The HINDU Notes – 20th May 2020 - VISION

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 20th May 2020

πŸ“° COVID-19 unlikely to affect illicit drug supply

Restrictions may lead to drop in seizures, but no real change in supply: UN agency

•Movement restrictions owing to the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to an initial statistical reduction in drug seizures, but without a real change in terms of supply in the East and Southeast Asia region, according to the latest report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

•Re-ordering of governments’ priorities and resources towards the pandemic could also jeopardise the efforts to strengthen drug prevention and treatment programmes, said the report on “Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia”.

•The report said that not every fluctuation in terms of drug seizures, prices, drug-related arrests or deaths in the coming months would be a direct or indirect consequence of the outbreak.

•“Organised crime groups active in the region have shown a high degree of flexibility to respond to shortages of supplies, raising risk levels on certain trafficking routes. The flexibility of the illicit economy, which does not have to wait for new rules and regulations to enter into force, should also not be underestimated,” it said.

•The UNODC said a large proportion of methamphetamine, the main synthetic drug of concern in the region, was manufactured, trafficked and consumed without the need for globalised supply chains. “Trafficking in the lower Mekong region also takes place in a variety of ways across borders which are porous and difficult to control ... While containerised trafficking exists, it is just one of many methods used...” said the report.

•Where movements were significantly affected, for instance couriers and body-packing through airports, methods would change quickly, leading to an initial statistical reduction in seizures, but without a real change in terms of supply.

•Additional efforts would be required at the national, regional and international level to carefully analyse methods and trends to understand changes to drug markets in the wake of the pandemic, it added.

πŸ“° Hotter oceans spawn super cyclones

Record temperatures in the Bay of Bengal have set the stage for storm systems

•Higher than normal temperatures in the Bay of Bengal (BoB) may be whetting ‘super cyclones’ and the lockdown, indirectly, may have played a role, meteorologists and atmospheric science experts told The Hindu .

•Super cyclone Amphan that is barrelling towards West Bengal is the strongest storm to have formed in the BoB since the Super Cyclone of 1999 that ravaged Paradip in Odisha, said Director-General, India Meteorological Department M. Mohapatra.

Warmer waters

•Cyclones gain their energy from the heat and moisture generated from warm ocean surfaces. This year, the BoB has posted record summer temperatures a fall-out, as researchers have warned, of global warming from fossil fuel emissions that has been heating up oceans.

•“The BoB has been particularly warm. Some of the buoys have registered maximum surface temperatures of 32-34°C consecutively, for the first two weeks of May. These are record temperatures driven by climate change — we have never seen such high values until now,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, a scientist with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune, who has also co-authored IPCC reports on oceans and the cryosphere.

•Cyclone Amphan intensified from a category-1 cyclone to category-5 in 18 hours, an unusually quick evolution. Last year Fani, a category 4 cyclone, which swept through the Odisha coast, was again fuelled by high temperatures in the BoB.

•While tropical cyclones in these seas are a typical feature of the summer months and play a role in aiding the arrival of the monsoon, Dr. Koll said warming around India is not longer restricted to just the BoB but also the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. This makes storm prediction less reliable as well as disrupting monsoon patterns.

Lockdown impact

•Another researcher said the elevated ocean temperatures this year could, in part, be explained by the lockdown. Reduced particulate matter emissions during the lockdown meant fewer aerosols, such as black carbon, that are known to reflect sunlight and heat away from the surface.

•Every year, increased particulate pollution from the Indo-Gangetic plains is transported towards the BoB and this also influences the formation of clouds over the ocean, said V. Vinoj, Assistant Professor, School of Earth, Ocean and Climate Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bhubaneswar.

•“Fewer clouds and more heat in the Bay of Bengal may have amplified the strength of the cyclone,” he told The Hindu. “We’ve observed that during the lockdown from March-April, BoB temperatures have been 1-3°C higher than normal. But the exact contribution from aerosols to this still to be determined.” He and his colleagues are working on a research paper on these lines.

πŸ“° ‘India, U.S. to collaborate on vaccine trials’

Focus is on safe, cost-effective vaccines against a range of infectious diseases: U.S. health officials

•India and the U.S. plan to work together on vaccine research and testing for COVID-19, U.S. health officials said here on Tuesday, listing a number of other ways in which the two countries are working together.

•“U.S. and Indian scientists have been collaborating on key research questions fostering the development and testing of safe, cost-effective vaccines against a range of infectious diseases that could save innumerable lives in India, the United States, and around the world,” U.S. Embassy Health and Human Services (HHS) attachΓ© Preetha Rajaraman told reporters at a briefing in New Delhi.

•“In the context of the current pandemic, partners under the Vaccine Action Programme (VAP) are planning to collaborate on the development and testing of vaccine candidates and diagnostics for COVID-19,” she added.

•The VAP, or the Indo-U.S. Vaccine Action Program (VAP), is a 33-year collaboration between the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Indian Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) along with other partners.

•Meanwhile, 50 ventilators from the United States are expected in India shortly, the embassy said, as part of the donation of 200 ventilators announced by President Donald Trump last week.

‘Part of funding’

•The ventilators, which will be paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), are part of $5.9 million in funding announced to date for India, said USAID Acting Director Ramona El Hamzaoui, briefing journalists about the work of the agency, adding that the amount was a part of a worldwide commitment of $900 million made available for combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

•“The United States government is providing access to high-quality, American-made ventilators to designated countries as soon as the domestic supply chain and vendors are able to produce and deliver orders,” Ms. Hamzaoui said.

•She added that USAID would facilitate a discussion between the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the manufacturer “to ensure that the local context and needs are considered before placing the final purchase order.”

•The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said it would separately fund the Government of India $3.6 million to support “prevention, preparedness, and response activities in India, in collaboration with and concurrence from the GoI.”

πŸ“° Reform or face fund cuts, Trump tells WHO

U.S. President threatens to leave organisation if it fails to demonstrate independence from China

•As the World Health Assembly met virtually to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. President Donald Trump told the World Health Organization (WHO) that the U.S. will make permanent its funding cuts to the organisation and consider leaving it, if it did not commit to “major substantial reform” within the next 30 days.

•“...If the World Health Organization does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of U.S. funding to the WHO permanent and reconsider our membership to the organization,” Mr. Trump wrote in a four-page letter to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

•Mr. Trump had temporarily stopped the funding last month and begun a review of the WHO’s handling of the pandemic, which the President and others in his administration have repeatedly criticised, particularly the global health body’s relationship to China.

•Critics have argued that while the WHO could have acted more decisively and quickly, Mr. Trump’s allegations against the organisation were often his way of deflecting the criticism of his own handling of the pandemic. Mr. Trump’s letter largely consisted of a list of criticism of the WHO’s handling of the pandemic. It also compared Mr. Ghebreyesus’s handling of the situation with former WHO chief Gro Harlem Brundtland’s handling of SARS in 2003.

•“Many lives could have been saved had you followed Dr. Brundltland’s example,” Mr. Trump wrote. “It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organisation in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world.”

•Mr. Trump said the only way forward for the WHO would be to demonstrate independence from China.

πŸ“° Behind new incidents, a changed dynamic along India-China border

India has upgraded its infrastructure, letting troops beef up patrol in areas where China has established a more frequent presence

•A greater capability by India to patrol up to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) coupled with an increasingly assertive Chinese posture is fuelling new tensions along the border, according to former senior Indian officials.

•Indian and Chinese troops have been involved in as many as four incidents in recent weeks along the undefined LAC. On Monday, Chinese state media said the People’s Liberation Army was “tightening control” in one of the flashpoints in Galwan Valley in the western sector, after it accused India of “unilaterally” changing the status quo by “illegal construction”. A build-up has also been reported in Demchok in Ladakh.

•Separately, troops from both sides were involved in fisticuffs that led to injuries following stand-off incidents on May 5 near the Pangong Tso lake in Eastern Ladakh and on May 9 in Naku La in North Sikkim. Army Chief General Manoj Naravane said on May 14 the two incidents were not related and there had been “aggressive behaviour and minor injuries on both sides”. Both sides had since disengaged at these two spots.

•Face-off incidents occur routinely in the summer months when both sides are able to more frequently patrol up to their respective perceptions of the LAC. Detailed protocols are in place for troops to handle such incidents. According to the 2005 protocol on modalities for implementing confidence-building measures, neither “shall use force or threaten to use force” and “both sides shall treat each other with courtesy and refrain from any provocative actions”.

•The 2013 Border Defence Cooperation Agreement said patrols “shall not follow or tail patrols of the other side in areas where there is no common understanding” of the LAC. It called for both sides to “exercise maximum self-restraint, refrain from any provocative actions, not use force or threaten to use force against the other side” in face-offs.

•“With more intensified patrolling on both sides, the open space available has shrunk, so face-to-face situations will occur; what is different is the aggressive manner in which Chinese troops behaved and prevented Indian troops from patrolling,” said Ashok Kantha, Ambassador to China from 2014 to 2016. Jostling and fisticuffs were a cause for concern because they could lead to unintended consequences or escalation, he said. “There is a larger pattern that the Chinese are becoming more assertive in pursuing their territorial claims in contested areas, that is happening both in the South China Sea and along the India China border.”

•India has been upgrading its infrastructure along the border, thereby allowing troops to patrol with greater depth and frequency into areas where the Chinese had, by virtue of favourable terrain and better infrastructure, established a more frequent presence. That is now being challenged.

•By December 2022, all 61 strategic roads along the border, spread across Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, will be completed, adding up to 3,417 km in length.

On-the-ground dynamic

•These incidents were more likely fuelled by the on-the-ground dynamic than other geopolitical factors or tensions, such as India’s tightening of FDI from China or the COVID-19 pandemic, said Gautam Bambawale, who was India’s Ambassador to China from 2017 to 2018.

•“I don’t see a link between FDI tightening and these incidents, it does not work that way,” he said. “What is happening is both sides are patrolling more aggressively. As a result of that, it is more than likely that you will run into each other, because of better connectivity and roads on both sides.”

•Clarifying perceptions of the LAC could help, but China has stalled the process. “They are afraid the LAC will become the boundary,” Mr. Bambawale said. “Our point is we don’t have to negotiate one common line, but negotiate a line that they don’t cross, and another line that we don’t cross.”

•If tactical imperatives are driving recent incidents, they could have strategic consequences, said Zorawar Daulet Singh, adjunct fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies. “India is seeking to restore a balance, to the extent that it is possible given enduring advantages of terrain and logistics on the Chinese side, by creating road and air connectivity to the LAC,” he said. “The PLA is rattled by this. With both sides now engaged in forward policies and convinced of their right to do so, it makes for an explosive mix.”

πŸ“° Criteria for ‘medium’ units to be revised

Companies with up to ₹50-crore investment, ₹200-crore turnover will come under this classification

•Days after changing the definition of MSMEs, the government has decided to further revise the criteria for medium-sized units by enhancing the investment and turnover limits to up to ₹50 crore and ₹200 crore respectively, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Tuesday.

•Unveiling the contours of the ₹20-lakh-crore stimulus package, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had last last week announced a change in the definition of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

•As per the revised definition, any firm with an investment of up to ₹1 crore and turnover under ₹5 crore will be classified as ‘micro.’

•A company with an investment of up to ₹10 crore and a turnover of up to ₹50 crore will be classified as ‘small’ and a firm with an investment of up to ₹20 crore and a turnover under ₹100 crore will be classified as ‘medium.’

•The previous criteria for classifying enterprises in the ‘medium’ category was an investment of up to ₹10 crore and a turnover of up to ₹50 crore.

•“We have taken a decision to raise the up to ₹20 crore investment (criteria) to up to ₹50 crore and turnover (limit) to up to ₹200 crore. So, we will issue an order for that,” Mr. Gadkari said.

•The Minister for MSMEs and Road Transport and Highways said he felt the criteria should be based on investment ‘or’ turnover instead of investment ‘and’ turnover as announced, adding that the government ‘will rectify the same.’

Raising limit to ₹250 cr.

•The Minister said he was also open to considering suggestions regarding enhancing the turnover limit to up to ₹250 crore for medium enterprises, and will take up the matter with the MSME Secretary.

•Mr. Gadkari said the government planned to raise MSMEs’ contribution to India’s exports to 60% from the 48% at present and also boost the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP from 29% currently to 50%.

•“We are planning to create five crore new jobs. Until now, we have created 11 crore jobs,” said the Minister, adding that he was keen on developing Indian MSMEs of international standards.

China factor

•Interacting with representatives from an exporters’ body, he urged them to take advantage of the ‘blessing in disguise’ posed by the global ‘hatred against China’ through cost reduction and encouraging import substitution.

•Besides, Mr. Gadkari said the government wanted to make bus ports and was also planning to build logistics parks.

πŸ“° The changing nature of Chinese diplomacy

Unilateralism and a one-size-fits-all approach have replaced the Zhou and Deng strategy of persuasion and compromise

•If U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt believed that if you “speak softly and carry a big stick: you will go far”, half a century later and many thousands of miles away, another man practised it. His name was Zhou Enlai ( picture ).

Persuasion and compromise

•If Mao Zedong represented the crude face of Chinese communism, then Zhou was the epitome of its refinement. Where Mao preferred to exercise his power from “out of the barrel of a gun”, Zhou preferred to seduce his opponents through word and gesture in the pursuit of national self-interest, with the elegance of an opera star. The stick was used rarely, and only when all other means of persuasion failed.

•When General Douglas MacArthur’s armies crossed into North Korea, Zhou summoned the Indian Ambassador in Beijing to deliver a message to the Americans: “If the U.S. troops cross the 38th Parallel... we will intervene.” The manner of his delivery was as subtle as its message was blunt. Zhou could have thrown down the gauntlet in public but chose to give diplomacy a chance.

•When, however, the U.S., regardless of Chinese concerns, crossed the 38th Parallel, the Chinese attacked and brought the world’s greatest power to a standstill.

•A few years later, in 1954, the Chinese made their entry onto the world stage in Geneva. The Vietnamese were winning against the French in the First Indochina War, and the Americans were preparing to intervene fearing that another “domino” would fall to communism. China’s self-interest lay in ending this war while denying the U.S. a foothold in its backyard. Zhou’s strategy was to undermine western unity. His watchwords were persuasion and compromise. Describing his presence in Geneva as “a performance on the stage”, he deployed all his charm, vitality and intelligence. He even gave “face” to the French who had just lost to the Vietnamese in the battle of Dien Bien Phu, by travelling the “extra mile” to meet Prime Minister Pierre MendΓ¨s-France to secure the peace. At the start of the Conference, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had pronounced that the “Chinese communist regime will not come to Geneva to be honoured by us, but rather to account before the bar of world opinion”. Playing the weaker hand, Zhou turned the tables on the U.S.

•A year later, at the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Zhou used the same tactics to pursue another objective; the leaders of the Afro-Asian countries. He deliberately kept a low profile, allowing Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Indonesian President Sukarno to take the lead. His tactic, he reported to Mao, was “not to be involved in provocative or disruptive debate”. His guidance to his team was to “strive to expand the united front of the world peace force... and create conditions for establishing diplomatic work or diplomatic relations between China and a number of Afro-Asian countries”.

All roads led to Beijing

•Zhou’s style of diplomacy came to define Chinese foreign policy over the next half-century. The strategy was consistent: avoid isolation, build solidarity with non-aligned countries, divide the West. The tactics were called ‘united front’ — isolate the main threat by building unity with all other forces. It was a game that Zhou would play with consummate skill.

•Under Zhou, diplomats of calibre kept the ship of state steady in a churning sea full of storms, some self-made like the Cultural Revolution. When the tide rose, these diplomatic fishermen gathered the fish — expanding China’s global presence and gaining international acceptability. When it ebbed, they saw to it that the ship remained firmly moored. They navigated the Cold War, playing the Soviets against the Americans. To relieve pressure, Zhou opened border talks with the Soviets and channels to the U.S. Public animosity did not deter him from turning on the full extent of his charm on either Alexei Kosygin or Henry Kissinger. In February 1972, he persuaded U.S. President Richard Nixon to abandon Taiwan when the communists had not exercised actual sovereignty over that island even for a single day since 1949. It was a staggering act of diplomacy.

•In the 1980s, when Deng Xiaoping took up the reins, Zhou’s ‘sailors’ continued to navigate the Chinese ship through the early days of opening up to the outside world. Deng supplemented Zhou’s strategy with a “24-Character Strategy” of his own: “Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.”

•It became the ‘mantra’ of Chinese diplomacy. Chinese diplomats measured their words and kept their dignity. They projected power but rarely blustered. They were masters of their brief because Zhou had taught them that the real advantage in negotiations was to know more than the other side. They flattered acquaintances, calling them “old friends”. They built relationships by making it a point to engage the less friendly interlocutors with greater courtesies than friends. Behind closed doors, they were tireless in whittling down opposition through negotiation, and skilful in putting the onus of responsibility for failure on the other party. And occasionally, ever so subtly, they would hold out a veiled threat with a look of concern rather like an uncle anxious to save you from embarrassment. But they rarely offended.

•The 1980s and 1990s were the high noon for Chinese diplomacy. All roads led to Beijing. U.S. President George Bush and Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev made their way to the Forbidden City. They normalised relations, settled borders and won hearts and minds through general financial help. So seductive was Chinese diplomacy that the Americans even broke their own sanctions imposed after the 1989 ‘Tian An Men Incident’, within a matter of four weeks. A decade later, the U.S. and the European Union bought into Chinese assurances that it would soon transition to a market economy, and helped steer it into the World Trade Organization.

Breaking away from moorings

•Deng died in 1997. China prospered just as Deng had imagined. It began to occupy centre stage in world diplomacy, but the ship began to come apart from its moorings. A new generation of diplomats, with knowledge of the English language and a careerist mindset, has started to whittle away at the anchors laid down by Zhou and Deng. Arrogance has replaced humility. Persuasion is quickly abandoned in favour of the stick when countries take actions contrary to Chinese wishes. The Chinese pursue unilateralism instead of compromise in the South China Sea. In place of ‘united front’ tactics, they are bent on creating irritations simultaneously with multiple neighbouring countries. To avenge the ‘Century of Humiliation’ that China endured in the hands of western imperial powers from roughly 1839-1840 to 1949, they adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, uncaring that much of the world has done nothing to China and, indeed, shares a similar historical experience.

•Statements of fact or reasoned opinion are seen by them as insult or humiliation. Foreign governments are educated about their responsibilities in managing the media and the narrative, even as the Chinese manipulate the same media to serve their purposes. They expect to receive gratitude for everything they do, including handling COVID-19, as if it was only done with the foreigner in mind. The veneer of humility has thinned. The reserves of goodwill are fast depleting. The ship seems to be adrift at sea.

•China, post-COVID-19, will be operating in a very different external environment. It may wish to recall what Kissinger told the White House staff in July 1971 after his trip to the country: “The Chinese style is impressive. The Russians will fight you for every nickel and dime, and elbow you at every level, and lose a million dollars of goodwill in the process. The Chinese have a sense of the longer trends and focus on that, not on ploymanship.” The Chinese appear to have lost that style. If they cannot regain it, the ship of diplomacy could be dragged further afar from the shore on the receding tide.

πŸ“° Flawed stimulus is justice denied

India is standing at a crossroads as a result of the Central government’s delayed and wrong decisions

•The COVID-19 pandemic and the prolonged national lockdown have brought the Indian economy to a standstill. In tackling the crisis, the Centre has not done much to enable States to benefit from the much-touted benefits of “cooperative federalism”. States are struggling to cope with the unprecedented existential challenges they face. The Centre has relentlessly undermined the immediate necessity for making appropriate financial provisions to enable States to meet the challenge. Most States have already shared their concerns on the inadequate fiscal support from the Centre. Where has India’s money gone? What will happen with the unspent money in the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund?

Too modest a package

•At the end of March, the Centre had announced a stimulus package of Rs. 1.7-lakh crore, out of which about Rs. 1.2-lakh crore was the existing entitlement. It was too modest considering the severity of the COVID-19 crisis. After about a month and a half, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation on May 12, announced a package of Rs. 20-lakh crore without mentioning anything specific for stranded migrant workers and for re-structuring micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Industry has been demanding a package to the tune of 7% to 8% of India’s GDP of over $2.8 trillion, nothing unusual given that similar packages have been announced by other countries to mitigate the damage done to their economies. However, keeping the government’s silence in mind, India Inc. revised its demand for a package to as low as 3% of the GDP. So, a package of the size of almost 10% of the GDP was offered like a masterstroke but without coming clear on the source of funding and oversight provision. The buck was passed to the Finance Minister and, surprisingly, no call was taken on the lockdown.

•The presentation by the Finance Minister, which was more a five-episode package for television, has proved to be a damp squib. There was only word play with nothing for migrant workers, farmers, daily wage earners and the poor facing destitution. On MSMEs, the announcements offer no major concessions; soft loan, PF and tax provisions are shrewd. The redefinition of MSMEs has been long-pending and cannot be called a reform. There is nothing for the States to look forward to that can serve the immediate purpose.

•Since MSMEs have been the hardest hit, being the main employers of industrial workers, their plight is grim. It is small businesses that give traction to entrepreneurial activities in the unorganised sector where migrants from rural India mostly work. Sadly, the process of economic revival has not even commenced and industry is in dire straits. The package that has been announced is too late and too flawed. Ideally, after the first round of an insufficient package, the government should have begun consultations with parliamentarians, Opposition parties and industry representatives to prepare a well-thought-out relief package to re-start the economy. Alas, this did not happen. States which have been at the forefront of the war against COVID-19 have not been given the required funds to help them cope with the public health emergency and support the high influx of returning migrant labourers from industrial locations.

•India’s great middle class, which is also suffering, has found no solace either; nor is it likely that they will get anything substantial from this package. A large number of workers in the organised sector are facing heavy pay cuts, job losses, a sharp fall in income, and uncertainty. Farmers are finding it difficult to get the minimum support price for their produce; a majority of them are in debt and face many obstacles.

Plight of the migrant workers

•The first national lockdown was announced in the most dramatic manner by the Prime Minister late in the evening and without adequate notice. This created panic among migrants who were suddenly left without any income security. A vast majority of them lost their livelihoods and were threatened more by the prospect of death by starvation than by the virus. And they have walked thousands of kilometres to go back home to States such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh — because, for them, a home-coming was the last resort to stay alive. Instead of action by the government, the helping hands seem to be from the Opposition, charitable individuals and social organisations. Such painful displacement could have been avoided by offering industry a timely financial package. Now India faces the loss of lives and livelihoods against the backdrop of the ruling dispensation’s apathy towards the poor and the disadvantaged.

•On May 1, some Shramik Express trains were flagged off from certain destinations to take back migrant workers to their home States, but there was another shock — the charges levied by the Indian Railways. How can this be justified in a situation such as this? What is the meaning of being a citizen of this country? On May 4, the president of the Indian National Congress made an assurance that the Congress would bear the cost of travel for poor migrants. Sensing the imminent political loss on this issue, the ruling BJP issued a statement that the Railways would cover 85% of the cost with the State concerned covering the remainder. It is the BJP that is answering queries, when it should be the Government of India that should take up a leadership role in a crisis situation.

•It was expected that the government would accord priority to cutting out wasteful expenditure on projects such as the Central Vista project and the bullet train project and, instead, manage the available resources of the Reserve Bank of India, the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation and the PM CARES Fund to help the poor. This was not to be. The central bank should have been busy with restoring the health of the financial sector and also concerned itself with considering the suggestions of former RBI Governors Raghuram Rajan and C. Rangarajan on adopting an altruistic approach in place of the one driven merely by fiscal and inflationary concerns.

•Stimulus that is delayed and flawed is tantamount to justice denied. Whatever the false compliments India may receive for tackling the pandemic, the fact remains that the country is at a crossroads as a result of late and wrong decisions. The government should follow a single policy, namely people first. The matters of lives and livelihoods should not be pitted against each other. Both issues have to be taken care of simultaneously. The nation is passing through a grave crisis in which a state of denial can be counterproductive. India’s economy is no longer capable of absorbing the shocks from monumental blunders already committed. The country must be rescued from this terrible mess. Mere rhetoric will not help.