Nobody is safe from the virus, but some classes are more protected than
others. Class and wealth inequality means COVID-19 may pose greater risks to
some as it poses a double threat to them.
In India, the lockdown favours the “balcony classes”, with no regard of
its consequences for others.
Lockdown has exposed the precariousexistence of millions of migrants who
operate the leversof the informal economy.
It has hit the workers in the informal economy as it has left them with
no income, no food and no shelter.
The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates that about 140
million people have lost jobs since the lockdown.
No substantive support from the government:
Worldwide, the defining images of India’s lockdown are the caravansof
migrant workers walking hundreds of kilometres to reach their homes.
Bereftof substantive support from the government or their employers,
they want to escape the city and get back to their villages and families.
The SaveLife Foundation, a non-profit organisation working to prevent
road accidents, has recorded nearly 2,000 road crashes and 368 deaths from
March 25, when the lockdown began, to May 16.
The Union Home Ministry had asked shops, industry and commercial
establishments to pay wages to workers during the lockdown but it offered no
financial support should this not happen.
Social activist Harsh Mander asked the Supreme Court to order the
government to pay wages. As expected, the apex court refused to intervene.
However, the Court intervened and asked the government not to resort to
any coerciveaction against private companies that have not paid their
workers full wages during the lockdown in accordance with a g.............................................
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in one of his national addresses, asked
each citizen to help nine poor families during the lockdown. This puts the
responsibility for containing the consequences of the pandemic/lockdown
squarely on the citizens, instead of instituting a government-backed social
While the call to compassion is unremarkable, it has two implications —
it minimises the urgency of state intervention required to deal with the
economic crisis and it passes on the responsibility to citizens with an
emphasis on citizens’ duties as against citizens’ rights.
Trend in other countries:
Quite the reverse is happening in many other countries which have
introduced huge relief packages.
It involves large amounts of government expenditure to provide money for
workers’ wages for up to three months, giving money to companies,
unemployment allowance or direct benefit transfers.
The Spanish government unveiled sweeping reforms that led to
nationalisation of all private hospitals.
The U.K. extended a worker furlough programme that pays people idled by
the pandemic till the end of October. This is similar to the Paycheck
Protection Programme in the U.S.
Both seek to preserve jobs rather than resorting to mass lay-offs.
Need of the transfer of cash:
In India, transfer of cash in the past two months of lockdown could have
mitigatedthe most heart-breaking migrant crisis since the Partition in 1947.
This was the basic requirement of justice.
But the government failed to transfer money to the distressed people or
to small businesses and commercial establishments.
Failure to do so has exposed
Seen against the scale of distress, the government’s economic stimulus
package is niggardlybased on minimal fiscal cost and minimum social
Just about everything is included in the fiscal stimulus ranging from
repaying tax refunds to loans. At this rate, even a good monsoon can be
considered fiscal stimuli.
The immediate relief to the people is not more than 1% of the GDP. The
stimulus package has been rightly dismissed by almost everyone outside the
government as too little, too late.
Most shocking is the slewof controversial reforms announced by the
Finance Minister in the last episode of her five-part serial on the
government’s stimulus package.
Instead of addressing the migrant worker crisis, the government has
embarked on greater privatisation and further opening the economy to foreign
capital. It has thrown open coal, defence production, space travel, among
other areas, to the private sector.
These contentious pieces of economic reforms wouldn’t be counted as
rescue package anywhere; moreover, it is wrong and unethical to push them
under lockdown without parliamentary oversight.
The much-deridedMahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
and National Food Security Act (NFSA) have come to the rescue of the people.
Ironically, both schemes are legacies of the Congress-led United
Progressive Alliance government and both were hugely criticised by the BJP.
MGNREGA was described as a “living monument” of Congress failure in
Q1. With reference to the biodegradable metal implants, consider the
following statements: 1. Scientists at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder
Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), under the Department of Science &
Technology (DST) has developed new generation Iron-Manganese based alloys for
biodegradable metal implants for use in humans.
2. The newly developed Fe-Mn based alloys are suitable for biodegradable stent
and orthopedic implant applications.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2