A stimulus for the economy and work from home are the new mantras of the BJP government which is also looking to raise the level of welfare spending to heal the wounds caused by coronavirus, just in time for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
After announcing a Rs 20 lakh crore economic stimulus package and vowing to provide two-months’ ration to migrant workers, the Centre has moved on to set the parameters of lockdown 4.0 by putting in place the terms for work from home (WFH) and move 75 ministries over to the e-office platform to ensure maintenance of social distancing norms.
The Central government’s WFH blueprint envisages a robust e-office and video conference platform that will involve officials above the rank of deputy secretary and have foolproof security to prevent leakage of official files. Government agency NIC would provide laptops, internet connectivity and the PMO has decided that the option of WFH for atleast 15 days in each year would be offered to eligible officers..
The stimulus announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to restart the economy has also opened a fresh front for the Opposition to hit out at the Centre for doing little to end the misery in economy and in the lives of displaced migrant workers and the poor.
Samajwadi Partry leader Akhilesh Yadav described the economic stimulus a gimmick and tweeted, “First it was the false promise of Rs 15 lakh (deposit in each bank account), now it is the claim of Rs 20 lakh crore... Now, the 133 crore people will be hit by a 133-time bigger ‘jumla’ (rhetoric),,, How can anyone believe this...”
Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Manish Tewari also lashed out at the government for failing to take care of the interest of migrant workers. “India faces the biggest humanitarian crisis after the Partition and displacement of people from East Pakistan. There are millions of migrant labourers left without jobs and shelter above their heads. But for the government it seems they don’t exist,” Tiwari said.
"The government must spend more, borrow more, and allow states to borrow more. But it is not willing to do so. This government is a prisoner of its own ignorance and fears," said Chidambaram.
While taking care of the economy and ration for migrant workers, the Modi government is also focusing on using Indian knowledge to treat corona and with this objective it has set its eyes on four trials using existing ayurvedic formulations and traditional medicines. "The @moayush & the @CSIR_IND are working together on validating four Ayush formulations against #COVID19Pandemic and the trials will start within one week. These formulations will be tried as an add-on therapy and standard care for COVID-19 patients," Union Minister of State for AYUSH Shripad Y Naik tweeted.
BHU’s senior scientist Dr K N Dwivedi also sent a trial proposal to the task force constituted by the Prime Minister’s Office highlighting the benefits of ayurvedic formulation Fifatrol that holds hope of emerging as a key anti-coronavirus drug in the near future.
“At a time when the whole world is waiting for an innovative cure for Covid-19, we should use our knowledge of traditional medicine to find a solution,” said Dr Dwivedi, who has forwarded the proposal for trial with the help of Fifotrol maker, Aimil Pharma.
Expressing confidence over the positive outcome of the trial, Sanchit Sharma from AIMIL Pharma said the trial along with government support would redefine the fight against the pandemic using ayurvedic formulations.
On the economic stimulus front, the Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS) described the package as hogwash as rather than being a full Rs 20 lakh crore package, as it actually includes the packages announced earlier. It is attempt by the government to self-congratulate itself on the stale schemes announced in last years. As commentators have argued the package is an example of ‘No Action Messaging Only’ (NAMO) schemes which the BJP government excels, it said.
The KYC said while the trade unions and workers of the country are demanding concrete steps such as three months’ basic minimum income and moratorium on rent, the Central government continues to ignore these issues in order to please the businesses. Moreover, all the anxiety over the slump in the economy has been resolved in favour of the corporate houses, which are to enjoy greater incentives even as the labouring masses have been demanding imposition of higher taxes on them. KYS along with the trade unions would be intensifying its struggle against the apathy of the central government towards the labouring masses of the country, in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has involved millions of city residents by in deciding the contours of lockdown 4.0 that will come into effect from May 18.
More than 6 lakh responses were received on WhatsApp, e-mails, and calls in just 24 hours. He also said that responses were received on various sections, such as transport, industries, businesses, office goers and homemakers. After elaborate discussions with L-G Anil Baijal, it was decided to partly open public transport buses and Metro trains, besides adopting odd-even formula for opening shops in markets.
Promising to send public suggestions on the kind of relaxations in lockdown can be given from May 18, Kejriwal said, “Based on the suggestions received by all the states, the Central government will decide on the lockdown relaxations at various locations. But, suggestions on such an important decision cannot be drafted inside an air-conditioned office. People from all walks of life including citizens, doctors, and experts must be included.”
Despite the criticism of being an old wine in new bottle, the announcements made by Modi on May 12 address to nation has been called historic by a section of observers as they sense that a stimulus package of about 10% of the GDP along with the government’s resolve to take basic structural reforms in the land, labour, liquidity and laws.
In the near future, implementing partial curbs to keep spread of coronavirus under check would be the answer to bring India back on the growth trajectory and while doing so the country may try a paradigm shift in the economic arena to invite companies fleeing China while trying to become self-reliant. The fears being raised over possibility of India turning protectionists need not be taken seriously as the changing global scenario and geopolitical situation in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic force India to look out for opportunity in this threat to humanity.
Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah seem to have also taken into consideration the political implications of the BJP-led Central government acting with agility in these difficult times by putting more money in the pockets of the rural masses and helping farmers get better prices for their produce. The welfare spending during these testing hour promises to quickly bring the economy back in the subsequent years, well in time for the 2024 parliamentary elections when the saffron party would want to register a historic hat-trick.