he nation commenced Unlock 2.0 Tuesday. Word from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the eve of the Phase Two is one of reassurance on many fronts. He has extended the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana free food programme benefiting some 80 crore people – mostly the poor – for five more months up until November end. This is the most important requirement of the present times, despite the huge costs involved.
The lockdown for the past three months has turned life upside down for all segments of society and the worst-hit are the poor who live on daily wages. Life is slowly returning to near-normal in most parts of the country, the exceptions being big cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai and Ahmedabad. The government would do well to stretch facilities for the poor to the healthcare sector too in more pronounced ways. Presently, sources claim that good quality health assistance is gradually vanishing in India. Except for the super-rich and rich, the poor as well as the middle economic class are highly disadvantaged while trying to avail reasonable quality healthcare. The lockdown has affected private medicare service providers in such a manner that they, more often than not, decline admission to patients. Deaths due to such refusals are being noticed across the country. Whether the hospitals are overwhelmed with inflow of patients or are they waiting to net the big fish is a point that is extremely debatable. Unraveling the truth in this matter even in later times may become impossible.
Notably, the PM has also given an assurance to firm up the One Nation One Ration plan, which would essentially be of help to the large number of migrant labourers and their families. Many of them, with no ration card in areas where they work away from their homes, had difficulty availing government’s free and subsidized facilities. The government’s response to the needs of migrant labour walking back home was much delayed. The Shramik trains started late in the overall timeframe. While Indian government sponsored aircraft initially flew in thousands of businessmen, vacationers and students for free from distant lands, the poor migrant labour had to pay through the nose from the very beginning. For Tuesday’s speech, there were expectations that the PM would make some announcement on India’s preparedness at the northern border region, where China is itching for a confrontation. However, the PM concentrated mostly on the COVID-linked lockdown scenario. His mention that the nation’s sovereignty and integrity will be protected at all costs seemed slightly disjointed.
For sure, the government is hard-pressed on two fronts at the same time – fighting the pandemic unleashed on the world by China, and the red nation’s propensity to grab its neighbour’s land. India is posing as if it is ably standing its ground but only time will tell.