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Decentralisation, Infrastructure And More! 10 Ways To Manage Economy Amid Covid-19

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Restricting economic activities beyond a point will push the cases of Covid-19 and its related consequences. Should India care for COVID-19 by imposing restrictions like lockdown or allow the economy to grow? This is a difficult catch-22 situation. Even after around 100-day of continuous total lockdown, we are not in a position to say that these measures were successful in containing coronavirus.

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The official data indicate that despite the stringiest lockdown in the world, India has recorded a quantum leap in the new coronavirus cases. With a record single-day increase of 29,168 cases (as on July 12), India’s Covid-19 tally zoomed past the eight-lakh mark on July 10, 2020, just four days after crossing the seven-lakh post. India’s total caseload stood at 8,22,603, while the cumulative death toll was 22,144, as per the worldometers.info website. The rapid spread of the pandemic has upped India’s share in daily global cases to nearly 12% as on July 10 from 8% on June 12, 2020.

Looking at these trends, one can conclude that India is not suitable for lockdown based on the social distancing given its settlement patterns and congested and unplanned urban areas dominated by slums. Further, it isn’t easy to understand why the lockdown was imposed on the entire country. It had a profound negative impact on the economy, which had already been weakened by years of mismanagement before this crisis struck. So what should India be doing in containing the coronavirus pandemic and revive the economy?

Consider The COVID-19 Battle First

Nobody knows about the future of neither COVID-19 and it’s the same for its vaccine. However, the sharp increase in positive cases has led experts/investors to worry about renewed broad lockdowns with large negative effects on the economy. But there are also other ways to reduce infections, including stringent bans on large gatherings and greater use of face masks. Further, WHO has acknowledged that wearing a mask is a must to protect from COVID airborne transmission. Besides, India’s medical facilities are limited.

Its density of doctors of 8 per 10,000 people is lower than that of even Sri Lanka (11/10,000) but nothing to China’s 20 or America’s 26. As such, we have to follow a different regime of treatment. It is proposed that those who are elderly and frail, and who happen to have diabetes and other health issues should be given preference. The asymptomatic cases could be treated at community clinics/homes.

As far as the management of COVID-19 is concerned, it is becoming clear that the whole process should have been driven by a group of epidemiologists, doctors and social scientists and not the bureaucrats in Delhi.

How To Manage The Economy Amidst A Pandemic?

How to Better Manage Finances during Coronavirus
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Wearing a mask alone cannot push the economy and lower the risk of coronavirus. One has to take specific measures to revive the economy to generate resources to manage the pandemic. The following ten steps will create an enabling environment for the economy:

First, the current pandemic has forced us to think about India’s plight. We have to boost the confidence and morale of the workers. A regime of social security must be installed to meet the basic needs, including housing and public transport. Second, one cannot resolve agrarian problems without absorbing at least two-thirds of those dependent on the farm in non-farm jobs. Further, India needs to create 10-12 million jobs every year in the coming decades to provide quality of life for its growing population.

Third, in India, capital is scarce, and labour is abundant. The Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are thought to have lower capital-output and capital-labour ratios than large-scale industries, and therefore, better serve growth and employment objectives. MSMEs generate the highest employment per capita investment. Still, they also go a long way in checking rural-urban migration by providing people living in isolated areas with a sustainable employment source.

Fourth, India has to improve the basic infrastructure with special reference to the uninterrupted cheap power supply to generate non-farm jobs. Moreover, emphasis should be on renewable energy since its production can be decentralized, and this will be a great help in promoting MSMEs even in remote areas. Moreover, solar and wind power now cheaper than coal.

Fifth, ease of doing business (EODB) is to facilitate the domestic producers as well as foreigners. Do we have the needed institutional framework for ensuring that skilling, productivity, technology development are on par with countries like China or even Thailand and Vietnam? Do we have enough technocrats in the governance system as ministers, bureaucrats to enable the processes? Interestingly, of the 56 companies that moved bases from China in 2018-19, the World Bank found that Vietnam got 26, Taiwan 11, Thailand 8, and India 3. Now the “shift” sentiment favours us even less.

Sixth, the economies that have a peaceful environment accumulate more physical and human capital accumulation and rapidly enhance economic growth. Here the issue of communal harmony is critical to attaining economic growth. India should not raise controversial issues like the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, which disturbs the harmony and creates an obstacle for economic development.

Seventh, India has to create conditions for the demand generation to create jobs. This would require changes in labour and land laws, cutting corporate and general taxes to the level of East Asian countries.

Eighth, for India to emerge not from the corona crisis but also to revive the economy, there is a need for greater dialogue in a federal setup. It is because India is a big and diverse country. We can’t have a “one size fits all” model. It is, therefore, the decentralization should be the base for economic planning.

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Ninth, India needs smaller states for better governance, an essential requisite for economic development. About half of the country’s population lived in five states, namely, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh in 2011. The 2021 Census will reveal an unmanageable picture of the population in these states. The Uttar Pradesh population may be more than 250 million in 2021.

Finally, as discussed above, the structural reforms are essential in generating employment and creating an enabling environment for economic development. Still, for sustained growth, the issue of labour productivity is a must. Labour productivity measures output per labour hour. It is driven mainly by investment in physical capital, technological progress, and human capital.

The government can enhance labour productivity by investing in infrastructure, technology, and human development. With technology changing the nature of work, and India’s population expected to reach 1.7 billion by 2050, investing in human development has never been more critical. It is argued that investment in people (especially poor) early, often, and at the household level, can lay the foundation for human capital formation that will enhance productivity.

To start with, India must focus on essential components of human development in a more tightly integrated form. These are: improving the quality of elementary education, facilitating water and sanitation, enhancing primary health, reducing the gender gap, and stabilizing population. In essence, the above reforms will provide a better option to build an efficient, globally competitive economy not only to manage the pandemic but also to prepare India to reply to the Chinese aggression in a language they understand.

In short, India should rapidly ease the COVID restrictions to revive the economy.

Otherwise, it may suffer the worst of both worlds — economic collapse without checking the virus. At a Princeton University webinar, The Economic implications of COVID-19 on July 10, 2020, economics Nobel laureate Angus Deaton did not mention India by name. Still, he highlighted the danger of developing countries getting the worst of both worlds.

In short, saving the economy saves lives.  

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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