Covid 19 Spreading in India and a Clueless Ecosystem

Covid 19 Pandemic in India unfolded a lot in three months from lockdowns, health infrastructure overwhelming, migrant exodus, economy in turmoil to govt inaction on everything out there. The various institutes that were supposed to contain the impacts of Covid19 seemed so unprepared starting from WHO, Central banks to governments. Even people have not shown earnestness in maintaining social distancing and hence the social and economic impact of Pandemic is quite high and still spreading and getting out of hand.

It was quite out of imagination that high tech world of today will come to a standstill and we get so helpless to contain the spread of virus that we had to take such long lockdowns, where we shut everything from economy to travel of any kind. Governments in west rolled out lots of economic stimulus or relief packages for unemployed and businesses in stress but in India nothing of that sort happened and people were left on their own. And no surprise why migrant workers walked thousands of kms on their feets to go back to their hometowns as they were out of work, money, hungry and got no other option but to go back to their states. Govt’s stimulus package was all about increasing the liquidity of loans but who is going to think of loan in a looming economy.

Covid 19 pandemic has shown clearly that we have not invested enough in health infrastructure and the way developed world like US, UK, Spain, Italy, Russia got so overwhelmed and stretched to deal with crisis so it will be a nightmare if things go to that extreme in developing world like India, Africa. India and Brazil are already seeing huge spikes in Corona numbers and are at 4th and second position in world. Experts from world over are saying that we have to live with the virus but it is not that easy for our people who still struggle with sanitation, hygiene and civic sense.

Economic impacts of Covid 19 are huge for our country as a negative growth is projected for this year. Many businesses, start-ups will get closed as pandemic has slow down economy thus affecting the demand of businesses as incomes of  consumers is contracting greatly. Though government has boosted liquidity but who is going to invest and take more credit on a business when demand is not that attractive. Uncertainty is never good for any business as we don’t know how long this virus will stay with us. Even it is not that easy to find a vaccine for a virus with around 14 strains identified by researchers so far. Normal vaccine cycle is 8 years but America and West is pushing for a year or more which is quite ambitious but we all sincerely hope and wish that sooner we find it.

Covid 19 test is free in most of developed world but in India it costs 4500 rupees per test which is quite expensive for a developing country. Even accuracy of test is a serious concern as most studies says that it is anything between 50-70%.  Concerns are also on health infrastructure and Covid 19 health supplies as adulterated sanitizers business, fake and used N95 mask, low quality PPEs are  booming and govt has done very little to hammer it down. Health infrastructure is getting overwhelmed in red zones like Delhi & Mumbai as we are hearing many stories of hospital bed unavailability, private hospitals charging excessively anything from 30,000-50,000 per day and even double for those needing ventilators, so private hospitals are cashing fully on misery of people. Even some state government don’t want to test asymptomatic covid 19 cases, so there is so much discrepancy in data of covid numbers reported, some states like UP are testing so low so that their economic activities don’t get affected. Government is holding its ground that there is no community transmission but if so then then why red zones like Mumbai, Delhi are in continuous lockdown for last 83 days and still they have added near to 1 lakh Covid 19 cases?

Economic cost of Covid 19 is quite high as businesses and services are taking a salary cut, private companies affected in lockdown are going with salary cuts of up to 30% along with so many laying offs. Government employees, Pensioners DA is freeze for two years.  Governments sources of revenues has dried up like GST collection has gone down to up to 50%, so regular fuel hike is a norm now. Govt is trying to extract money from each and every source as they have cut saving, deposit rates of tax saving, pension, epf, ppf funds. Even public and corporate have donated generously in PM Cares fund to fight Covid 19 but there is no transparency on exact size of fund or detail of any significant spending from it.

The biggest impact of Covid19 is on unorganized sector and low-income jobs like of domestic households as due to fear of infections people have let go their cooks, maids, drivers, cleaners and even shops like barbers, street food, small eat outs & takeaways are getting hugely affected. Sadly government has not given any economic relief to unorganized sector, as in lockdown of 2-3 months they had to manage without any incomes by borrowing credit from non-institutional sources at high credit rates. PDS system of govt subsidized food ration is hugely flawed and is only available for those with Ration cards and many deserving poor find themselves out of this scheme as there is so much discrepancy and even corruption in registration process of PDS. Govt pushed for Aadhaar system of cash transfers aggressively but has hardly used the system in this massive Covid 19 health crisis to offer economic relief to distressed sections and businesses, as their financial condition is quite fragile as fiscal deficit is on a rise and getting out of hand.

There is no dignity of life here as we have seen hospitals where Covid 19 patients are kept with dead bodies and even central govt is in preparation to use thousands of railway coaches with such small births for poor patients as isolation wards. As per new policy of Government, hospitals have been told to stop testing patients before discharge so they may even carry infection back.  After getting inspired from Italy and Europe, Modi ji requested nation to honour covid warriors- doctors and essential services personel through thali beating and by lighting diyas and candles. But reality is quite different as many doctors are complaining of no salary for three months like in Delhi and even shortages of PPE, masks to long, continuous shifts are being reported.

Covid 19 crisis is a good breather for environment as air got better and even river water is cleaner and more transparent than ever before. Lockdowns shutdown many industries, urban transport for few months and tapped on pollution of all kind and that really helped environment. Our Covid 19 numbers are rising sharply and most experts have no idea that when we are going to flatten this curve, though we have flattened the curve of economy with lockdowns and as a result disruption of businesses. I hope we will learn to live with this virus till the vaccine is out and also learn something positive from this crisis to invest more in smart cities and sustainable infrastructure.  Our investment in Health infrastructure needs to go by leaps and bounds and till time we reach there we need to regulate private infrastructure so that they accommodate some burden of govt hospitals.

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