IASbhai Editorial Hunt
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.– Jimmy Dean
“The perils of an all-out lockdown”:EDITORIAL #30
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL/EDITORIALS FOR UPSC CSE MAINS 2020
Jean Drèze is Visiting Professor at the Department of Economics, Ranchi University
The perils of an all-out lockdown
If the poor must stay at home, they need income support and essential services
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 1:3:Society:Diseases
This is not the time to let India’s frail safety net unravel.Substantiate -(GS 3)
This article will enrich your wisdom regarding economic health vs social health parameters of shutdown state.
INDIA SLOWS DOWN
- Migrant workers, street vendors, contract workers, almost everyone in the informal sector — the bulk of the workforce — is being hit by this economic tsunami.
- Mass lay-offs have forced migrant workers to rush home, some without being paid.
- With transport routes dislocated, even the coming wheat harvest, a critical source of survival for millions of labouring families in north India, may not bring much relief.
- This economic crisis calls for urgent, massive relief measures.
- Lockdowns may be needed to slow down the epidemic, but poor people cannot afford to stay idle at home. If they are asked to stay home, they will need help.
- There is a critical difference, in this respect, between India and affluent countries with a good social security system.
TAP SOCIAL SCHEMES
SOCIAL-SECURITY SCHEMES :
The first step is to make good use of existing social-security schemes to support poor people —
- pensions, the
- Public Distribution System (PDS),
- Midday meals, and the
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), among others.
MINIMAL SPENDING OF RESOURCES:
It also requires the government to avoid squandering(misuse) its resources on corporate bailouts: most crisis-affected sectors of the economy will soon be lobbying for rescue packages.
Meanwhile, there is a danger of people’s hardships being aggravated by a tendency to shut down essential services.
Even if discontinuing public services helps to contain the health crisis, the economic consequences need to be considered.
To assess the case for various precautionary measures, we must bear in mind the dual motive for taking precautions.
UNDERSTANDING THE MOTIVE:
When you decide to stay at home, there are two possible motives for it: a self-protection motive and a public-purpose motive.
In the first case, you act out of fear of being infected. In the second, you participate in collective efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
So why do we take precautions when seven people have died of COVID-19?
The enlightened reason is not to protect ourselves, but to contribute to collective efforts to halt the epidemic.
A similar reasoning applies to the case for shutting down public services as a precautionary measure.
Self-protection of public employees is not a major issue (for the time being), the main consideration is public purpose.
Further, public purpose must include the possible economic consequences of a shutdown.
RICH VS POOR:
- If a service creates a major health hazard, public purpose may certainly call for it to be discontinued (this is the reason for closing schools and colleges).
- On the other hand, services that help poor people in their hour of need without creating a major health hazard should continue to function as far as possible.
- That would apply not only to health services or the Public Distribution System, but also to many other public services including administrative offices at the district and local levels.
- Poor people depend on these services in multiple ways, closing them across the board at this time would worsen the economic crisis without doing much to stem the health crisis.
- Keeping public services going in this situation is likely to require some initiative and creativity.
- An explicit list of essential services (already available in some States) and official guidelines on coronavirus readiness at the workplace would be a good start.
- Many public premises are crying for better distancing arrangements.
- Some services can even be reinvented for now.
EX:anganwadis could play a vital role of public-health outreach at this time, even if children have to be kept away.
Many public spaces could also be used, with due safeguards, to disseminate information or to impart good habits such as distancing and washing hands.
The urgent need for effective social security measures makes it all the more important to avoid a loss of nerve.
Some States have already taken useful steps of this sort, but the scale of relief measures needs radical expansion.