‘Select necessary activities’ restarted, with conditions . . .
On April 14, India extended its hard lockdown until May 3. While fears of a major outbreak remain strong, India has a surprisingly small, but rising, number of cases –17,615 per its 1.3 billion population. The first phase of the lockdown was extended with stricter measures in place, but also with plans to eventually lift the lockdown in phases. Starting today, ‘select necessary activities’ can be restarted around the country in places that have not been designated as COVID-19 containment zones, but workplaces are required to abide by certain measures. The Ministry of Home Affairs is now focusing on reviving the rural economy and agricultural activities, and ensuring employment opportunities for daily wage labourers by restarting labour-intensive manufacturing.
Restrictions on movement . . .
India’s sudden lockdown forced millions of migrant labourers into government-provided shelters beginning in March. The recent lockdown extension pushed many daily wagers to take to the streets in protest, demanding either the right to work or to be provided transportation back to their villages. The lockdown relaxation from today (April 20), however, does not allow inter-state movement, stopping many migrant workers from returning to their homes in other states. The lockdown relaxation may provide work opportunities to some, but workplaces have been mandated to provide transportation and safe shelter for daily labourers. This is something they are not yet prepared for, potentially contributing to the further spread of COVID-19.
Economic repercussions . . .
The economic ripples from the April 14 lockdown extension have reached every corner of the country. The unemployment rate has skyrocketed from 8.4 per cent at the beginning of March, to 23 per cent at the end of the month. India initially announced a C$31.3-billion stimulus package targeted at poor communities. But this represents a mere one per cent of the country’s GDP, compared to 2.5 per cent in Bangladesh and three per cent in Canada for similar programs. Prime Minister Modi is set to announce a second stimulus package for the worst affected. Meanwhile, India has also tightened its foreign investment rules to protect domestic businesses from foreign takeovers in the fallout from the pandemic. The International Monetary Fund meanwhile has predicted India’s economic growth at 7.4 per cent in 2021, if the nation is able to control the COVID-19 outbreak, while Canada follows with 4.2 per cent.