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Several small traders faded in COVID lockdown

The government’s pro-business stance is also clear from the way lockdown was handled, very irresponsible and inefficient.

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Image: PTI

A huge number of businesses have suffered losses and many have closed down, particularly, the small and micro sector units that have a small investment or, those that were already stressed with high debt. Many have been unable to pay their EMIs, shop rents and electricity bills above all taking care of family needs without any income. A moratorium was offered till the end of August but that has not helped many strained units. With failures, the already high NPAs of the banks will spurt and the financial sector is likely to face further problems.

In India business groups or small, big traders, never got any support from anyone. They are assumed to be wealthy and get ignored by every sector. For the past one and half years many are gone hand to mouth and at least fifty traders of Mumbai committed suicide. Many beauticians, salon owners, spa therapists and street vendors have taken their lives. They need to have savings to be able to take care of their families.

When there is no business, there is no work for daily wage workers. Daily workers need to be paid a living wage so that they can face the challenge of a future pandemic. The possibility of new viruses attacking humankind has increased as the environment has been greatly troubled and animals have come closer to human populations. In the last 20 years, the coronavirus is the seventh virus to have infected humans. Business is a chain if one segment suffers an entire setup collapse.

Some could Work-from-Home (WFH) via the net but most could not. Children had to have classes via the net. The use of telecom services shot up. But the efficiency of work and studies was not what it used to be since people were not used to the new requirements. Businesses cannot expand unless demand revives but that is unlikely with the low consumer sentiment in the organized sector itself. It is much worse in the unorganized sector.

The government’s pro-business stance is also clear from the way lockdown was handled, very irresponsible and inefficient. It was eased when India had a rising number of cases. In most countries, the lockdown was eased when the new cases had dropped sharply. The business is down by 50 per cent in Mumbai. Hundreds of retailers in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, face similar challenges. Worst hit by the lockdown are stores that deal in non-essential services, as they aren’t even allowed to open at all, even for four hours.

The USD 300 billion strong (€250 billion) Maharashtra economy sunken into lockdown on April 4 with a nighttime curfew, followed by a complete lockdown announced on April 14, in an attempt to control the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic which is ravaging the country. The government announced later that only essential services stores will be allowed to open, from 7 am to 11 am, which means that all other businesses, including malls, multiplexes, spas, clubs, restaurants, bars and beauty parlours will be completely shut.

Malls and hotels face similar problems. Almost 35 per cent of hotels and restaurants remain shut in the state due to last year’s lockdown because they could not sustain or survive. The turnover of the remaining establishments is below 50 per cent against pre-COVID levels. With the latest lockdown order, at least another 30 per cent of restaurants will shut down permanently.

Maharashtra is the richest state in the country, according to its Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), and represents around 15 per cent of India’s total GDP. Mumbai-based rating agency Care Ratings has projected that around USD 5.4 billion of GDP is being lost in every month of lockdown. This kind of mass destruction of business has not been witnessed since Independence.

India has seen one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, with gradual relaxations for resumption of economic activities being allowed after the third phase that will end by 30 May. Growing COVID cases in states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Delhi have posed challenges for the full resumption of economic activity.

According to GDP data released last week by the National Statistical Office, the country’s growth rate slumped to an 11-year low of 4.2 per cent in 2019-20. The RBI too recently said the growth may be in the negative territory in 2020-21.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 14 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazine Beyond The News (international). She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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