The econ­omy is cry­ing out ‘start me up’

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - SPOTLIGHT - JASSI KHANGURA jk@jas­sikhangura.com n (The writer is a for­mer Congress MLA from Qila Raipur. Views ex­pressed are per­sonal)

In 1981, Mick Jag­ger sang out loud “If you start me up, I’ll never stop” just as the west­ern world was go­ing through the trauma of a re­ces­sion in­duced by the 2nd OPEC oil price hike.Four­teen years later, Bill Gates and Microsoft in­tro­duced the world to Win­dows 95, which was launched to the sounds of the same beat at a re­ported cost of some $3 mil­lion.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi may not have heard these lyrics, prob­a­bly wouldn’t recog­nise any of the Rolling Stones, even if they were spread out strum­ming their stuff across his lawn, but he is fa­mil­iar with Bill Gates, who would tell him that when time is of the essence, you need to be de­ci­sive.

Gates might even tell him that the $three mil­lion spent en­rich­ing Ol’ Rub­ber Lips was, in hind­sight, a bar­gain given the stu­pen­dous suc­cess of Win­dows. Bill Gates was de­ci­sive then. Modi needs to be de­ci­sive now. To dither now would place at grave risk the eco­nomic fu­ture of this coun­try.

In­dia was never a fine­ly­tuned eco­nomic ma­chine but, for most years, it was a splut­ter­ing en­gine. Parts worked, others did not, new and old alike, but some­how we man­aged most years to keep mov­ing for­ward at some vari­able pace. In growth terms, In­dia was never an eco­nomic tiger.

IN­DIA IS IN LARGE PARTS UNLOCKDOWN­ABLE

Now in spite of meet­ing a huge coro­n­avirus wreck­ing ball head on, the econ­omy still has a pulse, just, and can still be started up, pro­vided we act soon. De­lay and the words of those leg­endry rock­ers Sta­tus Quo may come true: “Down down deeper and down” .The gov­ern­ment will by now have re­alised that our In­dia is in large parts unlockdown­able. Huge swathes of our pop­u­la­tion live in con­di­tions where so­cial dis­tanc­ing is im­pos­si­ble.

The In­dia that can so­cially dis­tance is that which can bet­ter af­ford health care should COVID-19 strike.The In­dia that can’t so­cially dis­tance is the sig­nif­i­cant ma­jor­ity, which to­day finds it im­pos­si­ble to see a doc­tor or be ad­mit­ted to a pub­lic hos­pi­tal, in spite of demon­strat­ing sig­nif­i­cant COVID-19 symp­toms.

Six years ago, the rul­ing BJP swore that he would work for all of In­dia. The re­al­ity is some­what dif­fer­ent. Ask the tens of mil­lions that are now dis­placed hun­dreds of miles from their work places; hun­gry, dis­traught and de­spon­dent.

This lock­down has caused humongous dam­age to the econ­omy. Lives and busi­nesses have been ru­ined. State and Union trea­suries have been emp­tied. There is only one log­i­cal road to re­cov­ery: the fastest one avail­able. In­dia needs to be started up in one fell swoop and not pro­gres­sively. Restart ag­gres­sively now and al­low con­sumers, com­merce and in­dus­try to con­trib­ute to ris­ing pub­lic rev­enue re­ceipts. In­dia needs to be started up ag­gres­sively be­cause a fal­ter­ing econ­omy has now been wounded so deeply that get­ting the wheels of in­dus­try and com­merce turning, for many, ap­pears a pipedream.

We are not at that point yet, but we are close. Wa­ver now, de­fer start­ing up, or stag­ger un­nec­es­sar­ily the re-open­ing of the econ­omy, and we may find that it is too lit­tle, too late.

As ever ad­ver­sity is a test for those af­fected. Give the busi­nessper­sons and in­dus­tri­al­ists in this coun­try half a chance now and they are likely to sum­mon up the req­ui­site en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit to over­come what to­day seem like in­sur­mount­able odds.

TIME TO TURN ON ALL THE SWITCHES NOW

As in­de­pen­dent In­dia’s eco­nomic growth is more down to pri­vate en­ter­prise than it is to the pub­lic sec­tor, this writer be­lieves that this phoenix can rise strongly if we turn on all the switches now. Fear not the mon­ster that we thought COVID-19 might be. We can fight it with bet­ter test­ing, iso­la­tion and treat­ment. It is not the su­per­bug that wipes out whole pop­u­la­tions overnight. It is a vi­cious dis­ease, but one that we are now bet­ter equipped to fight.

It will be some months be­fore re­li­able an­ti­body test­ing is able to con­firm whether the tim­ing of the lock­down was cor­rect. Right or wrong the de­ci­sion to lock­down was the eas­ier de­ci­sion. Ex­it­ing the lock­down is now far more chal­leng­ing. This econ­omy can still fly, but not if you de­stroy the run­way. In­dia is not only unlockdown­able, it is also un­knock­down­able. Give en­ter­prise a chance, es­pe­cially now that we can man­age the health is­sues bet­ter.

Mr Prime Min­is­ter, In­dia de­serves bet­ter. It needs to be restarted now at full throt­tle. Now.

THIS LOCK­DOWN HAS CAUSED HUMONGOUS DAM­AGE TO THE ECON­OMY. THERE IS ONLY ONE LOG­I­CAL ROAD TO RE­COV­ERY. IN­DIA NEEDS TO BE STARTED UP IN ONE FELL SWOOP AND NOT PRO­GRES­SIVELY

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