INDIAN economy is making strides towards regaining lost ground, with the GST collections in excess of Rs 1.05 lakh crore and a key manufacturing index increasing to 58.9% in October. The power consumption last month was 12.1% higher than in October 2019, a sign of renewal of brisk economic activity. All these are good tidings, but livelihoods have been hit so hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and the stringent lockdown that there is no room for complacency. The Centre is finalising another stimulus package in order to expedite recovery. The Rs 1.7 lakh crore Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana — meant for vulnerable sections — was unveiled in March, while the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan package of Rs 20.97 lakh crore was announced in May, focusing on supply-side measures and long-term reforms. Ahead of the festive season, the Finance Minister came up with measures last month to spur demand and boost capital expenditure, including putting cash into the hands of Central government employees. The gaps in the implementation of earlier schemes should be addressed while preparing the next action plan.
Even though the Centre has admitted that states such as Delhi, Kerala and West Bengal are witnessing a spike in Covid cases, it has rightly ruled out punitive steps to enforce pandemic-appropriate behaviour. With the nationwide lockdown having caused the loss of salaried jobs to the tune of over 2 crore, another large-scale disruption would wreak havoc too, especially on the daily wagers. States should desist from following in the footsteps of Odisha and Tamil Nadu, which have extended the lockdown in containment areas till November 30.
The onus should be on the people to take precautions so that economic revival is not hampered. In June, PM Modi had told CMs that ‘unlock, unlock, unlock’ was the way forward. With an overall decline in the infection and mortality rates, states should do way with all or most of the restrictions. It’s an opportunity for the respective governments to demonstrate that they are better prepared now in case there is a second wave.