Post Covid19 Business and Economy in India: Effects on Weaker Sections and Strategies for Future


Report:

A Webinar Organized by Empower India Foundation

It’s in the new milieu of lockdown that has shut the traditional avenues of public discourses on one side and opened another less-expensive platform online on the other side, that Empower India Foundation as a dynamic organization endeavouring for the empowerment of the backward and marginalized communities held a Webinar that is an online seminar.  The Webinar on the topic “Post Covid19 Business and Economy in India: Effects on Weaker Sections and Strategies for Future” was held on Saturday, the 13th June 2020 between 03:00 pm and 05:45 pm. The Webinar was watched live by 225 viewers.

Remiz Muhammed, General Secretary, Rehab India Foundation was the moderator of the Webinar session.  Following eminent personalities proficient in the state and status of the weaker sections spoke at the Webinar:

  1. E.M. Abdul Rahiman, Chairman, Empower India Foundation
  2. Dr Abu Saleh Sheriff, Member Secretary, Justice Sachar Committee
  3. Prof Amitabh Kundu, Chairperson, Post Sachar Evaluation Committee
  4. Narendranath Damodaran, Executive Director, PRADAN
  5. NP Chekkutty, Senior Journalist
  6. Aaris Mohammed, Trustee, Centre for Social and Constitutional Studies

The session was kicked off with the introductory speech by E.M Abdul Rahiman, Chairman of Empower India Foundation. He welcomed the guests and the viewers. “Empower India Foundation (EIF) provides conceptual, intellectual and motivational support to the community empowerment activities of the marginalised social segments. It’s not an NGO that aims to directly undertake local community development projects; its strategy is liaison, coordination and partnership building with grass root organisations.  EIF tries to support regional and local agencies in identifying priority areas, preparing detailed project reports, connecting them to other similar agencies and service providers, etc.”,  E.M Abdul Rahiman briefed about Empower India Foundation. 

“The idea of organising a Webinar on the effects post-Covid19 economy and business on marginalised sections and community level strategies to overcome it, has occurred after seeing the pains, worries and anxieties of the downtrodden and lower middle classes during this time.  Covid19 lockdown period witnessed various crisis situations, of which migrant labour is only one among those manifold issues. Corona pandemic has thrown BPL families for whom life is already only a suffering to a deeper crisis of starvation and death.  Every section from casual labourers, petty traders, small and medium businessmen and even well-established business houses and better-paid technical and professional staff and NRIs especially from gulf countries on return to India losing their livelihood; all are feeling the heat of a crackdown of their lives,” he explained the backdrop of organizing the Webinar. “This is a very wide and deep-rooted issue that needs urgent attention of all stakeholders from government to the affected groups. And each area needs detailed attention and discussion. This Webinar will explore the state of post-corona economy and business, what are the anticipated effects on marginalised sections like tribals, dalits, Muslims, etc. what are the options before the low and middle income groups who are at the risk of losing their livelihood, what should be the focus areas at community level planning, etc. We are thankful to all speakers and the moderator,” concluded E.M.

The next speaker was Dr Abu Saleh Sheriff who was Member Secretary of Justice Sachar Committee.  He demanded that the government should create employment, the responsibility of which is now left to the private sector; and the government should distribute wealth to the weaker sections equitably. “Existing reservation quota system is to be renewed,” commented Abu Saleh.  “Though the lockdown has affected the poor people badly, they were not addressed properly and the current government response to Covid19 is middle-class focussed leaving the lower-class people literally ignored”, he alleged.  He concluded his speech demanding that the central and state governments must listen to all sensible voices and stop silencing the critical voices.

Prof Amitabh Kundu who was Chairperson of Post Sachar Evaluation Committee addressed the viewers next. His speech was focussed on the migrant labourers. He stated that “Migration is not a bad thing.  Studies show that the living standard of migrants is better than the living standard of the local people.  All migrants are not poor but our present policy does not distinguish between poor migrants and other migrants.  We have 35 million migrant workers, but no separate data about poor migrants are in place. Different categories of migrants like regular, casual and self-employed are to be dealt with separately.  We must estimate those who lost their jobs due to lockdown. An estimated number of 12 million migrant labourers have returned back home. They have to go back to their workplaces in the due course.”

“Muslim community living in urban areas are better placed than tribals and SC/ST who live in rural areas. Urban life has certain benefits which the Muslims too enjoy. Data of last 3 decades show that Muslim migration to urban areas has gone down. Migration rate of Muslims from rural areas to urban areas is the lowest at present. Rate of corona spread is related to labour migration and also living standards of the people”, concluded the Prof. Kundu.

Narendran Damodaran, Executive Director, PRADAN who spoke after Prof. Amitabh, observed that the tribal region supplies labour. They are the poor people living in the middle of high resources. In fact, tribal regions are the economic capitals, not the cities.  Covid19 is an unexpected shock to all communities. Now the migrants back in their home villages are facing worse situation than their previous work places. A PRADAN survey reveals that a very few of the migrant labourers are skilled, and most of them go for cheap casual labour. They are now forced to sit idle since they lack any skill to work in the new situation.  So, the only option for them is to migrate again from their home villages.   “Women are getting more into troubles and even domestic violence increased due to corona lockdown”, Narendran added.   

“About 50 % of the rural people are not even aware of the government schemes for the poor, and the state has failed in helping the poor in this regard. Corona situation became so vulnerable due to unplanned and sudden lockdown. What the NGOs can do now is to link the people to various social security schemes of the government and enrol maximum people in all these schemes.   MGNAREA is a means for sustenance to the poor in the villages.  The present allocation of 1 lakh crore should be enhanced to 2 lakh crores. More young people should be brought to agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy and support it by addressing their problems”, demanded Narendran.

Senior Journalist N. P. Chekkutty in his speech criticised the media for blindly supporting the wrong policies of the government. They have become PR tools of the government. “In India no democratic agitation is seen to counter the harmful policies of the government”, he observed. 

The next speaker Aaris Muhammed, Trustee, Centre for Social and Constitutional Studies observed that the economic decline is a result of globalization.  Losses are socialised and profits are privatised. In the post-Covid period the country is submitting its sovereignty to investors.  That is the real situation of the FDI boom. The weaker section is a vague terminology; there is no government definition for it. In real sense dalits, tribals and Muslims are the weaker sections.

The government have failed to address the economic distress due to Covid. The inflation has reached 9.2 % and there is scarcity of supply while farmers are unable to market their surplus produces. Solution to sustain the weaker sections is thrift-cooperative. Through this we can utilise the skills of the people and build a supply chain. There should be a district level planning taking into account the demands of each weaker section. Map the skills at district level, connect the skills with demands and establish a supply chain. “There are 6000 low category skills and semi skills identified by government of India. Provide livelihood to the poor and low-income group, build new supply chains,  strengthen SHG movement. Through these activities we can even influence the government policies”, suggested Aaris.

Moderator Remiz Muhammed consolidated the questions of the viewers, and the speakers replied to all the questions related to their speeches.  E.M Abdul Rahiman thanked all the guests and viewers.