at 1.50 lakh and death toll of over 4,000 – what is clear is that the lockdown has had a limited impact while Mumbai, Gujarat and Delhi keeps the nation on edge. With trains disgorging millions of migrant workers from these areas, at their distant native places, the Covid tally is bound to rise sharply in the coming weeks. Several states are worried over the relaxations being effected by the Centre via restoration of train and flight services. The nation’s economy can ill afford a tough posture from the Centre anymore. The shutdown need be relaxed progressively.

Reports from China are worrisome. Millions have been tested for Covid in Wuhan, where the pandemic started, amid fears that a second spread and seizure are quite likely. This applies to India’s most affected cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat for that matter. Nothing goes to show the western metropolis can breathe easy any time soon. The long years of neglect of the migrant habitations in the city by the Shiv Sena-led municipal corporation (BMC) is also a reason why the Covid situation could not be controlled in the slums of Dharavi and Govandi. The cursed millions in these habitations, who lived without proper water supply or sanitation for long years, now turned the curse on the city as a whole.

The misery of these poor migrants is now a larger misery for entire Mumbaikars, who remain shut in their homes for over two months. Industrial and commercial activities in the nation’s central commercial hub are at a standstill, and this will continue for some more time. And this will have a larger bearing on the national economy too.

The national economy cannot bear an extended period of lockdown, and relaxations in a staggered manner are the only way out. The Centre’s initial strategy of shutting down the entire nation for three weeks, which got extended thereafter repeatedly has not been of much help. RBI governor Shaktikanta Das has hinted that the economy is set for negative growth this fiscal; something that is being forecast by global rating agencies in recent weeks. If the economy goes into a coma, the result is more of deaths due to poverty.

With the production centres and distribution lines largely hit for two months, an early recovery is impossible. The exchequer lost heavily in terms of tax collections. The big question is where will the government find the money to tide over the present crisis.

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