Analysis of India's response to COVID-19

The Indian Government since the inception of the pandemic has been constantly arguing that India has shown the entire world, the way of dealing with the pandemic. The most ambitious and well-promoted step taken by the Government of India is no doubt the economic relief package, popularly known as the Aatmnirbhar Bharat Yojana. The very day on which the 21-day first phase of the national lockdown was announced, the Prime Minister had also announced the setting up of a COVID-19 Economic Action Task Force, assuring the citizens of the country of guaranteed financial assistance. Beyond doubt the economy has faced a tremendous setback with new reports coming in every week that the global GDP might even shrink by a whopping 4.7%, while the Indian GDP is projected to contract by 3.1% i.e. the GDP growth rate would be -3.1%, a considerable amount. The Economic Relief package announced by PM Modi was a highly anticipated move and everyone was expecting a well comprehensive relief package after about 54 days of lockdown. Instead what we received was probably a giant comprehensive annual financial statement (i.e. annual budget) with approximately all the ambitious projects of the Modi government being officially announced for implementation such as One Nation, One Ration Card; One District, One Product (Vocal For Local). It is nothing but a re-packaged system of Make-in-India. These projects would have otherwise taken a time period of at least 5 years to be implemented. The pandemic therefore hastened the economic development of India, which is struggling for Economic Growth. The Five pillars of Atmanirbhar Bharat focus on: economy, infrastructure, governing systems, vibrant democracy and supply chain. The citizens of the country who were waiting for a relief package were instead actually given a dream of a self-reliant India, an India of the future, which is, at present, constantly struggling for its survival in almost all sectors. The Aatmnirbhar Bharat Package is beyond doubt an ambitious and comprehensive package, which if implemented in its all capacity, has the power to establish India in the path of being a global superpower. Many steps such as privatization of mineral, coal and energy sectors with liberalization and the least interference of government in private sectors were some of the most required bold steps and were needed to be taken. Positively speaking, India has faced the COVID-19 situation with fortitude and a spirit of self-reliance that is evident in the fact that from zero production of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) before March 2020, India today has created a capacity of producing 2 lakh PPE kits daily, which is also growing steadily. But what is more important and challenging is its implementation, in a country with a population of almost 138 crores, this package is nothing more than a mere announcement until and unless it is sincerely and honestly implemented. The schemes of the government need to reach the general public in their full capacity. What is also needed is a reform in the structure of the local self-government along with a check on the corruption, and thereby making it minimum. For example the package provides for free loans to all MSMEs, with a change in definition of MSMEs, but in reality the loans are of no utility to the small scale businesses which have a turnover of less than 5 lakhs per annum and have suffered due to the lockdown. There are a number of ambiguous and indefinite steps taken by the government which are almost incomprehensible to the general public. The Irony is that during these unprecedented times the local public has no other option but co-operate with the government and trust it in all its decisions. We can just hope that this package benefits our labourers, farmers, honest tax payers, MSMEs and cottage industry.

Written by: Gaurav Bisaria

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