No lockdown, Centre to remain focused on economic revival

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Economy is the focus

Notwithstanding the surge in the number of Covid 19 cases in the country, revival of economy will be the focus for the Narendra Modi government amid speculations over another round of nationwide lockdown. The Centre will not impose another lockdown though it will push the pedal on its vaccination drive to contain the spread of the virus.

States with higher number of cases must adopt a plan for expediting vaccination drive, analysts said. A State Bank of India report noted that Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, which have seen a rise in cases, have inoculated less number of people compared to spread of infection

Last year, Prime Minister Modi had announced imposition of a nationwide lockdown from March 25.

On Tuesday, India registered over 1.15 fresh Coronavirus cases. Maharashtra continues to be the worst-hit. It reported over 55,000 fresh cases on Tuesday.

While states such as Maharashtra and Delhi have imposed local restrictions and night curfews, the Centre is unlikely to put in place any such measure. Analysts said that such measures are not only ineffective but also dent businesses especially those in sectors such as retail, aviation and hospitality.

Ecocnomy needs focus   

India’s economy contracted by 24.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2019-20 owing to a stringent Covid 19 induced lockdown while in the second quarter it was a (-) 7.3 per cent. However, India managed to bounce back and registered an economic growth of 0.4 per cent for the third quarter of the financial year.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has already thrashed out a stimulus package of Rs 29.87 lakh crore -- equivalent to 15 per cent of the GDP -- in a bid to contain the impact of the virus on health and economy. This has already led to huge widening of the country’s fiscal deficit. Presenting the Union Budget for 2021-22, Sitharaman said that the fiscal deficit for 2020-21 is pegged at 9.5 per cent of GDP while for the current financial year, it is estimated to improve to 6.8 per cent.

India cannot afford to carve out another stimulus package. 

“Lockdown is not an option anymore, the government will remain focused on pushing the economy. India is already on its way to recovery and all projections have indicated that we will touch a double-digit growth figure,” BJP spokesperson Gopal Krishna Agarwal told India Narrative.

The huge rise in Covid 19 cases has already dented the retail and travel segments. “Air travel was picking up and we were expecting to to normalized air traffic and touch the pre-Covid period by end of April. However, now, we do not see that happening now,” said a senior executive of a private airline major.

Most businesses, which were gradually looking at opening up offices, have once again announced ‘work from home’ for their employees. Besides, they have also issued fresh advisories banning travel.

Though the government is not yet keen on opening up Covid 19 vaccination drive for all, industry body Ficci underlined the need to embark on mass vaccination at the earliest.

The chamber has already asked the government to increase testing and tracking to contain the spread at the earliest.

“People had lowered their guard which has led to the rise in cases. The containment zones must be identified and cordoned off to ensure that the spread is contained. We also feel that vaccination must be opened up for all at the earliest,” Dilip Chenoy, secretary general, Ficci said.

Covid 19 vaccination drive 

A State Bank of India (SBI) report too noted that a mass vaccination drive is the need of the hour. “Localised lockdowns/restrictions have not resulted in controlling the spread of infection. This is visible in case of many states including Maharashtra and Punjab,” the study said, adding that the loss arising of such restrictions and lockdowns in terms of livelihood loss and hunger and disease is much severe.

The report also said that if on an average 40-45 lakh people are vaccinated in a day, India will be able to vaccinate the entire population in less than two years while all citizens above 45 years will be inoculated in just four months.