The meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with chief ministers on Saturday is likely to discuss the crucial issue of lives versus livelihood amid the ongoing 21-day nationwide lockdown. The third round of the high level meeting would mull the crucial question on extension of the lockdown. Five key things to watch out for ahead of the meeting:
Lives versus livelihood
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear that the lockdown cannot be lifted across the country in one go. Several state governments too have spoken in favour of continuing the lockdown, with Odisha and Punjab already extending it till end of the month. It would be interesting to see how the question of lives versus likelihood is tackled in Saturday’s meeting. While Modi had said he knew state governments, district administration and health officials were keen to continue with the lockdown, a final call will be taken after the meeting.
Need for a decentralised response
The spread of the diseases has been varied across the country. While in some states cases have been high, others have seen an impact on the economy. Some others have had to face the challenge migrant workers’ issue. Chief ministers on Saturday are likely to pitch for a more decentralised response, specific to needs of states to tackle the fallout of the pandemic and lockdown.
State of the economy
States are expected to seek more resources to deal with health and the social impact of the coronavirus pandemic. One key demand is greater flexibility to borrow more from the market, which is capped as a share of gross state domestic product. India’s economy has been losing steam over the last few years with growth declining from 8.3% in FY17 to 7% and to 6.1% in the subsequent two years.
In FY20 concluded in March, growth was projected to be 5% but analysts and rating agencies have sharply scaled it down with the most optimistic projections hovering around 4%. The nationwide lockdown and its impact on domestic consumption and exports is expected to have a telling effect on June quarter growth. This has severely hit the spending power of central and state governments, which is forcing them to explore new resources. States are also expected to ask for timely payment of Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation from the Centre.
Farmers and daily wagers
Even as state governments are taking steps to ensure that harvest crops do not get affected because of the lockdown and have permitted the use of combined harvesters, the magnitude of the problem can be understood from the recent announcement by some states that it would procure most of the agricultural produce and would let lockdown impact selling of crops. With the rural economy taking a beating along with the migration of daily wage labourers returning to their villages, state governments are demanding a special package to revive rural economy.
Access to essential services
The three-week lockdown, which is currently scheduled to end on 14 April, has led to disruption in supply chain for most services particularly transportation of goods and access to medical supplies. While the union and the state governments have been coordinating for improving access to essential services, chief ministers on Saturday are expected to raise the issue of more robust supply chain for essentials in the event of extension of lockdown.