ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Is Borrowing Relief Ending Too Soon?

The Reserve Bank of India’s loan repayment moratorium, announced at the end of March 2020 and extended to 31 August 2020, was conceptualised and implemented as a COVID-19 crisis-response measure. While the moratorium ended, the crisis has not. Findings from a survey of 1,452 rural microfinance clients in Maharashtra, conducted in July–August 2020, show that a critical majority of borrowers continue to experience significant income deficits, and will not be in a position to service their debts for the foreseeable future.

Impact of Lockdown Relief Measures on Informal Enterprises and Workers

Much has been said and written about the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the Indian economy, the stimulus packages announced by the Government of India and the sad plight of the migrant workers. This article brings into focus segments of the economy that constitute the bottom of the labour hierarchy, namely microenterprises, construction workers, street vendors and domestic workers. Will the relief measure help refigure their livelihoods after the lockdown is lifted?

How Did Agri-start-ups Fare during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Although agricultural start-ups in India took a hit due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown, they have enormous potential in aiding economic recovery. A survey of 162 start-ups from 29 states, located in 98 cities, reveals that many start-ups have tailored their products, modified their technologies and invested in their long-term growth potential, even as they suffered from liquidity crunch, lack of investor funds and poor demand. The government should provide capital access, market access support and end-to-end solutions for innovation and marketing towards harnessing the power of these start-ups.

Expanding Discursive Spaces: Community Radio during COVID-19 and Beyond

Locating the ongoing migrant worker crisis in the politics of voice poverty and lack of access to spaces of representation, the article examines the role played by a grass-roots medium like community radio in India and elsewhere to provide discursive spaces for interest articulation for marginalised communities. Despite the lack of public funding and state support, community radio stations across India have risen to the occasion by broadcasting locally relevant information in local languages and helped mobilise communities to deal with the crisis. The article suggests that genuine democratisation of media may yet be possible with appropriate measures to address issues of information access and communicative equity.

Restoring Employment and Rural Landscapes

The national lockdown unleashed an unprecedented economic crisis on millions of poor urban migrants who lost their employment and were forced to “reverse-migrate” to their homes on foot over vast distances. However, the rural areas—from where they originated—were already reeling under severe and rapid economic and ecological degradation and were ill-equipped to deal with this sudden increase in the demand for livelihood opportunities. In this paper, we demonstrate the potential of “ecological restoration” of primarily rural landscapes in India to generate rapid and high-volume employment along with other co-benefits.

Whither One Health in India?

The COVID-19 pandemic has sharply brought into focus how intrusions into natural landscapes are not just environmental concerns, but are also intricately entangled with public health. Little attention has been paid to systemic causes such as large-scale biodiversity loss that underlie the emergence and re-emergence of these diseases. Institutional networks of public and animal health in India that are involved in the surveillance and control of zoonoses are outlined herein. It is shown that the lack of a systematic framework that explicitly involves institutions that manage biodiversity and wildlife health leads to gaps in operationalising a One Health framework in India. Addressing these lacunae requires a supra-ministerial mechanism that brings together public health, ecology, and veterinary and social sciences to combat the threats posed by existing and emerging zoonoses.

Interconnectedness of Illegal Wildlife Trade and COVID-19

Since its outbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic’s interlinkages with illegal wildlife trade have caught a lot of attention and been touted as a primary cause. Dwelling on the carrier species of coronavirus that have been implicated and the channels of zoonotic spillover, the policies implemented to curb bushmeat consumption with incomplete ramifications to curb illegal wildlife markets are critiqued. The urgent need to address the problem is highlighted, requiring significant enforcement efforts at the local and national level along with transnational cooperation to make them successful. There is a need for alternative coordinated solutions for the COVID-19 vaccine which ironically finds its origin in a wildlife product.

Crumbling Firewalls

Ownership of banks by industrial houses will cost the economy dearly.

COVID-19-led Migrant Crisis

The genesis and evolution of the COVID-19-led migrant crisis in India, along with the institutional responses, is discussed. The focus is on the shortcomings of the response, especially taking into consideration the curtailment of human mobility, which pushed migrants into enormous physical, psychological, and economic vulnerability, and the short-, medium-, and long-term measures provided by the government in order to alleviate them. Alternate policy measures to ensure migrant welfare in the immediate future are suggested.

Will COVID-19 Change the Landscape of Financing Innovation in India?

The COVID-19 pandemic may affect the financing opportunities for innovation. The revenue loss induced by the pandemic is likely to divert the existing resources in aiding firm survival and economic recovery, with financing innovation taking the back seat. Highlighting the current state of innovation in the country, the rise of the country in its innovation ranking and its existing sources of funding is brought to the forefront. Various avenues presently exist for this purpose and more outlets could be explored to boost the funds for innovative efforts. Experience and policies of other emerging economies can help devise suitable measures that could further enhance India’s trajectory up the innovation ranking.

The COVID-19 Crisis

India’s public health system has struggled to cope with the COVID-19 crisis. Even before the pandemic, India’s public health infrastructure was inadequate with only 0.55 beds per 1,000 population, while out-of-pocket expenditure was pushing almost 63 million people back into poverty, as a large number of healthcare positions lie vacant across the country. Faced with a growing disease burden, India’s public health system is in dire need of investment and the COVID-19 crisis is the perfect opportunity to back this policy decision with political will.

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