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Recovery Mode

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The Uttarakhand Government quite obviously is struggling to deal with the consequences of the corona pandemic. All of a sudden, it has to emerge in orderly fashion from the lockdown, deal with the sudden influx of migrants escaping red zones, and strive to get the economy going again. It has already declared its inability to comply with High Court orders to quarantine migrants at the state’s borders and left it for ill-equipped and untrained village officials to handle. It is hard put to synchronise the lockdown relief with the sudden rise in positive cases, the challenge being enforcement of ‘social-distancing’. Generally, it is for the people to ensure they do not get infected as they try and resume their ‘normal’ activity.

The biggest challenge is, of course, rebooting the economy. Everybody is asking for all kinds of relief, including direct financial support. Feeble measures such as providing Rs 1000, each, to the affected are obviously tokenism and a waste of money. The entire chain of transportation, hotels and tourism that feeds the state’s economy requires imaginative solutions to become operational again. As already pointed out by the private bus operators, who generally overload their vehicles in the normal case, it is not viable to function at half capacity without charging more and not suffer a loss. Perhaps, it would be better for government to allow market forces to operate, leaving the decision to the customer on utilising the service at higher rates. Or, it could halve local taxes on diesel used by the buses – if the transporters do not operate, there would be no taxes paid anyway! Of course, implementing such a decision on the ground would require some administrative expertise!

The government does not have the funds to provide financial relief for the losses. In fact, it will be hard put to pay the salaries of its employees. The need is to make it easy for local businesses to take advantage of the innovative measures announced by the Union Government. Representatives of the tourism industry in the state, for instance, have been seeking all kinds of relief, but have not put forward models of functioning that are viable under the present conditions. Surely they know the psychology of the customer and the nature of their business! Or are most of them in the trade because it has been easy to replicate what others are doing? Those affected are best placed to suggest practical solutions – the government on its part should listen carefully. Merely making a show of activity is by no means enough.