When the world and opposition were warning about COVID-19 threat, our government was busy in the mass event where lakhs of people travelled to India and left giving us a gift of Coronavirus. Once the government got out of its languor and imposed a countrywide lockout, it did not bother them about the common man and migrant workers and daily wagers. On the one hand, all the MPs and MLA’s got a hike in their salaries amid these crises despite holding all riches and hardly doing anything for the people at large. On the other hand, the commoners are fighting for one meal and survival, but the government turned its back by being a mute spectator. The Centre declared the lockdown and imposed other harsh measures without consulting any of the state governments. Just like announcing demonetization, without any clue, people were thrown out with various challenges. Many lost their lives then, and many are losing their lives even today. The anarchy and confusion were foreseeable. No one knows what this government is up to and what this Prime Minister is doing? Cores of funds raised to battle the crises, people with large heart rendered donations, cores of rupees were taken as loan from banks in the name of COVID crises, but nothing has changed on the ground.
The unemployment tracker survey released by Centre for the Monitoring of Indian Economy (CMIE), the only data source of its kind that reports unemployment on a daily, monthly, and quarterly basis. The CMIE interviews every day about 3,500 randomly selected persons in its consumer survey. Post-lockdown, like everything else, the survey too came to a halt. They managed to do only 2,289 interviews in the last week of March. But the data was not released as the sample was too small and the week was rather unusual. India has gone economically backward by many years, but the government seems to be too hardly bothered.
According to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, Over 490 IT employees in Bengaluru and West Bengal have lost their jobs so far, citing a market slowdown due to the global Coronavirus the companies have laid off its employees, the startups are in the same boat. They just began, boomed and busted within no time. India’s startup ecosystem is also staring at monstrous losses. Many are instituting layoffs or pay cuts as fears intensify.
Many prominent media houses have sanctioned layoffs or mandatory leave without pay. While The Indian Express and Business Standard newspapers have announced pay cuts, others are also taking steps to curb costs. On April 10, 15 employees of News Nation, a Hindi news national channel, was asked to leave with immediate effect. On April 13, digital news website The Quint asked about 45 employees to go on indefinite leave without pay. The organization faced “a truly unprecedented situation… in these circumstances, it is clear that our revenues will be under severe strain over the next 3-4 months. Times Life, the Sunday supplement of the Times of India also asked its employees to leave on April 13. Small media houses just silently vanished from the race. It is with the salon and parlour industry many beauty parlour owners, and barbers committed suicides because three long months zero business has shattered their fortune. They have survival crises.
On April 15, global airlines’ grouping International Air Transport Association (IATA) noted that more than 20 lakh jobs are at risk in India’s aviation sector. Passenger revenue is expected to fall by more than $8.8 billion, and passenger demand decline by 36%. Some domestic airlines, such as SpiceJet and GoAir, have resorted to leaving without pay and layoffs of ex-pat pilots. Travel restrictions, including in India, are paralyzing the hospitality sector too. The coronavirus scare has crippled the industry entirely. In March, India’s merchandise exports shrunk by a record 34.6%, while imports declined 28.7% as countries sealed their borders to combat the virus. Like the hospitality industry, the export sector, too, is demanding the government to intervene to save it from the massive crisis. Over 1.5 crore people in India could lose their jobs in the wake of gloomy global trade trends due to COVID-19, predicted industry body. The sectors that are heavily dependent on exports are apparel, gems, jeweller, handicrafts, engineering, among others. The apparel export sector alone estimates 2.5-3 million job losses because of order cancellations. Now somehow flights are resumed, but the business has gone down to unexpected lows.
Unfortunate migrant labourers had nowhere to go, nothing to eat and none to look to for any help. The lockdown reminds one of this government’s colossal failures such as demonetization and flawed GST implementation. With India already grappling with an economic slowdown and job losses, COVID-19 has struck at the most unfortunate time. And the inept handling by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government has only worsened the situation. As always, the downtrodden sections of the society have had to bear the brunt of it. Doctors, nurses, health workers, and police personnel to have had to suffer a lot since the country was not prepared for this tragedy. After the lockdown, it will take months to get the workforce back and streamline the machinery. There will also be a rush to complete pending projects. Migrants have lost faith; they became hopeless and shattered. Asking them to resume is another catastrophe because they are so scared of present circumstances.
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