Indian Prime Minister (PM), Narendra Modi spoke in a televised address to the nation today, April 14, 2020, as the previous 21 days nationwide lockdown came to an end today.
In his statement, Modi declared that the country extended its emergency lockdown for its 1.3 billion people until May 3, 2020, since the coronavirus infection cases in India passed 10,000. The PM explained he had to make economic sacrifices to save the lives of the people since the number of people infected with coronavirus in India had reached 10,363, with 339 deaths.
Extension of National Lockdown
Urging all the citizens to maintain discipline for another nearly three weeks of the country lockdown, Modi said, “That means until May 3, each and every one of us will have to remain in the lockdown.” The previous nationwide shutdown had stranded millions of migrant workers, who lost their jobs due to the closure of several industries, and was unable to reach their home due to the suspension of public transports including buses, trains, and airplanes.
Referring to mass exodus of millions of workers from small industries, Modi said, “I am well aware of the problems you have faced – some for food, some for movement from place to place, and others for staying away from homes and families.” Meanwhile, the PM claimed that the country would have been completely devastated without the lockdown.
Modi also claimed that the numbers of the virus-infected cases were less compared with hard-hit Western nations, while health experts expressed fear that it was because of India’s low levels of testing and the actual infection levels could go far higher. According to a source, India has so far tested only 137 per million of its population due to the lack of testing kits and protective gear for medical workers, compared with 15,935 per million in Italy, and 8,138 in the US.
Problems of Economy Downturn and Unemployment
It was considered to be a little relief as more than three-quarters of India’s cases are concentrated in about 80 of the country’s more than 700 districts, including the two big cities, New Delhi and Mumbai. Experts have suggested that it would be convenient for the government to implement policies and contain the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, the key concern of the analysts was on the sharp decline of the country’s economy and the problems of shrinking employments due to the pandemic. According to data compiled by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a Mumbai based private think-tank, the rate of unemployment has almost doubled to around 14.5% since Modi first imposed the national lockdown in late March.
Most private economists and the World Bank have projected India’s growth rate for the current year would be 1.5% to 2.8% while Barclays Bank, in a note to clients on Tuesday, forecasted zero growth in 2020. Presenting its annual budget in February, the Indian government had forecasted growth of up to 6.5% for the fiscal year through to March 2021.
Analysts suggested that the number of jobless would be getting worse and the country needed annual economic growth over 8% to absorb the millions of young people entering the workforce each month. Modi stated, “From an economic only point of view, it undoubtedly looks costly right now; but measured against the lives of Indian citizens, there is no comparison itself.
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