Shamika Ravi | Former member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council
The Indian Express
Lauding the PM’s nationwide lockdown and how effective it has been in curbing the spreading of coronavirus, Ravi argues that “despite repeated assurances from governments, the unabated reverse exodus of migrants to their homes in the eastern states signals the fear and uncertainty that has gripped the nation.” Her “simple, scalable, and credible solution” is three pronged — “a comprehensive test and isolate policy”, build testing laboratories in all 7,000 blocks across the country and “dedicated infectious diseases wards in every district hospital”. With these long-term solutions, Ravi says it is imperative to battle both the crises simultaneously — the economic and the health one.
Anil Dharker | Columnist
The Indian Express
With endless images of migrants — expecting mothers, an exhausted child, a young man watching his friend die — walking on some highway or the other since the nationwide lockdown was initiated, their plight, earlier invisible to the government and policymakers, has now been made visible. Dharker argues that it “only now” with these images “that we have started seeing them. He states that had we, and the policymakers, been empathetic and not ignorant of a huge population of India, they would have “commandeered the whole rail system on a war footing, organised buses and trucks, food stations en route, and put cash and essential rations in each starving hand.”
Ashok Mehta | Retired major general and founder member, Defence Planning Staff
On lockdown 4.0 and the rising coronavirus cases in India, Mehta argues that the armed forces have “the personnel and equipment, but (have) not been optimally used to fight Covid-19 and aid migrant workers.” Giving examples of other countries in South Asia that have put the armed forces in charge of the fight against the pandemic such as Sri Lanka, Mehta writes, “The armed forces have the capacity, staying power and discipline to assist the State in weathering this storm in several ways.” He adds, “The Army should be immediately directed to establish a task force for Organisation and Management of Safe and Secure Movement of Migrants and remain on standby for emergency missions.”
Jean Dreze | Visiting Professor at the Department of Economics, Ranchi University
With the plight of migrant workers making headlines in newspapers and TV channels for days on end since the lockdown was initiated, Dreze argues, “Averting a humanitarian disaster in India calls for an explosion of NREGA work in the next few weeks.” Stating that while the public distribution system is helpful, it still leaves out 500 million people and fails to provide nutritious food, and “employment on demand at basic wages” under NREGA is the best solution we have. Addressing the gravity of the situation, Dreze ends by noting, “The main thing is to provide work aplenty and pay wages at speed. This is a matter of life and death.”
Ajit Prakash Shah | Former Chief Justice, Delhi
Shah accuses the Supreme Court of failing “to satisfactorily acknowledge that the fundamental rights of migrant labourers have been violated, and ignored these workers when they most needed protection.” Stating examples of courts’ “lack of compassion or judicial sensitivity” on cases of migrant workers dying, Shah states that they are not only dissuading other practitioners but also shifting responsibility to the executive. Underlining the importance of high courts during a time like this, Shah ends by noting, “This is a time when the apex court must intervene and monitor the calamitous situation, instead of taking the government’s word as gospel.”
Tamal Bandyopadhyay | Author and senior adviser, Jana Small Finance Bank Ltd.
The Business Standard
Bandopashyay argues that fiscal stimulus is the need of the hour and reforms can accompany it but cannot replace it. He notes that lending and spending were the two most important ingredients of Covid-19 economic packages globally and the government needs to guarantee loans to different segments of the industry through innovative mechanisms. The bank needs to be supported by government spending and bending the rules and go for “higher stimulus at the risk of fiscal slippage”, Bandyopadhyay concludes.
Ashok Gulati | Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture, ICRIER
Gulati argues that Centre’s cash transfer schemes must be refined or merged with the state schemes so that they serve the true purpose of provisioning migrant workers with much-needed cash, without much leakage. He suggests ways to identify the right beneficiary of the cash transfer schemes to ensure efficiency. Gulati recommends forming a group of experts, which could look closely at the functioning and “create an overarching umbrella scheme to take care of the poor and the needy”. Direct cash transfer could also solve the immediate problem, he adds.
Nitin Pai | Co-founder and director of The Takshashila Institution
Pai notes that India needs a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible, since it will affect the public health scenario as well as its strategic interest. He suggests that the country that finally develops the vaccine be at a geopolitical advantage since it will be a “once-in-a-century window of opportunity”. Ideally, vaccines should be made available universally as they are invented, but it would not be the case owing to lesser international cooperation, he notes. India being a world leader in vaccine manufacturing, still lags behind in vaccine development, It’s time that it focuses on developing and manufacturing “sufficient doses for our own population and export large volumes to the rest of the world,” writes Pai.
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