Life, Livelihood & Lockdown By Dr. TAPAN KUMAR CHANDA, FORMER CMD NALCO


Life, Livelihood & Lockdown


In the history of mankind protection of life & livelihood have always been the primary objectives of the society and the state. In past Pandemics- be it Bubonic plague(1346-53),Spanish Influenza(1918-20) , Asian flu,Cholera, Small pox, to name a few had caused havoc with life and livelihood. Now it is COVID-19 spreading from Wuhan, China to 213 countries of the world and affecting more than 3 Million people with death toll mounting to 2 Lakh or more. Possible increase in death toll has created panic. Even some countries like Brazil has kept mass grave yards ready for burial of dead, Belgium has started burning the dead as there may be shortage of space in the grave yard. In some countries like Equador, dead bodies are left on roadside as nobody wants to be near. Such in the scare and desperation. Without any drug or, vaccine the method of control is as old as pandemic itself: Isolation & Social distance. Only difference of present lockdown, shutdown containment etc. in different countries is the degree of humanism, with which it is implemented. Horrific cases of sealing/burning of sick persons in ancient time makes us remind the progress of civilization and the blissful impact of democracy. In present time more the maturity of democratic setup and media vigil, higher is the degree of humanism in lockdown implementation. Since we are in the age of mass society, lives of masses need to be protected at any cost. This confers tremendous power to the Government of the day, even with the consent of the people. However, any excess makes the life protection measures look pale due to miseries caused. It erodes popular support and gives rise to popular disdain. Like a surgery that cuts less to cure is the best, a lockdown with less pain is popular. It is compulsive for lockdown measures to be popular to make it sustainable as war against Corona may involve many battles spread over time. To protect life, our life style need to be changed. There will be a new normal with social distancing being the base,  at least for sometime. It may not be a drastic change in life for all time to come keeping in view the experience of last pandemics. But certainly some changes that articulate the need way come to stay. In India hand wash, “Namaskar” in lew of “Hand-shake” are likely  to stay on as these are part of our culture. Avoiding unnecessary and wasteful gatherings/parties are socially beneficial. Back to family as a primary gregarious social unit will be welcome in west and will be a booster to the social system based on family in India. During the crisis, we have seen people saving, supporting and sharing. Post Corona life may be better with resurgence of human values. Corona pain is likely to bring gain for “We the humans- A new beginning & a new sabera.”

Livelihood is at the core of life. Our constitution also stipulates livelihood as essential part of life. COVID-19 has not only affected life, it has severely impacted livelihood. Lockdown has physically disrupted economic activities and prevented people from earning their livelihood. IMF predicts that, at the end of pandemic, 500 Million people are likely to be pushed below poverty line. Globally the loss is estimated to be around $ 9 Trillion. India loses 35000 Cr. per day of lockdown. On a rough estimate 120 Million people in India have temporarily lost their job. Unorganized informal sectors have been hard hit with 65 Million. in construction, 50 Million. in travel, tourism & hospitality, 47 Million in retails, 70 Lakh in food processing, 15 Lakh in E-commerce etc.

Sector wise analysis shows that there will be low impact in agriculture, that contributes 17% of our country’s GDP, engaging 43% of our work force. With a normal monsoon, predicted by IMD and agriculture activities allowed to start in time, the impact will be limited to spill over of other sectors and supply chain disruption of agricultural inputs and products. Agriculture sector is the biggest employer and thankfully it has minimum impact. Mining & Industry contributes 30% of GDP. While mining activities have been exempted and are on track the truck despatch of minerals have been badly affected. Large manufacturing industries have been permitted to continue production and to that extent the first 15 days of lockdown, the impact was marginal. But soon the effects of disruption in logistics, marketing, delay in dispatch and delivery have their toll on inventory build up which had a bouncing effect on production as well. Trade and the services contribute as high as 53% of GDP. Social distancing has devastating effect on tourism, travel, hospitality and entertainment sectors employing 50 Million people. Again, these sectors will open in the last stage of lifting of lockdown and are expected to recover only in end of first half of 2020-21. The biggest causality is the MSME sector, that houses 63 Million units with more than 111 Million employment. The sector contributes 29% of the GDP and 40%-45% of the country’s export. Ninety five percent of MSMEs are micro single proprietary Industries. These units are inherently weak and lockdown impact was devastating. During lockdown all MSMEs are closed.Since the units are in hand to mouth position, they are not capable of making payment to their workers for lockdown period. Many of these MSMEs employ migrant workers. Without payment for lockdown period these workers are most unlikely to come back to work place. A good number of MSMEs are having problems relating to payment of EMI, rent, electricity, bill marketing etc. that need to be addressed. Some measures that can be thought of are;-

  1. Interest free loan towards payment of wages during lockdown and upto 6 months of after lockdown period. In addition to moratorium on EMI payment which have been introduced by RBI.
  2. Assistance for marketing of existing inventory of products.
  • Handholding support by mother/large industries.
  1. Cashless model for MSMEs of manufacturing sector under which mother plant to provide input and buy back output of finished products. To this extent mother plant and MSMEs in the respective hinterland to enter into a tie up agreement for 10 years with provision for renewal. This model will be mutually beneficial. It will help reviving the MSMEs and improving realization of mother plant, besides relieving the pressure of employment from surrounding, society as MSMEs will provide an alternate and viable source of engagement. Strong focus on MSMEs will help realizing the target of raising employment from the existing 111 Million people to 150 Million people.

Mineral rich Odisha has a strong case for introducing such mentoring by mother plant and cashless model in respect of manufacturing based MSMEs. The state is having 3.6 Lakh MSMEs with 15.3 Lakh employment, the average employment per unit being higher than the national average. Since there is huge scope of utilization of mineral resourcesand growth of mineral based manufacturing, cashless model could be an attractive solution for spreading industrialization, creating livelihood, making valued addition and improving realization. Existing 252 large & medium industries in Odisha can be mentors to MSMEs in their hinterland, assisting in providing raw material and technical inputs and buy back finished products/market it under their banner and brand. Such model of promoting MSMEs with detail getting worked out will address the main bottleneck of procurement & marketing and ensures sure success of viability and sustainability of the units. Further global players taking up projects etc in Odisha can be persuaded to take local partners of small and medium MSMEs, who can have opportunity to work with global players and in due course acquire global practices and technology for business ventures.

One of the immediate problem in respect of livelihood relates to migrant workers from Odisha numbering more than 8 Lakh and comprising of skilled, semi-skilled, unskilled labours. While unskilled labours can be engaged in “NREGA” jobs in their respective Panchayats, the skilled and unskilled labours can be planned to be deployed in industrial jobs like expansion, AMR, operation, assistance and MSMEs of large industries and specific works like painters for painting in town and public city walls, Swechata mission, construction and infra projects, highway projects and some in training to make them job ready. What is required is a consorted action by Government, industry, trade bodies like CII, FICCI, AAI etc. & civil society to protect livelihood as is being done in protecting life. Actual criterial for measuring success of a State in management of COVID-19 should not only be limited to protecting life but also to extend protecting livelihood as life and livelihood are the two sides of same coin.