The twin mantra for the Government’s stimulus in response to the unprecedented economic impact of COVID-19 has been to first ensure that human cost of the crisis is minimized especially for those at the bottom of the pyramid; and two, to convert this crisis into an opportunity by implementing bold structural reforms that will go beyond repairing the damage to the production capacities and enhance the overall supply response capabilities of the economy.
The stimulus (package) announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman over the past five days is a carefully crafted a well-balanced yet bold package, that will, in the coming days, achieve both objectives.
(1) FM Calls The Rs 20 Lakh Crores Impetus Foundation For “Self-Reliant India”
(2) Fine Print Of The Rs 20 Lakh Crore Impetus
(3) FM Unveils 2nd Set Of Relief Steps Under ‘Aatma-Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’
(4) One Lakh Crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund To Be Set Up
It is widely recognized that the present crisis is far worse than both the Asian financial crisis of the late nineties as well as the global financial crisis of 2008-09 as it has seriously impacted both the supply and demand side of the economy. The government’s response has been to effectively address both these aspects.
On the supply side, the government response has been four-fold.
First, to ensure that food security and farmers’ incomes were not impaired. The government declared agriculture and all related activities as essential services immediately upon announcing the lockdown. This permitted the successful harvesting and efficient procurement of the critical Rabi crop. It also implied pumping in Rs 78,000 crore as new purchasing power in the hands of the farmers.
The second prong was to effectively prevent the pressing cash/liquidity crunch from converting to insolvencies and bankruptcies. An immediate moratorium was announced on their debt servicing obligations to commercial banks. This was greatly reinforced for the MSMEs for whom an additional credit line of Rs.3 trillion without any fresh collateral was extended. MSMEs could also avail of new equity from the Rs 50,000 crore fund of funds and take advantage of the subsidiary debt facility announced by the FM.
These measures provided succour to a large number of businesses, especially those in the services sectors like hospitality, entertainment, retail etc.
The Rs 90,000 crore credit package made available to State Discoms, should also be included in this set as it will prevent bankruptcies of State electricity utilities and the power producers, which would have had disastrous results.
The third set of measures were directed to significantly improve the eco-system for private producers both in agriculture and manufacturing. Long pending reforms to give farmers the much-needed freedom to choose their clients and for traders and exporters of agro-products to maintain necessary stocks have now been announced.
Defence production and exports will get a new fillip with the liberalization measures. Greater space will be given to private businesses in sectors in which hitherto public sector enterprises had either a complete monopoly or a pre-dominant presence.
Finally, in a measure that does not have a large fiscal footprint, but touches the lives and livelihoods of more than 50 lakh families, street vendors all over the country have been given a credit of Rs 10,000 each for re-stocking and use as working capital.
Thus, ‘the package’ has guaranteed the survival of existing production capacities and laid strong grounds for enhancing larger private sector participation by both domestic and foreign players.
Several measures have been announced to lift the sagging demand in the economy. Before detailing them it is important to point out that aggregate demand is made up of consumption, investment and demand for intermediate goods as well.
This has to be taken note of by those who consider only the cash in hand of consumers as the sole means for reversing the declining demand in the economy.
Therefore, additional credit lines provided to the MSMEs or to the vendors or farmers (Rs two trillion over and above the limits already provided under the KCC) will contribute to the strengthening of aggregate demand.
A significant number of measures were announced to hike consumption demand directly as well.
Among these are:
- Rs 1.73 lakh crore for (announced in the first package)for improving the incomes and welfare of the most vulnerable, including the 20 crores female Jan Dhan account holders who will receive monies directly into their bank accounts;
- Rs 50,000 additional incomes in the hands of those whose TDS and TCS were reduced by 25%;
- Rs 40, 000 crores additional allocation for MNREGA which will provide jobs and succour to those returning to their villages from metros and cities;
- Rs 30,000 crore for construction workers;
- Rs 17, 800 crores transferred to 12 crore farmers; and
- Rs 13,000 crore transferred to States to finance the costs of running quarantine homes and shelters for migrant workers.
These measures, which will directly benefit different categories of individuals, will surely raise the flagging demand, the necessary condition for triggering a fast-paced recovery in economic activity.
As the FM emphatically pointed out on Sunday, the size of the stimulus at Rs 20.97 trillion, totalled more than the promise made by the Prime Minister in his address on 12 May.
This is more than 10% of the GDP and compares very favourably with packages announced by other emerging economies.
Combined with the significant number of bold structural reform measures, which hold the potential to make Indian firms attain global scales and competitiveness and give the much-needed freedoms, flexibility and financial strength to our beleaguered farmers, ‘the package’ promises to promote India’s economic recovery in the post-COVID-19 period.
Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.
COVID-19: WHO Warns Of ‘Second Peak’ In Countries Where Coronavirus Is Declining
Outbreaks could come back later this year in places where the first wave has subsided.
GENEVA (Switzerland): The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that countries seeing a decline in COVID-19 infections could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures to halt the outbreak.
During a media briefing yesterday, Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme said that we are right in the middle of the first wave, globally and are still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up.
He added that epidemics often come in waves, which means that outbreaks could come back later this year in places where the first wave has subsided.
He added that there is also a chance that infection rates could rise once again more quickly if measures to halt the first wave were lifted too soon. Ryan warned that a second peak or wave could come during the normal influenza season, “which will greatly complicate things for disease control.
He said that countries in Europe and North America should continue to put in place the public health and social measures, the surveillance measures, the testing measures and a comprehensive strategy to ensure that we continue on a downwards trajectory and we don’t have an immediate second peak.
Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO infectious disease epidemiologist, said that a hallmark of coronaviruses is its ability to amplify in certain settings, its ability to cause transmission – or super spreading events.
COVID-19: India Continues To Fare Much Better Than The Rest Of The World
10.7 cases per lakh population have been reported in India as compared to 69.9 cases per lakh globally.
NEW DELHI: India performs much better as compared to the global average in terms of the number of infections and mortality per lakh population due to COVID-19.
Briefing media in New Delhi, Union Health Ministry official said that due to the lockdown and containment measures taken by the government, 10.7 cases per lakh population have been reported in India as compared to 69.9 COVID19 cases per lakh population for the world as a whole.
It may be noted that 4.5 deaths per lakh population have been reported for the world, while India has reported about 0.3 deaths per lakh population, which is amongst the lowest in the world.
The COVID-19 mortality rate in India is among the lowest in the world at 2.87 per cent and attributed the timely lockdown and management of coronavirus infection cases as the main reasons for this.
Health Ministry also said that the recovery rate of patients from COVID-19 infection has now gone up to 41.61 per cent which was 7.1 per cent in March this year.
The Health Ministry official also appealed to people to maintain hand hygiene and social distancing and wear masks while stepping out. He said, there is a need to focus on prevention and containment measures to contain the spread of COVID19 infection.
About fifty per cent of deaths reported among elderly people while 73 per cent reported in the patients with comorbidity.
ICMR, Director General said that currently over one lakh samples for COVID-19 are being tested in a day. The country has now 612 labs out of which 430 are government labs and 182 are private labs.
The ministry has also asked people to share authentic information and encourage people if they develop symptoms to get tested. Stigma can discourage people from seeking immediate help and contribute to more severe health problems.
Therefore, it is important to break the stigma. Maintaining do gaj ki doori is important to ensure everyone’s security. People should avoid touching their hands, nose and mouth.
They should also refrain from consuming smokeless tobacco products and spitting as it will not only improve the level of basic hygiene but will also prevent the spread of coronavirus.
If anyone develops symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, they must immediately call the All India helpline number 1075.
On the use of Hydroxychloroquine- HCQ drug, the ICMR DG said that HCQ has been widely used against malaria and considering its anti-viral properties, in-vitro study data and availability and safety, ICMR had recommended it as a preventive treatment on a trial basis under supervision.
He said, no major side-effects of HCQ have been found in studies in India except nausea and vomiting and its use should be continued in preventive treatment for COVID-19.
He said it has been clearly advised that HCQ should be taken with food, not on empty stomach. He said, the ICMR also emphasized that one ECG should be done during the treatment. He said that it has expanded the use of HCQ to frontline workers also, considering the potential benefits.
Aarogya Setu Android App Is Now Open Source
The App has over 114 million users, which is more than any other Contact Tracing App in the world.
NEW DELHI: On April 2, 2020, India launched Aarogya Setu mobile App for helping augment the efforts of limiting the spread of COVID19, with an objective of enabling Bluetooth based contact tracing, mapping of likely hotspots and dissemination of relevant information about COVID19.
The App has over 114 million users as on May 26, which is more than any other Contact Tracing App in the world.
The App is available in 12 languages and on Android, iOS and KaiOS platforms. Citizens across the country are using Aarogya Setu to protect themselves, their loved ones and the nation.
Setu has been transparency, privacy and security and in line with India’s policy on Open Source Software, the source code of Aarogya Setu has now been made open source.
The source code for the Android version of the application is available for review and collaboration at:
The iOS version of the application will be released as open-source within the next two weeks and the server code will be released subsequently. Almost 98% of Aarogya Setu Users are on the Android platform.
Aarogya Setu’s development has been a remarkable example of collaboration between Government, Industry and Academia and citizens.
With the release of the source code in the public domain, the government is looking to expanding collaboration and to leverage the expertise of top technical brains amongst the talented youth and citizens of our nation and to collectively build a robust and secure technology solution to help support the work of frontline health workers in fighting this pandemic together.
The App offers a comprehensive suite of interventions against COVID-19 and has registered several firsts in the eight weeks since its launch.
The App possibly has the most reach and impact when compared to all other COVID-19 contact tracing and self-assessment tools combined globally, while pioneering new data driven epidemiological flattening of the curve through syndromic mapping.
Of the more than 114 million registered users, two-thirds have taken the self-assessment test to evaluate their risk of exposure to COVID-19.
The App has helped identify about 500,000 Bluetooth contacts. Those who are identified as Bluetooth contacts of COVID19 positive cases or are classified as needing assistance based on their self-assessment are contacted by National Health Authority.
So far, the platform has reached out to more than 900,000 users and helped advise them for Quarantine, caution or testing.
Amongst those who were recommended for testing for COVID19, it has been found that almost 24% of them have been found COVID19 positive. Compare this to the overall COVID19 positive rate of around 4.65% – 145380 COVID19 positives from a total of 3126119 tests done as on 26th May 26, 2020.
This clearly illustrates that Contact tracing is helping focus efforts on those who need testing and this will greatly augment the efforts of the Government in containing the pandemic. Analytics of Bluetooth contacts and location data has also helped identify potential hotspots with a higher probability of COVID cases allowing State Governments and District Administration and Health authorities to take necessary steps for containment of the pandemic, early, which is critical for controlling the spread of the pandemic.
This approach of syndromic mapping, a novel approach of combining principles of path tracing and movement patterns of COVID-19 positive people, population-level epidemiology modelling and the prevalence of COVID-19 in different regions of the country, the Aarogya Setu team has identified more than 3,500 hotspots across the country at the sub-post office level.
The Aarogya Setu data fused with historic data has shown enormous potential in predicting emerging hotspots at the sub-post office level and today around 1264 emerging hotspots have been identified across India that might otherwise have been missed.
Several of these predicted hotspots have been subsequently verified as actual hotspots in the next 17 to 25 days.
As an example, a district with 3 cases on a particular date when Aarogya Setu engine predicted it as a hotspot registered 82 cases in the next 15 days. The precision achieved by this unique combination of Bluetooth-based contact tracing and identification of hotspots may hold the key to effectively breaking the chain of infection, flattening the curve and saving lives.
Releasing the source code of a rapidly evolving product that is being regularly used by more than 114 million users, is challenging. Developing and maintaining the source code is a huge responsibility, both for Team Aarogya Setu and the developer community.
The repository now being shared is the actual production environment. All subsequent product updates will also be made available through this repository.
The process of supporting the open-source development will be managed by National Informatics Centre (NIC).
All code suggestions will be processed through pull request reviews. Aarogya Setu’s source code has been licensed under Apache License
Version 2.0, and is available on “As-Is” basis. Any reuse of the source code with changes to the code requires the developer to carry a notice of a change.
More details can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions document available at:
While making the code Open Source, Government of India also seeks the developer community to help identify any vulnerabilities or code improvement in order to make Aarogya Setu more robust and secure.
Towards this objective, the government has also launched a Bug Bounty Programme with a goal to partner with security researchers and Indian developer community to test the security effectiveness of Aarogya Setu and also to improve or enhance its security and build user’s trust.
Details of the Bug Bounty Programme along with the rewards therein are being shared separately. Details of the Bug Bounty Program is available on the innovate portal of MyGov at:
The Government of India, by opening the product design and code, has also demonstrated its strong commitment to contributing to the global good. India is keen to share learnings from our approach to technology to fight COVID-19 and make the benefits of the solution available to the rest of the world and any government can use it for fighting the pandemic.
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