Saturday, April 1, 2023

Tough Time Ahead


By Satish Singh

The outbreak of the second wave of the Corona pandemic is continued to grow. In the second wave, the corona virus has changed its form. It has become difficult to identify it easily. Even before the infection is identified, it is ruining the lungs of the infected person, due to which the level of oxygen in the body of the infected person is decreasing than normal. For this reason, the number of people who died in the second wave has increased considerably compared to the first wave.

Though, mismanagement is also a major cause of death. Many people have lost their lives due to lack of oxygen. There is also a huge shortage of vaccines across the country. Forty-five years or older are unable to receive a second dose of vaccine, as in this category, 10.93 million people received the first dose of the vaccine according to the May 11 data, while only 2.29 million people received the second dose. In these circumstances, people who are 45 years or older will perhaps not get a second dose of vaccine in right time. In such a situation, giving vaccine to people between 18 and 44 years is like daydreaming right now. It is worth noting that so far only 25.59 lakh people have been vaccinated among those of this age.

Importance of livelihood has reduced once again in front of life. Due to the Corona pandemic, most of the factories are closed again or limited quantity of production are being done there. In the second wave of Corona, the central government has given the freedom to the state governments to do lockdown or not. Because of this, the states most affected by the Corona pandemic have imposed lockdown. The number of states that have imposed lockdown has increased rapidly due to the vigorous impact of the second wave. Presently, the lockdown has been done in almost the entire country.

By the end of the year 2020, the country’s economy had started improving, but now again it is starting to derail. Due to the shutdown of economic activities, wages to workers and employees have stopped. In an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, the workers have returned to their villages. According to data from the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), about 7.5 million people have lost their jobs in the organized sector, while in the unorganized sector, millions of people are estimated to have lost their jobs or lost self-employment. The unemployment rate has reached around 8 percent in April 2021, compared to 6.5 percent in the month of March 2021.

This time the lockdown and the economic downturn in rural areas have destroyed small enterprises. Owing to lack of salary or wages, people are using their accumulated deposit in banks to meet their daily needs. For this reason, for the first time in the last 8 months, in April 2021, the balance amount of Prime Minister Jan Dhan accounts has decreased. On 28 April 2021, the balance amount of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan accounts decreased to Rs.1,43,397 crore, from Rs.1,46,084 crore at the beginning of the month. In this way, Rs.2,787 crore was withdrawn from Prime Minister Jan Dhan accounts in just 28 days. In 2020, during July to August, there was a decrease in the balance amount of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan accounts. At that time, Rs.2,819 crore was withdrawn from the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan accounts. Since this year there is no simultaneous lockdown imposed in the entire country. Therefore, in states where there is more outbreak of Corona pandemic, in the Prime Minister Jan Dhan accounts more money has been withdrawn.

More than four lakh people have been infected in the country more than once in a day.  Now more cases are being reported in India everyday than the continent of South America and Europe. Due to the increase in the number of people infected with Corona virus, there have been a decline in many important economic indicators, which previously had an upward trend. The number of passengers traveling to office has fallen by 46.3 percent due to the lockdown, while the number of people traveling for entertainment and other reasons has fallen by 58.3 percent. Even shopping for essential items like groceries and medicines has come down by 18.7 percent.

Many factories have also closed due to the lockdown. Owing to this, the amount of electricity produced by the country in 2021 is less than in the year 2019. It had increased double-digit at the beginning of this year after a significant decline in electricity consumption during the nationwide lockdown of 2020. Traffic congestion in metros like Mumbai and New Delhi is about 80 percent less than normal days.  According to data from global technology company, “TomTom International”, traffic in Mumbai, where there is a decline in corona infection cases, is slightly higher than in New Delhi. In recent weeks, Mumbai has seen an increase in emissions of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, but in Delhi it has been reduced by 61 percent. According to data from Indian Railways, there has been a higher volume of freight precent compare to last year which shows that due to lockdown businessmen or companies are using rail for transportation.

According to the Federation of Automobile Dealers Association (FADA), the total registration of vehicles in India declined by 29.85 percent to 1,52,71,519 units in the financial year 2020-21. This figure is the lowest in the last 8 years. A total of 2,17,68,502 vehicles were registered in the financial year 2019-20. During this period, there has been a decline of 31.51 percent in the registration of two-wheelers, 64.12 percent in the registration of three-wheelers, 49.05 percent in the registration of commercial vehicles and 13.96 percent in the registration of passenger vehicles. However, there has been an increase of 16.11 percent in the registration of tractors compared to the previous financial year. Since, last year, no vehicle was sold in the month of April due to the lockdown. Therefore, last year cannot be compared to this year. According to FADA, there has been a decrease in registration of all classes of vehicles except the tractor.

According to the global rating agency Fitch, the second wave of corona pandemic may a little bit affect the Indian economy, but the recovery in the economy will surely suffer a major setback. Economic activity is expected to fall sharply in April and May 2021. According to Fitch, there is also a possibility of a third wave of corona pandemic due to slow pace of vaccination in the country.

A provision of Rs.35,000 crore has been made in the budget of FY 2021-22 for the vaccination under the title “Transfer to States”. Also, quarterly control restrictions on this expenditure will not apply. Despite this, according to the data, till May 5, only 9.4 percent of the population in the country has got a single dose of vaccine. Currently, vaccination is the only way to stop the second wave of the Corona pandemic and to avoid the third wave. However, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has recently invented the anti-Covid oral drug, 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG), which has been approved for emergency use as an adjunct therapy in moderate to severe coronavirus patients by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). It is being said that this drug has been successful in trials to reduce the effect of corona virus. If this drug arrives in the market soon then the effect of corona pandemic can be reduced to some extent.

It can be said that in the current scenario, vaccination and medicine are the only ways to avoid the corona pandemic, but due to lack of concrete plan and mismanagement, the work of vaccination is not going on smoothly. In the past, due to the lack of oxygen, many corona infected people have died, there has been an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty throughout the country. In such a situation, the state is looking at lockdown to prevent the corona pandemic. Not only this, now it is being said that nationwide lockdown like last year is only option to minimizing the impact of corona virus. In such a situation, there is bound to be a complete halt of economic activities and the weakening of the economy further.

(Author is Chief Manager at State Bank of India, Mumbai. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected])

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