Will he? Won’t he?
These are the two questions that 1.3 billion Indians are asking amid expectations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may announce a restricted withdrawal of the nationwide lockdown.
The 21-day lockdown announced on March 24 to contain the spread of COVID-19, which has brought economic activity to a screeching halt, affecting livelihoods of millions, ends on April 14.
There's widespread anticipation that the restrictions could first be rolled back in a phased manner in those areas where there are fewer instances of COVID-19 positive cases.
Also Read: PM Modi to address nation at 10 am tomorrow, decision on lockdown extension likely
In his meeting with Chief Ministers on April 11, Modi had announced a nuanced change in the government's approach, with a renewed focus on 'jaan' (life) and 'jahaan; (livelihood).
"Our mantra earlier was 'jaan hai to jahaan hai' (if there's a life, there's a world) but now is 'jaan bhi, jahaan bhi', (we need a life, we need the world too) the PM told state CMs, perhaps obliquely hinting that the government's strategy would now not just be focusing on saving lives but also kickstarting the economy.
Many states such as Punjab, Odisha, West Bengal, Karnataka and Maharashtra have already announced an extension of lockdown till April 30.
During the weekend, the Union home ministry has been asked to look into the possibility of letting a few sectors restart operations to revive economic activity, as India battles to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
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The recommendations made by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) came on April 12, two days before the 21-day nationwide ends.
All eyes are on Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the next course of action.
Also Read: Coronavirus lockdown | India plans to resume some manufacturing after April 15: Sources
Here's what may happen:
(Disclaimer: This is a scenario mapping, not a definitive information matrix)
Some work is better than no work
The DPIIT suggests that industrial units could begin work with only 20 percent to 25 percent capacity in a single shift.
For work to resume, industries must ensure single entry points for workers, sufficient space for ensuring social distancing, use of separate transport for ferrying workers or provide stay arrangements in factory premises, and high quality regular sanitisation of the premises.
The list of industries to resume work, according to DPIIT, include: cement, textiles, automobiles, seed, fertilisers and plastic among others. You can read the full list here.
Beginning work with limited workforce would allow companies to initiate production.
Economic activities would resume, which would gradually improve the macro indicators. India was already in the middle of an economic slowdown.
Small is where the action is
Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the lifeblood of India’s manufacturing sector, with export commitments could be first off the block with restricted operations.
The sector's ability to repay debt with zero production is a concern that has been plaguing the sector.
Though the Reserve Bank of India announced a moratorium on loan repayments for three months, there have been complains of lack of clarity on the interest payments of term loans.
Resumption of economic activities would provide the sector with a lease of life
Roads and houses
Housing and construction sectors need to be allowed if the labourers stay at the sites with all facilities and safeguards.
These activities are essential to improve the economic situation and provide liquidity in the hands of the people.
After the Prime Minister's announcement of a complete lockdown, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers fled cities and crowded state borders to head home.
If construction activities are allowed to resume, out-of-work labourers would find employment. This could somewhat mitigate concerns over survival of informal workers and feeding themselves.
Bring back the gig workers
The lockdown has affected the income of tens of thousands that function on daily errands and work in towns and cities.
From cobblers to plumbers, to AC repair mechanics to electricians, from the neighbourhood presswalla (dhobi) to the car and cycle repair mechanics to the neighbourhood vegetable and fruit sellers, have found themselves out of job for weeks at a stretch.
The DPIIT is in favour of lifting restrictions on such people, including online aggregators offering such services.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak here