हिंदी खबर
A view of a deserted street in West Bengal's Kolkata during the nation-wide lockdown imposed to contain COVID-19 cases. Photo/ANI
A view of a deserted street in West Bengal's Kolkata during the nation-wide lockdown imposed to contain COVID-19 cases. Photo/ANI

Where to COVID-19

ANI | Updated: Apr 17, 2020 16:28 IST

By Prem Prakash
New Delhi [India], April 17 (ANI): The world is suffering daily tragic killings at the hands of this unknown enemy COVID-19. When and how the war against this virus would end is still all in the realm of speculations. This war would only be won on the day our medical researchers come up with a vaccine to cure and defeat the virus.

This virus has totally unsettled the planet earth. There is hardly a country not impacted by it. Look at the rising death toll in the world's most powerful and advanced nations like the US, Britain, Italy and rest of Europe. Over four billion people around the globe are under lockdown as a preventive measure to keep the virus at bay- India's 1.3 billion included.

Indians must, however, admire the fact that the government reacted quickly and began strict screening of incoming international passengers from February itself and sending as many suspected cases into quarantine. As usual, here was a lot of noise by the detractors about the long delays and chaos for incoming passengers. But, then we forget that airports like Delhi and Mumbai are among the busiest in the world.

The country has now been under lockdown for over three weeks and this phase is to continue till May 3. As expected, a world that was already facing an economic slow down is now under serious recession and India can be no exception to that. What the future holds is anybody's guess, being largely dependent upon how soon the world scores victory over the virus.

It is tragic that the Fabian socialist policies adopted by India, post the British departure in 1947, have failed to create any social security net for the poor of the country. The hollowness of the slogans like "Garibi Hatao" stands exposed when we have to think of offering doles, charity, feed the hungry etc at a time when the poor are really being hit hard by this economic fallout of the virus. The labour force in the country, migrant or otherwise, should have been taken care of by a social security net if one had existed.

That the government has been able to reach out to a lot of poor and ensure cash flows into Jan Dhan accounts, offer free rations, takes care of immediate problems. We are lucky that our people, wedded as they are to our civilisation and culture, have a tremendous capacity to bear such natural catastrophes. They seek solace as they march towards their villages in "Jo Bhagwan ki Marzi", "Jo Allah ko Manzur". They are aware of the limitations of the government and do not blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi as is being done by the leftist lobby in New Delhi. But that should not make anyone overlook the issue that they need to be provided for.

It is not just the poor who have been hit hard. The companies, the industries that create employment have had their valuations drastically wiped out and revenues cut down in the fallout of the virus. The revival of these employment generators all depends upon how soon the virus is defeated and what kind of world and economy emerges after that. The World Trade Organisation is going to be as good as dead. Each country is going to be reviving its own economy. It is going to be a different world.

Tourism, a global generator of big employment, is dead. The airlines are in limbo with planes parked at the airfields and needing daily maintenance. It can take a long time to revive both domestic and international tourism. It is only spare money in the hands of consumers that generate tourism.

India's economy is very heavily dependent upon medium and small industries. To bring life back to cities like Moradabad, the brass industry would need to be revived. Cities like Ferozeabad, Karnal survive on small manufacturing units. Similarly in South India, Hyderabad, Bangaluru, Chennai and several other small towns are big centres of handicraft industries. These are the industries that provide employment to artisans on a day to day basis.

The list does not end here-India is known for her handicrafts, despite China trying to copy those. Carpet-weaving industries are spread over Kashmir, Mirzapur, Jaipur to name a few. These have been dependant upon not only domestic buyers, but compete internationally with Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Millions are dependant upon this industry directly and indirectly.

Then there is the big textile industry-not those making cloth, but thousands of units making ready-made garments for domestic and export needs. These were already getting hit by China, Bangladesh and Vietnam in the international market. The government response even then had not been commensurate to the threat that the industry faced. Now, the challenge is to revive an industry that is one of the biggest employment generators for the semi-literate and illiterates of this country. The policy of the government had not been very helpful to this industry in best of times, but it now faces a huge challenge. China is absolutely ready to grab and fill the vacuum.

The list of MSMEs (Medium and Small manufacturing units) is unending. Is the government ready to bring a revolutionary policy that would kick start these industries once the COVID-19 is beaten? With Fabian socialist economists still dominating the economic thinking of the government this author has serious doubts if India can come up with the right approach.

When will India learn a lesson from a hardcore Communist Socialist country like China that quickly married itself to the Capitalist economy, as soon as Mao Tse Tung passed away? Even at this late stage, India needs to make a clean break with Fabian socialist economy as China did with its Marxist socialist economy.

Today China with its bulging USB 3.00 trillion reserves is ready to grab the world market compared to our struggling economy with just half a trillion US dollars in its reserves. And China happens to be one of the major trading partners of India. The world that emerges after COVID-19 is going to be one where every country will be fending for itself. India must be fighting to fit with a new approach to meet the challenge. More on that to follow.

The author of this Opinion piece is the Chairman of ANI, Mr Prem Prakash. (ANI)