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Lockdown exit strategy: How MNREGA can be used to beat coronavirus economic blow 

Financial Express , Apr 10, 2020

Even as cases related to coronavirus are on a steep rise in India, keeping the country under lockdown for a long period may do much harm to the economy. To gradually restart the cycle of economic growth, FICCI has suggested the exit strategy that includes lifting the lockdown selectively across the country. It said that the districts that do not have any Covid-19 cases should start production, distribution, consumption, transportation, and other economic activities. The industry body has also advised the district collectors to ensure full harvesting with the help of MNREGA workers as the harvesting season is on.

Movement of goods

Adding to it, the entire agri-value chain should be opened and facilitated for the movement of seeds and fertilisers to farmers, and to sell crops in mandis. The report has suggested to immediately allow the movement of all goods traffic without any distinction of essential or non-essential. It said that such advisories have already been circulated but on the ground it is not being implemented at many places.

Grocery stores

The step-by-step guide by the industry body advocated allowing stores for walk-in and allowing grocery stores to be open for customers with strict enforcement commitment by all to maintain social distancing and health and safety standards. The aim of this move is to help the communities source the essential items and reduce panic.

Poultry sector

More than the effect of lockdown, the poultry market of India is hit by the rumours related to eating chicken and other poultry products. Though the government clarified that consuming poultry products is safe, it could not help in changing the belief. In the post-lockdown period, FICCI has suggested maintaining strict hygiene in wet markets and advised to bring ice manufacturing under essential service to bring large-scale cold chain logistics for storage and bringing products to market.

Aviation sector

For domestic travel, it is advised to run the aircraft at one-third of the seating capacity to maintain distance while the tickets can be made expensive. This may also restrict passengers from travelling other than emergency purposes.

While many international agencies have declared the possibility of the global economy to face recession, India and China have still kept out of the list of the countries that may face recession. However, India’s macroeconomic fundamentals were already weak due to longer-than-expected slowdown in the country and this raises an uncertainty enveloping the economy in the near-term. The full impact of Covid-19 can only be established once the number of related cases decreases and the spread is arrested.