The 21-day coronavirus lockdown has badly hurt India's economy, and now everyone is looking at how the Modi government plans to normalise it after April 14. To strategise an exit plan, Prime Minister's 11 empowered committees, which are headed by the home secretary and continuously seeking feedback and assessments, will meet today and decide the next course of action. The committee comprises officials from railways, civil aviation, pharmaceutical, commerce, health, DEPT officials and representatives from businesses.
Besides, the central government has also sought feedback from states. Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with chief ministers via videoconferencing and asked them to submit suggestions -- as per the situation in their respective states -- for a staggered exit after April 14. Here's how the current picture on coronavirus pandemic in India looks like:
SO WHAT'S THE PLAN?
The indication from the government is that there's going to be no blanket lifting of the lockdown and that the country could be headed for a staggered exit, the final plan for which is yet to be drawn. A senior minister told India Today that the Centre was planning a "rational lockdown", a micro-managed exit in a staggered manner.
A major reason for this is the government's belief that lockdown has proved to be effective in curbing community spreading. But opening the economy was the need of the hour for the lockdown had already caused irreparable damage to the economy.
IS ANOTHER LOCKDOWN VIABLE OPTION?
India's daily GDP stands at $8 billion. The 21-day lockdown will cause around $168 billion loss and 30-day lockdown around $250 billion. At this juncture, the government might not be in a position to extend the ban as another lockdown could push the economy beyond recovery, a senior bureaucrat said. However, the process of lifting the lockdown could be slow as states are working on different strategies. Reports from the states are expected to reach the Prime Minister's Office this week.
DIFFERENT STATES, DIFFERENT PLANS
Some states like Punjab, Haryana and UP have started harvesting wheat and other crops. These states are planning to announce major relaxations for labourers. Moreover, states are staring at huge financial losses which will impact various state-level welfare schemes. A longer lockdown means extra burden, which will force them to knock at the Centre's door for financial aid.
Reports suggest areas with high coronavirus cases may stay under lockdown, while those with no cases may see relaxation.
Among all the hurdles, road, railways, air and sea transports are the biggest challenges. States are still not in favour of interstate movement. This implies bus transport is unlikely to open up , neither railways which needs states' consent. Private transport may also stay under curbs until the situation normalises.
WILL AIRLINES RESUME OPERATIONS?
The decision on resuming airline operations will be a difficult one for the government. Air India has already stopped booking till April 30, while other airlines are awaiting the Centre's response.
INDIA INC FACING LOSSES
The biggest worry among all is privately-run large industrial units, which employ crores. The lockdown is hurting their balance sheets and will subsequently destroy their financial sustainability. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the meeting with all the stakeholders, could chalk out an exit strategy for the industry as well.