Milind Sohoni | Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas, IIT Bombay
The Indian Express
As coronavirus numbers rise in India and new lockdown rules will come into force next week, Sohoni notes that it is now up to the states to manage the pandemic as that is the only feasible solution for a country with India’s population and resources. “Containment and elimination is an option for small, well-governed countries with considerable technical and financial heft, and, that too, in the very initial stages of an infection. For a country which has not been able to provide drinking water to its people, containment is an overreach. It has quickly exposed our limitations, of poor testing capacity and poor access to public healthcare facilities,” he says. “Our scientific agencies need to uncover the regional parameters of the disease, its prevalence in the community, and typical trajectories,” he argues.
Prashant Bhushan | Advocate practising in the Supreme Court
Shyam Agarwal | Advocate practising in the Supreme Court
The authors call the Union government’s top-down approach during the extended lockdown “counterproductive, warning that it has put the federal structure of India under strain, and is in fact beyond the powers of the Central government.” Apart from the efficacy of the approach, the authors argue that the “practice of issuing guidelines and directions to the States is itself unconstitutional” as revealed by a study of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and of the Constitution. Another law, the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, allows for a State-run approach against the pandemic where the Centre only has a say with regard to travel in and out of the country. However, with the Centre not choosing to apply this law, it is riding “roughshod over State governments.”
Poonam Khetrapal Singh | Regional director, WHO Southeast Asia
As countries in the Southeast Asia region begin to relax restrictions, Singh says there must be three priorities for the near future: “Control and suppression of spread, strengthening and maintaining health services, and supporting each other to stay safe and healthy.” If community transmission occurs, she advises, “Active case detection, isolation, testing and contact tracing” are the only way to control it. Underlining the importance of protecting healthcare workers from the virus, Singh adds, “Countries must continue to expand isolation and intensive care unit capacity, while also rationalising it.” To be able to successfully defeat the virus, a “whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach” is required in which “health leaders and administrators can better share the burden among facilities.”
Shyam Saran | Former foreign secretary & senior fellow, CPR
As China moves towards digital currency, the author argues that this system could become exemplary for other countries. The use of digital currency will enable the state to monitor transfers and detect tax evasion, money laundering. It will also enable more accurate data on money in circulation which will improve monetary policy, the author notes. As China sees it as an instrument to achieve financial autonomy and lessen its exposure to the US dollar, other countries that are threatened by US sanctions may find this option attractive. Saran writes that launching a digital currency will also put China in a leadership role.
R. Jagannathan | Editorial director, Swarajya
The author explains that the telecom scene in India is heading for a duopoly, between the problems faced by Vodafone and the new 5G announcement by the government. “A duopoly, with a third public sector player, need not be an altogether bad outcome in the development of India’s telecom industry,” he says. “Tariffs may get a chance to stabilise and rise steadily, enabling the industry to fund data traffic growth with its own resources. Network effects will kick in once almost all customers belong to one of the two duopolists.” He concludes, that a “market with fewer but stronger players seems to be the likely future. While this will mean less rivalry in the Indian telecom market, competition oversight could yet ensure that customer interests are well served.”
Renu Kohli | Delhi-based macroeconomist
As four states — Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Assam — have enforced changes in labour laws temporarily to attract investments, the author warns the government to proceed with caution. “In the desperation not to ‘miss the manufacturing bus’ this time at least, the reforms are more a ‘caricature’. They lack uniformity, permanence, and good timing. The government should think more deeply and carefully about these issues. Panic reforms that are poorly timed and differentiated can be counterproductive,” she argues.
Paran Balakrishnan | Senior Journalist
Hindu Business Line
The author notes that as India emerges through the coronavirus crisis with daunting economic hurdles to overcome, it would be better to attract Chinese investment rather than turn it away. The world including US and European countries are taking potshots at China but our diplomatic moves need to be guided by the fact that the India-China border stretches along four states and one Union Territory. “We need to play a delicate balancing game with our huge neighbour and ensure we look after our own interests above all,” the author concludes.