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Nuanced Response


It is clear that Prime Minister Modi is not looking to just apply a salve on the wounds inflicted by COVID-19, but to transfuse funds in a manner that also provides a boost to the goal of making India a 5 trillion dollar economy. The money will go, of course, to help workers and industry, but in a directed manner so that it proves productive in the final analysis, instead of just a one-time giveaway. One can plant seeds for the future, even as cook some for the evening meal to stave off hunger – it is the choice of the farmer since times immemorial.

The means of achieving this objective at the present is a self-reliant India, something that was reiterated also by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday. It was also highlighted that the administrative and economic reforms undertaken so far had helped meet the challenges posed by COVID-19 in a much more effective manner. It is also right to conclude that rapid and far-reaching reforms are even more necessary now than ever before. It is good that the government has reiterated even in these troubled times its commitment to these ‘bold’ reforms.

The Finance Minister recalled the early ‘garib kaliyan’ package that was provided almost immediately after announcement of the corona related lockdown. Quite obviously, this must have played a crucial part in helping the poor tide over the crisis, thus far. It must be noted that it is only recently that the patience of the migrant labourers has worn out. The package of measures that will be spelled out in the coming days should make life easier for the working class as the economy reboots.

Of course, much depends on how quickly business and industry can get back to near normal operations. This is directly related to the fight against the pandemic. At present, there are swathes of ‘green zones’ where there can be some confidence regarding resumption of operations. Unfortunately, almost all of them are under threat of infection spread due to the return of migrant labour from mostly ‘red zones’. Should there be a spike in the number of cases at such places, the entire process would be sabotaged and all the good work sabotaged. This increases the responsibility of local governments manifold to ensure those coming are properly screened. No matter how extensive the testing, it will prove much less cheaper than the consequences of not doing so. Uttarakhand is in this category of states and must respond proactively if it wishes to benefit from the measures being taken by the Union Government.