The secret look, the stolen gaze. Finds its mark and yet it strays. Something on these lines Modi’s fourth address amid COVID-19 lockdown sounded like. The announcement was done three days prior and the entire social media was trending #Modi8PM. There was lot of curiosity among people about his speech. But it was highly boring. Long pauses, repetitive statements with very fragile but dramatic announcements, but this time people were really least interested to pay attention or buy his claims. Our PM is good with emotions but very bad with logic and as India loves emotions, look at the TRP of daily soaps, they are totally emotionally driven. Similarly, people love Narendra Modi’s speeches for that emotional kick but you can’t keep playing with your words and fool an entire nation for too long. Only shallow talks and no performance can’t suffice for people in extreme stress and dire situations. He is a pompous speaker; he possesses many bloggers to spread his words and his ministers are hate machines – that’s what our country is sadly seeing today. Reality check reflects a jobless economy, heavily divided nation, scams after scam, sold out media and governance. The PM’s attitude during speeches is the same, but more like a teacher. As when a teacher teaches primary students after letting the students understand the subject uses a revival tone for answer from the students like “so, 2+2 is?”. That is the style difference he uses and unfortunately, he is never with a substantial script except on foreign tour. Anyways, his speech lost that initial vigor and stamina. Now he looks more tired or somewhere he has started realizing that the situations are really not in favour of him.
He announced a massive Rs 20 lakh crore package; almost 10 percent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) as the country battles the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Behind Modi’s obvious push for India’s self-reliance through an “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” call, there is not the conventional inward-looking approach that was the hallmark of Mahatma Gandhi’s Swadeshi approach that advocated a “Be Indian, Buy Indian” philosophy; nor is there a Nehruvian wish to come out of colonial-era clutches by building a domestic industrial base. Narendra Modi’s Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus blends shrewd geo-economics with swadeshi-coated booster, but it may not be a panacea for jobs growth. While what we see outwardly is a cocktail of the two in terms of political messaging to build on national pride, the deeper subtext is of a post-globalization, post-coronavirus universe in which India is trying to reduce imports from China while becoming an alternative manufacturing base in a worldwide supply chain web. A key takeaway from Modi’s speech is: “India does not advocate self-centered arrangements when it comes to self-reliance”. There are many questions still unanswered as the details of the prime minister’s package are yet to be shared out. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s planned announcements will be keenly watched. But it is clear that to truly get the import of Modi’s strategy, we have to look beyond both his loyal cheerleaders who see grand statesmanship in everything he does or says, and also his bitter critics who quickly find flaws or superficiality in what he says. We have to look at both the content and the context of Modi’s 33-minute speech to get some clarity. They are such that he is trying to package the inevitable as an initiative while spotting the opportunity in the virus threat that might potentially alter the world economic order. We could call it the rise of ‘geo-economics’ as a logical corollary of geopolitics in which Japan and the West may look for an alternative growth base to a corona-stung China. India is clearly the leading large-scale candidate to fill the gap.
This Rs 20 lakh crore figure includes the previous Rs 1.7 lakh crore stimulus package announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, various government announcements for key sectors and steps taken by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) since the lockdown began on March 24 midnight. These earlier measures now together amount to Rs 7.79 lakh crore of the complete package. Here’s a look at the measures already announced. RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das announced measures providing Rs 5.2 lakh crore liquidity in the first round on March 27, RBI announced liquidity measures worth Rs 3.74 lakh crore and a steep 75 bps rate cut and through various instruments Rs 2.8 lakh crore of this has been completed. In the second round on April 17, RBI announced further liquidity measures worth another Rs 1.5 lakh crore. A special liquidity facility of Rs 50,000 crore for Mutual Funds (MFs) was announced to ease liquidity pressure on the sector. Rs 1 lakh crore targeted Long Term Repo Operation (TLTRO), infused Rs 25,000 crore into the system and Rs 50,000 crore via refinance scheme for Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs). Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on March 26 announced liquidity measures amounting to as much as Rs 1.7 lakh crore. Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Scheme worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore and direct cash transfer benefits to help the poor and migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Insurance cover worth Rs 50 lakh per person for doctors, paramedics, nurses and other health professionals. For poor, up to 80 crore poor people to get an additional 5 kg of rice/wheat, over and above the existing 5 kg limit. For farmers, transfer of first installment of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Yojana’s annual Rs 6,000 assistance to beneficiaries immediately. For MGNREGA workers, wage to go up by Rs 2,000 per worker. For poor widows, senior citizens and differently-abled an ex-gratia amount of Rs 1,000 per month for the next three months. Questions remain on key aspects of the stimulus, which include land and labour issues going beyond the simple arithmetic formula of spending to boost growth.
Today is the 51’st day of India’s nationwide lockdown. Known COVID-19 cases in India stand at 74,281. The death toll due to the outbreak has reached 2,415. The lockdown, which began from midnight of March 24 has since been extended twice: first to May 3 and then till May 17. Gradual easing began from April 20, with areas demarcated as Green, Orange and Red Zones based on number of cases and infection rate. PM Modi on May 12 announced that the lockdown will be extended post May 17, details of which will be shared before May 18. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to announce contours of the complete Rs 20 lakh crore economic package at 4 pm today. ‘Looking at London, talking to Tokyo,’ is an expression used sometimes to describe a squint in the eye or a cross-eyed view, but this could almost literally be an appropriate metaphor for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Rs 20-lakh-crore stimulus announced to revive India’s economy hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Citizens concern is that how will this package bring respite in the common man’s life and actual balance in economy, but the biggest question is that where is the extra dose of money going to come from?
Sadly, Narendra Modi’s all national addresses have done little to address coronavirus concern about India not taking the mass-testing approach. We need fast testing, cheap testing and easily available testing on the earliest. You have to be really naive to believe India’s official numbers of coronavirus patients and then there are those who have died of sudden pneumonia without being tested or counted as coronavirus deaths. The sheer ignorance of the suddenly imposed economic challenges and plight of masses will only bring their lifeline and survival on a decline as at this rate it’s obvious that more Indians might die of hunger than of coronavirus. Modi’s poor administrative skills, zero attention span for details and preference for oratory and adulation over sincere governance has spelled disaster for this crisis. In a few weeks, we might find ourselves overwhelmed with an epidemic in defiance of official numbers, while the economy might take a reverse and start looking like the 1980’s.
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