PM Modi’s speech: A mixed bag | HT Editorial

Extending the lockdown is right. Address economic issues now
It was not enough for the PM to acknowledge that he was aware of these difficulties; it was time to show, in detail, how the Centre plans to help specific sectors(ANI)
It was not enough for the PM to acknowledge that he was aware of these difficulties; it was time to show, in detail, how the Centre plans to help specific sectors(ANI)
Updated on Apr 14, 2020 06:50 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByHT Correspondent

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of the national lockdown for 19 more days, till May 3. This means India will have a lockdown of 40 days — the longest any country, especially of India’s size, population and complexity, has had in the world so far. To be sure, there is a caveat. Depending on the spread of the disease over the next week, there will be relaxations, starting April 20, for necessary activities in states, districts, or subregions which have not witnessed cases, have brought it under control, or have succeeded in the controlling the situation in hotspots — clusters with a high number of cases.

The PM is right about the lockdown. Till there are medical remedies to deal with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), social distancing remains the most effective tool to prevent the transmission of this highly contagious virus. India, with its weak health infrastructure, does not have the capacity to deal with a high number of cases. The hope remains, just as it was when the lockdown was originally announced on March 24, that this period will help India “flatten the curve”; it will also give time and space to the government to enhance testing, focus on containment zones, provide personal protective equipment to health workers, embark on antibody testing, and gradually prepare the country for a return to economic life.

But this can only be one part of the story. The public health strategy has enormous economic costs. It is true lives have to be saved. But along with the lockdown, India should have announced a comprehensive stimulus for the economy just as other countries have. Around the world, countries have unveiled economic relief packages for everyone — individuals, businesses, and provinces. Just as India has led on the lockdown front, it has lagged on this. India should have, by now, outlined specific measures for businesses which are becoming increasingly unviable; workers who stare at long-term unemployment; the poor who are already confronting the possibility of starvation and hunger; and states, which are at the frontlines of the battle but are fiscally constrained and have been seeking support. It was not enough for the PM to acknowledge that he was aware of these difficulties; it was time to show, in detail, how the Centre plans to help specific sectors, vulnerable citizens, and state governments in this battle. This must be the next step in the government’s plan — and the PM should take personal ownership and announce it himself.

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Thursday, December 02, 2021