The majority of the Indian population still lives in villages and almost 70% of the Indian population continues to live in rural areas. According to Socio-Economic Census (2011), almost three fourth s of the rural households live with a monthly income of less than Rs. 5000 and more than half of them are casual labour.
According to Niti Aayog infection has emerged in 98 cities out of 112 of the country’s poorest districts. Due to the coronavirus, the informal factories are affected which has resulted in the loss of rural income and also has insufficient, ill-equipped public health centers and hospitals and due to which the spread of infection has widened and also resulting in lack of food and resources.
During an email interview with PTI, Richard Davis Wolff, an American economist expressed his views that India which have primarily rural economy should use its low (non-urban) population density to stop the spread of the virus and to stress on building a more manageable food security system to counter the pandemic.
He said “it is the third capitalist crash in this century. The first one was the dotcom crisis’ in early 2000 and then the one triggered by widespread sub-prime mortgage default in the US in 2008.The crash was one of the worst in capitalism’s history, second only to the crash of the 1930s. And now, in 2020 and we have a far deeper crash than in 2008.
He believes that Capitalism’s periodic downturns has already affected countries like India and is never solved. Now, crises like climate change, inequality, racism, instability, and the COVID-19 pandemic met to make the global economic crisis more extreme and long-lasting.
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Further elaborating he said, India’s anti pandemic programmes besides involving funds should also focus on two areas- to set up social distancing programmes and protocols for rural conditions and for “secure food system” should prioritize the creation of growing, processing and storing food across the country.
The economist was reportedly doubtful whether large emergency stimulus packages, involving India’s 20 lakh crore package, would help economically backward classes to sustain and offset the historical piled up social deficiencies and exclusions. Though India’s 20 lakh crore emergency package is equivalent to 10 of its GDP.
He told that even these large emergency stimulus packages like India’s package and the US’s cannot offset historical accumulated social deficiencies and exclusions as it will require more money and willingness to undertake major structural changes if today’s response to the crisis is to better protect societies from the repeated crisis in the future.
What Should be the Roadmap Ahead?
According to Wolff, the government of countries trying to steam economic slide should re-employed workers who lost their jobs in the private sectors and also to train them to test the entire population and to otherwise build what society needs to contain the pandemic as part of its roadmap.
“The logical response to this crisis would have been to keep all workers employed doing all that was necessary to contain the pandemic. This means, for example, governments rehiring those fired by private employers, massively training them to test entire populations, to take care of the sick, and to otherwise build what society needs (infrastructure, education, housing, etc) under pandemic conditions of social distancing, masks, gloves,” he elaborated.
According to him, small and medium businesses having limited resources are suffering more as compared to larger industries that will gain the most from bailouts and stimulus programmes.
He suggested, “Major structural changes in national economies, world trade, and finance need to be decided and implemented. Chief among these is a much less unequal global distribution of wealth and income.”
Even Wolff, who is also a visiting professor at New School University, NYC, held the US government responsible for not acquiring the policy of re-employing workers as it has led to the huge unemployment, economic losses, etc in that country.
Hence wolf laid stress on the development of rural areas in India by making the population work against the viral (coronavirus) spread and also stress on building up more manageable food security.