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The Govt Must Reshape Policies And Invest In Social Capital To Avoid The Upcoming Recession

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It is now evident that the world is heading towards a recession more severe than the financial crisis of 2007-08. Early signs of recession started appearing last year with the global economic slowdown, the Sino-American trade war, and the recently started Russia-Saudi Arabia fuel price war.

Now, with the havoc created by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, a deep global recession becomes inescapable. It doesn’t require extensive research to suggest that the outcomes of this recession are going to be catastrophic — furloughs and layoffs, sharp rise in unemployment, stock market crash, the collapse of the oil price, increase in government debt, market liquidity crisis and the downturn in consumerism to name a few. Needless to say, India, too, will go through substantial economic turbulence.

Apparently, India did its best to prevent the crisis when it announced a nationwide lockdown of 21 days in March earlier than most other countries in the West and announced an economic relief package considering the economic hardships of a large section of the population, including migrants, workers from the informal sector, daily wage laborers, etc. While timely government intervention in the form of relief package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore was the need of the hour, it was doubtlessly insufficient. Considering the grave economic situation the country is facing, it is imperative for the government to take corrective measures to lessen, if not avoid, the adverse effects of an upcoming recession.

Keynesian economics advocated expansionary fiscal and monetary policies during the recession. Expansionary fiscal policy, characterised by increased government spending and decreased taxation, should ideally raise aggregate demand and increase consumption. The idea is to inject spending into the economy during a recession when no one is spending and reduce spending and collect taxes when the economy is booming.

As long as the lockdown persists, the govt must make use of this period to reshape trade and manufacturing policies and invest in social capital.

The fact that the two main components of GDP, namely private investment and consumption, observe a sharp decline, government spending assumes particular importance. When the private sector is unwilling to make investments, the government has to balance the economy and not letting it get into a downward spiral. However, the question here arises: how is the government going to take such expansionary measures at a time when keeping the fiscal deficit target of 3.5% itself seems challenging in FY21?

In such a situation, the expenditure revenue gap has to be financed by either printing of new currency or through borrowing. According to Swaminathan Aiyar,

“At this point, you should not be afraid of increasing the fiscal deficit several times. I would say just print money. The government should have extra borrowing financed entirely by the Reserve Bank of India printing money. The implementation of the same will be a once and for all to address a huge explosion of fiscal deficit.”

Indeed, it is not the time to think about the inflationary consequences of such an exercise. Desperate time, desperate measures.

We need to recall how China reacted to the global financial crisis of 2008-09 with its massive infrastructure investment programmes in order to stimulate its economy. China survived a recession triggered by the financial crisis, albeit with some negative consequences. But the fact is that fiscal stimulus grows and pays. At this moment, infrastructure investment, to a moderate level, is one thing India should stick to without a second thought. The creation of durable assets will aid in economic growth sooner or later. Needless to say, it must include social infrastructure investment.

The other part of the expansionary fiscal policy calls for decreasing taxes, which means households have more disposable income to spend. This will lead to increased consumption if everything goes right. The same exercise has to be done with corporates, along with the expansionary monetary policy, which typically includes lowering of interest rates by loosening of policy rates, open market operations, and changes in the CRR and SLR. The idea is to increase the money supply to stimulate aggregate demand. However, ensuring the effective transmission of monetary policy remains a challenge before the RBI.

India’s growth has been primarily driven by consumption. India has a substantial middle-income group base, which has the potential to spur demand at a time when everything seems to be going in the wrong direction. A consumption-led growth model can help revive the economy, provided that the government does what the need of the hour is.

Healthcare and education, discount retails, consultancy, FMCG, utility industries and personal services are some industries and sectors that thrive despite a recession. Efforts must be taken to ensure that they remain resource-efficient and are unaffected during the recession. It is equally important to improve infrastructure and seek prospects of exports in these sectors.

The International Monetary Fund has said that India and China are the only two major economies that will maintain a positive growth rate.

However, a majority of the industries, including hospitality, energy, tourism, automobile and steel industry, have already started facing the brunt of recession. It is evident in such a situation that the stock market can’t flourish. The government and businesses must not lose the trust of investors. After all, psychology plays a massive role in influencing decisions in stock markets. The negative image of our country’s business environment can’t make investors stay in the market for too long.

The International Monetary Fund has said that India and China are the only two major economies that will maintain a positive growth rate. China has been giving out relief packages ever since its economic slowdown began a year ago. It also began many income-generating programmes. Moreover, the country has increased its MSMEs’ access to loans. Therefore, both countries need a common front to confront this economic crisis. You can cross over turbulent waters of an ocean only when you hold the hand of someone who knows swimming.

In the meantime, businesses need to renovate their business models, reshape their approach and strategies, understand their market and consumers in the post-pandemic world, and re-engineer business processes. Businesses can improve their market share by efficient management of supply chains, such as diversifying suppliers to avoid supply shocks, proactive collaboration with suppliers, making inventory visible online, pre-ordering, working from home, etc.

Daunting challenges are ahead, but there remain opportunities too, one being infrastructural development. Infrastructural investment herein includes both Greenfield and Brownfield infrastructure projects. It will mobilise idle resources, create employment opportunities, stabilise macroeconomic scenarios, and improve productivity and growth. Keynes called it the ‘Multiplier effect’.

Also, low crude oil prices offer a strategic handle to India. It will undoubtedly enable the government to manage fiscal consolidation at a time when the burgeoning gap between expenditure and revenue is raising concerns over the viability of stimulus programmes. As long as the lockdown, entirely or partially, persists, the government should make use of this period by reshaping trade and manufacturing policies, investing in social capital, completing pending development projects, building infrastructure conducive for emerging technologies such as 5G and hybrid vehicles and refurbishing growth model that is in congruence with sustainable development.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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