File photo | Migrant labourers wave from a train as they leave for Barauni in UP, during the nationwide lockdown, in Amritsar, 10 May | PTI
Migrant labourers wave as they leave via a Shramik Special Train (Representational image) | PTI
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Toward Swa-Raj

Manish Sabharwal | Co-founder of Teamlease Services

The Indian Express

India’s GDP is already ahead of the UK and France, says the author, and will cross Japan and Germany in the next two years, But it is the per capita GDP, which is more important for our citizens than total GDP, that is a problem. In 1960, India’s per capita GDP equalled Korea and in 1997, it equalled China. But today, there are 138 countries ahead of India. Sabharwal argues, “Our collective political Swaraj (self-rule) hasn’t always translated into individual economic Swa-Raj because of inadequate formalisation, industrialisation, urbanisation, financialisation, and skilling.” He adds, “The Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan (ANBA) policy announcements last week react to COVID-19’s economic pain but are important moves in meeting Gandhiji’s vision of individual self-reliance and recognising poverty as the worst form of violence.”

Getting India back to the Afghan high table

Vivek Katju | Former Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan

The Hindu

India finds itself on the margins of international diplomacy on Afghanistan despite having stood by the country economically and historically. Katju argues, “India needs to take corrective diplomatic action even at this late stage, and even in the time of COVID-19.” With no support from Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and patronising behaviour from the US, India’s role on the international table has been sidelined, reminiscent of the 1990s, when, at “at Pakistan’s insistence, India was considered a problem and kept out of crucial global forums on Afghanistan.” Katju ends by noting, “New Delhi’s Afghan policy needs changes and must include openly talking to the Taliban and all other political groups.”

Indian states are short of money. They need help

Avani Kapur | Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, and director, Accountability Initiative (AI)

Udit Ranjan | Senior research associate, AI

Hindustan Times

Now that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has ended her explanation of the Rs. 20 lakh crore economic package to help revive India’s economy, Kapur and Ranjan write that the current measures aren’t enough to address the fact that in the past six years, Indian states’ finances have been in a precarious position. Recent changes in India’s fiscal architecture — “including the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, and increase in state shares for the Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSSs)” — have put the states in these trying conditions before the pandemic even hit. They conclude, “The ability of the State to respond effectively will be determined by how quickly it can move away from a business-as-usual model to what some have referred to as a war-time economy.”

Breaking the lockdown chakravyuh: Set realistic health goals and use latest scientific data to reopen the country, save lives and the economy

Chandra Bhushan | CEO, International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iFOREST)

The Times of India

Drawing parallels between the chakravyuh in the Mahabharat and the nationwide lockdown we are in today, Bhushan says the fundamental lesson from that story of the epic is to not enter a chakravyuh if you don’t know how to get out of it. Bhushan says it is possible to open up the country with minimal harm, “by setting realistic goals, by using the latest scientific information and by implementing a systematic framework.” He suggests an 11-point framework, including reopening cities that are well-equipped with healthcare, micromanaging cases as opposed to macro lockdown, social distancing and face masks, ramping up testing and contact tracing and putting “national resources to quickly develop vaccine and medicine and work with other countries to share information and knowledge.”

Unshackling farmers to push agriculture growth

Ashok Gulati | Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture, ICRIER

The Financial Express

The author appreciates the Modi government for announcing reforms in India’s agri-marketing system, saying this can go a long way in building efficient value chains, ensuring better prices for farmers and lower prices for consumers. He explains how amending the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) of 1955, bringing a central legislation to allow farmers to sell their produce to anyone and creating a legal framework for contract farming, can be a game changer. But supplementary action must be brought for optimal results. He concludes, “the government has surely shown willingness to walk the right path and deserves compliments. It can be a harbinger of major change in agri-marketing, a 1991 moment of economic reforms for agriculture! But, before one celebrates it, let us wait for the fine print to come.”

Covid-19 has made the invisible visible

Sunita Narain | Centre for Science and Environment

Business Standard

The author writes about migration and how Covid-19 has made the ever-invisible migrant workers visible again. She notes that the data on migrant workers in India was last included in the Census 2011, which has now become outdated. Coronavirus has also brought to light that the disease is more likely to breed in urban areas where there are no services, sanitation is inadequate and the settlements are overcrowded. In conclusion, she raises the question of whether Covid-19 will serve as an opportunity to invest in improving the environment and living conditions of migrant workers and invest in rural economies so they have a choice not to leave.

Govt uses virus crisis to push basic reforms

Arun Kumar | Chairman and CEO, KPMG India

Mint

The author analyses the new set of reforms announced by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman under the Rs 20 trillion economic package. The author points out that the package of reforms is informed by the philosophy that there is also the larger need to make the best use of the coronavirus crisis to induce another round of basic reforms in governance systems, as well as in the country’s economic architecture. Enhancing the borrowing limit of states, making India self-reliant in manufacturing and the involvement of private enterprises are some of the visible feature of this package, Kumar notes. He suggests that rigorous focus on education and healthcare, as well as the security of a robust basic income programme, should also be considered.

Economic freedom in agriculture

Ajay Shah | Professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy

Business Standard

“The market for food is bedevilled  with difficulties in India,” the author opens.He goes on to note that the recent announcements are an important start to finding a solution to the problems of agriculture and the food market in India. The food markets work well when three decisions are well made — what to sow, how much money to invest in inputs and what to store. With warehousing, futures trading, domestic trade and international trade in shape, incentives will be in place for private persons to make these three decisions properly, he comments.

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