Saturday, April 1, 2023
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Govt safety net for poor ‘has little for now’ — Express, Mint adds, liquidity & ‘no freebies’

A round-up of the most important reports in major newspapers around the country – from TOI and HT, Express and The Hindu to The Telegraph, Mumbai Mirror and The Tribune, as well as top financial dailies.

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Govt safety net for poor ‘has little for now’ — Express, Mint adds, liquidity & ‘no freebies’

With its daily announcement of economic measures, the government has ensured it dominates the day’s headlines. So the second part of the Centre’s package aimed at migrant workers, farmers and street vendors was the top story everywhere. Some papers note that most of the measures comprise credit guarantees instead of direct cash transfers to the most needy.

Financial papers say Thursday’s measures won’t have a major impact on the government’s fiscal deficit.

The Times Of India’s lead ‘2nd tranche of relief…’ reports that the measures “…included affordable rental housing facility for migrant workers, free foodgrains for those without ration cards and loan schemes for farmers and street vendors”.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is also big news with his idea to extend his odd-even rule beyond cars in ‘Reopen shops on odd-even basis: Delhi govt to Centre’. The paper says that in a “bold move” his government wants to reopen “all markets and shopping complexes with non-essential shops functioning on an odd-even basis. However, only one third of the shops in a mall should be allowed to open at a time, it has said”.

And here is an ironical situation: On the one hand, TOI reports that Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said “India has ensured there’s been no starvation” during the Covid-19 pandemic; on the other, it says desperate migrants face the hazards of trying to reach their home: ‘17 migrant labourers killed, 93 injured in accidents in 24 hours’.

Like TOI, The Indian Express leads with the government’s safety net for the poor. However, the headline expresses its reservations: The safety net has “little for now, more for later” with the focus on “a longer term horizon” rather than immediate relief. 

This is explained in the second story, ‘No cash in hand for migrants…’ Express says Thursday’s measures rely upon “two existing mechanisms, the MNREGS and PDS, to offer wage labour and free foodgrains to migrant labourers…However, there was no cash relief for the labourers, who have lost wages over 50 days of the lockdown”.

 The paper looks east and finds, ‘Next challenge for Odisha and Bihar: Virus coming home with migrants’. With the pace of migrants going home increasing as the lockdown eases, they pose a new medical challenge. “Of the 4,275 samples collected in Bihar from among migrants who returned onboard Shramik special trains between May 4 and May 13, 320 have tested Covid positive — 7.5 per cent.”

Hindustan Times’ lead follows from Express and TOI on relief for migrant workers. 

In other news, ‘India tops 2mn Covid-19 tests’. “The number of Covid-19 tests carried out in India crossed 2 million on Thursday, doubling in 12 days. At this level, India has tested around 1,540 people per million of its population, much higher than the 94.5 per million population it was testing in late March but still far lower than the tests per million in other countries.”

India might get some money and another fugitive as, ‘Vijay Mallya denied permission to file appeal, is closer to getting extradited’. The paper reports, “The extradition of businessman Vijay Mallya to India, where he faces charges of financial offences, came a step closer to fruition on Thursday after the HC of England and Wales refused him permission to appeal on grounds that his case does not involve a ‘point of law of general public importance’.”

The Hindu’s lead on migrant workers concentrates on the positives says migrants to get “free foodgrains”. 

Continuing in its role as the record keeper, Hindu reports, ‘Doubling time slows to 13.9 days’. “Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in the last three days, the doubling time had slowed down to 13.9 days, while the doubling time in the past 14 days was 11.1 days.,” it reports. 

In alarming news which all of us from our balconies need to acknowledge the reality of, ‘15 migrant workers die in U.P., M.P. road accidents’. The paper says 15 migrants died Wednesday-Thursday in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in road accidents. 

And, don’t get ready to board that train just yet: Hindu reports that ‘Railways cancels tickets till June 30’, however, “The Shramik Specials or the 15 pairs of special trains started on May 12 will continue.”

And it seems, ‘Work from home may stay for govt. staff’. The paper reports, “Post lockdown, the Union government will continue staggered and variable work hours for its employees with the Personnel Ministry floating a draft consultation paper on best work-from-home practices.”

The Telegraph is quite clear what it thinks of the Centre’s packages: ‘CRUMBS’. 

The daily notes, Sitharaman unveiled the second tranche of  the government’s stimulus package “which again showed the Centre could be big and bountiful with numbers but a scrooge with cash transfers”. 

In its other story, “OXFORD HOPE AFTER MONKEY STUDY”, the Kolkata daily reports, “A closely watched coronavirus vaccine being developed by scientists at Oxford University appeared protective in a small study of six monkeys and led to the start of human trials late last month, US and British researchers reported on Thursday.”

Read the New Indian Express’ analytical report ‘Banks get king-sized role in Modi stimulus rollout’, which points out that only “1% of the Rs. 20 lakh crore economic package” will be via direct government spending while banks are expected to do the “heavy lifting”. It adds: “Of Wednesday’s Rs.5.94 lakh crore relief measures for MSMEs, NBFCs and discoms, the actual fiscal stimulus is nothing but pin money at Rs. 16, 500 crore” while “the rest comprises credit guarantees and liquidity support from lenders”. Now, all eyes will be on “banks’ risk appetite”. 

In ‘NON COVID HEALTHCARE TAKES A BIG HIT’ a story that’s been brewing over weeks the paper describes the case of two breast cancer patients who were turned away by hospitals due to staff shortage. They represent the number of “patients of other diseases who have become the silent victims of the pandemic”. According to a University of Birmingham study (given that there is no nationwide official data), the lockdown is “set to derail nearly six lakh surgeries, many of them life saving”, adds the daily.

Mint covers the Rs. 2.3 trillion “cheap loans programme for farmers” and other measures to uplift the urban poor unveiled by Sitharaman Thursday. In ‘No Freebies, It’s All About Liquidity’, it includes a prediction by Dhiraj Relli, managing director and chief executive of HDFC Securities: “…this may not result in direct and immediate boost to demand and, hence, economic revival can take some time.” 

Like NIE, it observes that most of the measures involve “concessional credit and liquidity support rather than direct fiscal transfer” that could have “burdened the government’s exchequer”. 

The paper’s anchor story, “Covid-19 may spread via speech”, uncovers coronavirus’s “alarming efficiency of transmission”. Other than coughing and sneezing, a Covid infected person can transmit the virus just by speaking. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), US,“1 minute of loud speaking could generate more than 1,000 virus-containing droplets that will remain airborne for 8 minutes or longer.”

In its lead, ‘Helping Hand to Migrants’, Economic Times, like Mint and New Indian Express, point out that “Thursday’s measures won’t have much of an impact on the fiscal deficit”.

According to the paper’s second lead, ‘We Have Jobs, Give us Workers: FMCG to Govt’, top consumer goods companies like HUL, Nestle, PepsiCo, Parle Products, Britannia, ITC and Mondelez have a bone to pick with the government. Through a letter by CII, the companies have sought “clearances to run facilities with a 75% cap on worker deployment in green and orange zones, and a 50-60% cap in red zones (excluding containment areas). The current cap is 33%”. 

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