23th March 2020 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot
Note – today there is an article titled ‘The perils of an all-out lockdown’.
- This has already been covered earlier. The following are the major highlights of today’s article.
- Also read the article of 21st March to know in detail about how to deal with the economic effects of the corona pandemic.
- The novel coronavirus spreads, a double crisis looms over India: a health crisis and an economic crisis.
- We must bear in mind the dual motive for taking precautions. When you decide to stay at home, there are two possible motives for it: a self-protection motive and a public-purpose motive. In the first case, you act out of fear of being infected. In the second, you participate in collective efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
- In terms of casualties, the health crisis is still very confined but the economic crisis is hitting with full force, throwing millions out of work by the day.
- Very importantly, unlike the health crisis, it is not class-neutral, but hurts poor people the most.
India slowing down: An example:
- Migrant workers, street vendors, contract workers, almost everyone in the informal sector — the bulk of the workforce — is being hit by this economic tsunami. In Maharashtra, mass lay-offs have forced migrant workers to rush home, some without being paid.
- Many of them are now stranded between Maharashtra and their homes as trains have been cancelled. The economic standstill in Maharashtra is spreading fast to other States as factories, shops, offices and worksites close with little hope of an early return to normalcy.
- With transport routes dislocated, even the coming wheat harvest, a critical source of survival for millions of labouring families in north India, may not bring much relief. And all this is just a trailer.
What is needed for them?
- This economic crisis calls for urgent, massive relief measures. Lockdowns may be needed to slow down the epidemic, but poor people cannot afford to stay idle at home. If they are asked to stay home, they will need help.
- There is a critical difference, in this respect, between India and affluent countries with a good social security system. The average household in, say, Canada or Italy can take a lockdown in its stride (for some time at least), but the staying power of the Indian poor is virtually nil.
- Since time is of the essence, the first step is to make good use of existing social-security schemes to support poor people — pensions, the Public Distribution System (PDS), midday meals, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), among others.
- Initial measures could include advance payment of pensions, enhanced PDS rations, immediate payment of MGNREGA wage arrears, and expanded distribution of take-home rations at schools and anganwadis.
- Some States have already taken useful steps of this sort, but the scale of relief measures needs radical expansion.
- That, in turn, requires big money from the Central government. It also requires the government to avoid squandering its resources on corporate bailouts: most crisis-affected sectors of the economy will soon be lobbying for rescue packages.
- An explicit list of essential services (already available in some States) and official guidelines on coronavirus readiness at the workplace would be a good start. Also many public spaces could also be used, with due safeguards, to disseminate information or to impart good habits such as distancing and washing hands.