It is now two years since the Prime Minister went on television to officially announce that India would be going into a complete lockdown in the start of its battle against Covid. This was a reflection of the then prevailing (universal) wisdom that a lockdown was the best way to combat the inevitable chain of Covid-related infections. We have come a long way since then, and the battle seems to be largely won. Covid deaths in Maharashtra have fallen by over 90% this month compared to the figure of 737 deaths in the state reported in February. March has seen the lowest fatalities since the virus arrived in Maharashtra, and there are several districts without any deaths at all this month.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has decided against invoking the provisions of the Disaster Management Act beyond March 31, 2022. This is a step in the right direction. Given the steep decline in cases in the past few weeks, the need of the hour is to shift to significant capacity-building at the state level, and boost the local economy to the extent possible. About 96% of the eligible population has received at least one dose, and over 80% of the adult population has been covered by both doses. Almost 98% of senior citizens eligible to receive the booster shot in Mumbai have taken it. Herd immunity is now within easy reach, and that will help to ensure that Covid becomes history. All this bodes well for the future.
A key requirement for reviving the economy on a sustainable basis is to effectively manage the emergence from the prolonged lockdowns. To begin with, supply chains will need to be reopened, and indigenized to the extent possible. Enterprises in the manufacturing and services sector should be opened up completely, and given full freedom to resume their operations. All this should be done while simultaneously maintaining basic health hygiene in the workplace.
Covid has taught us that fiscal policy needs to be nimbler to support contact-intensive sectors of the economy. India also needs to enhance its data collection (and sharing) abilities. The agricultural sector, which constitutes around 15% of the GDP, needs immediate relief in terms of facilitating market access for its produce. Farmers could also be provided some funding support to commit to technological and infrastructure development in their fields. Agriculture continues to remain the backbone of our economy, both at the state and Central levels.
History has repeatedly shown that Indians tend to put aside all their differences and come together when faced with an external challenge, and that is precisely what the pandemic has done to us. The current situation has finally become conducive to relaxing almost all Covid protocols, and moving ahead to fix the economy. There is a palpable feeling of a pan-national coming together around common socioeconomic goals. This opportunity, of creating a better future for every Indian, is too good to miss. There is light at the end of the tunnel.