Have Modi's Misguided Policies Turned India Into A Beggar Nation?

India is set to receive nearly $500 million in emergency aid from Japan to cope with rising covid19 cases and worsening economy, according to Hindustan Times. This is the largest amount of financial assistance announced by any country so far to support India’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, which has had widespread impacts on the Indian economy and health sector. India’s economy in the organized sector shrank nearly 24% last quarter. It is likely a 40% decline in GDP after the government takes the unorganized sector into account, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, India is seeing record new daily coronavirus cases and becoming the new epicenter of the covid19 pandemic. Have Indian Prime Minister's misguided policies turned India into a beggar nation? The fact is that India was already the world's biggest recipient of foreign aid even before the pandemic. Pakistan is not even among the top 15 recipients of foreign aid.

India in Crisis:

Many in the world, including India's biggest cheerleader Fareed Zakaria, are beginning to see the stark reality of Modi's India as a big failure on multiple fronts. Indian state has failed to contain the deadly COVID19 pandemic. India’s economy in the organized sector shrank nearly 24% last quarter.  It is likely a 40% decline in GDP after the government takes the unorganized sector into account, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, India is seeing record new daily coronavirus cases and becoming the new epicenter of the covid19 pandemic.  The country's democracy is in decline. India seems like a roadkill for China. This turn of events has created serious problems for Pakistani "liberals" who have long seen and often cited India as a successful example of "secular democracy" at work in South Asia.

Top Aid Recipients and Their Donors in 2017. Source: Wristband Reso...

India World's Top Aid Recipient: 

The Japanese emergency aid of $500 million to India is only the latest instance of multi-billion dollar aid Tokyo has provided to New Delhi in recent years. In fact, India is currently the world's largest recipient of official development assistance (ODA) and Japan is its biggest donor. India's $4.21 billion in assistance is followed by Turkey $4.10 billion, Afghanistan $2.95 billion, Syria $2.77 billion, Ethiopia: $1.94 billion, Bangladesh $1.81 billion, Morocco $1.74 billion, Vietnam $1.61 billion, Iraq $1.60 billion and Indonesia $1.48 billion. Pakistan is not even among the top 15 recipients of foreign aid.

India: Epicenter of COVID19:

India is rapidly becoming the world’s new coronavirus epicenter, setting a record for the biggest single-day rise in cases as experts predict that it’ll soon pass Brazil -- and ultimately the U.S. -- as the worst outbreak globally, according to Bloomberg. Over 78,000 new cases were added in a single day taking the total tally to over 3.6 million. This represented the highest ever one-day surge among all major countries. At the current growth rate, India’s virus cases will eclipse Brazil’s in about a week, and the U.S. in about two months. And unlike the U.S. and Brazil, India’s case growth is still accelerating seven months after the reporting of its first coronavirus case on Jan. 30. The pathogen has only just penetrated the vast rural areas where the bulk of its 1.3 billion population lives, after racing through its dense mega-cities.

COVID19 Growth Fastest in India. Source: Bloomberg

Private International Charity to India:

India tops the list of charity recipients from private foundations while Pakistan is ranked as the 12th largest recipient of philanthropic giving in the world, according to a report released by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).

Private Foundation Philanthropy in Asia. Source: OECD 

Global Philanthropic Foundations:

Philanthropic contributions of major international private foundations in Pakistan totaled  $267 million out of the $42 billion global contribution in  2013-2015.  This compares with $1.6 billion in top-ranked India and $498 billion in second-ranked China.  US-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) contributed nearly half of the $42 billion in global charity by private foundations.

Private foundations are filling the huge gaps in public funding of health and education sectors in developing nations. . They contributed  $11 billion for the health sector alone in the three year period, ranking third behind the United States and a global fund for fighting disease.

Massive Western Aid to India:

In addition to being the biggest recipient of private foreign charity,  India has been the number one recipient of official US aid since 1947, according to the US government data.   The country India's first Prime Minister turned to for help during the 1962 China-India war was also the United States.

India has received $65.1 billion in US aid since its independence, making it the top recipient of American economic assistance. Pakistan, with its $44.4 billion, is at number 5 on the list.  US data also shows that Pakistan is not among top 10 for military or total economic and military aid.

Local Charity in Pakistan:

Pakistanis donate generously to local charities in the country in the form of religiously mandated donations such as "zakat, sadaqa and fitrana".  One of the key measures of empathy is generosity to others, the kind of generosity demonstrated in Pakistan by the likes of  late Abul Sattar Edhi. The Edhi Foundation set up by the great man is funded mainly by small donations from ordinary people in Pakistan.

 Anatol Lieven, author of "Pakistan: A Hard Country" wrote the following tribute to the Mr. Edhi:

"There is no sight in Pakistan more moving than to visit some dusty, impoverished small town in an arid wasteland, apparently abandoned by God and all sensible men and certainly abandoned by the Pakistani state and its elected representatives - and to see the flag of Edhi Foundation flying over a concrete shack with a telephone, and the only ambulance in town standing in front. Here, if anywhere in Pakistan, lies the truth of human religion and human morality."  

What Professor Anatol Lieven describes as "human religion and human morality" is the very essence of the Huqooq-ul-Ibad (Human Rights) in Islam. Abdus Sattar Edhi understood it well when he said, "there's no religion higher than humanity".

Edhi understood the meaning of what the Quran, the Muslim holy book, says in chapter 2 verse 177:

"Righteousness is not that ye turn your faces towards the east or the west, but righteous is, one who believes in God, and the last day, and the angels, and the Book, and the prophets, and who gives wealth for His love to kindred, and orphans, and the poor, and the son of the road, beggars, and those in captivity; and who is steadfast in prayers, and gives alms."

A recent article written by Shazia M. Amjad and Muhammad Ali and published in Stanford Social Innovation Review said that "Pakistan is a generous country. It contributes more than one percent of its GDP to charity, which pushes it into the ranks of far wealthier countries like the United Kingdom (1.3 percent GDP to charity) and Canada (1.2 percent of GDP), and around twice what India gives relative to GDP."

OECD says corporate donations in Pakistan have increased from  $4.5 million to $56.4 million over the last 15 years. Corporate donations are dwarfed by individual donations made as zakat, sadaqa and fitrana as commanded by the Quran.

In addition to zakat, sadaqa and fitrana, Pakistanis spent about $3.5 billion on Eid ul Azha in 2017, according to analysts. This included sacrifice of $2.8 billion worth of livestock and another $700 million on clothes,  shoes, jewelry and various services. This amount represent a huge transfer of wealth from urban to rural population, including many rural poor, in the country. It also brings philanthropic donations of Rs. 2.5 billion to Rs. 3 billion ($25-30 million) worth of animal hides which are sold to the nation's leather industry.

Empathy Study:

A Michigan State University (MSU) study of 63 countries finds that Pakistanis have higher empathy for others than people in their neighboring countries. It also finds that the United States is among the most empathetic nations in the world.

The MSU researchers, led by William J. Chopik,  analyzed the data from an online survey on empathy completed by more than 104,000 people from around the world.

The survey measured people’s compassion for others and their tendency to imagine others’ point of view. Countries with small sample sizes were excluded (including most nations in Africa). All told, 63 countries were ranked in the study, according to MSUToday, a publication of Michigan State University.


India's biggest cheerleaders, including Fareed Zakaria, are beginning to see the stark reality of Modi's India as a big failure on multiple fronts. India is set to receive nearly $500 million in emergency aid from Japan to cope with rising covid19 cases and worsening economy, according to Hindustan Times. This Japanese emergency aid of $500 million to India is only the latest instance of multi-billion dollar aid Tokyo has provided to New Delhi in recent years. In fact, India is currently the world's largest recipient of official development assistance (ODA) and Japan is its biggest donor. India was already the world's biggest recipient of foreign aid even before the pandemic. Pakistan is not even among the top 15 recipients of foreign aid.  This $500 million is the largest amount of financial assistance announced by any country so far to support India’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, which has had widespread impacts on the economy and health sector. India’s economy in the organized sector shrank nearly 24% last quarter. It is likely a 40% decline in GDP after the government takes the unorganized sector into account, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, India is seeing record new daily coronavirus cases and becoming the new epicenter of the covid19 pandemic. Have Indian Prime Minister's misguided policies turned India into a beggar nation?

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Is Fareed Zakaria Souring on India? 

Pakistan Success Against COVID19

Study Says Pakistanis Have Higher Empathy Than Neighbors

Comparing Median Wealth and Income in India and Pakistan

Eid ul Azha Economy

Foreign Aid Pouring in India

Huqooq-ul-Ibad in Islam

Philanthropy in Pakistan

Panama Leaks Scandal

Misaq-e-Madina Guided Quaid-e-Azam's Vision of Pakistan

Interfaith Relations in Islam

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

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Comment by Riaz Haq on September 2, 2020 at 10:54am

Narendra Modi has left #India's #economy a shattered mess. #Modi is proving increasingly inept at managing India's economy, with his dream of building a $5 trillion behemoth by 2025 now looking increasingly unachievable. #BJP #COVID19 #pandemic


Ritesh Kumar Singh is chief economist of Indonomics Consulting and a former assistant director of the Finance Commission of India.

Despite his pro-business image, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is proving increasingly inept at managing India's economy, with his dream of building a $5 trillion behemoth by 2025 now looking increasingly unachievable.

A native Gujarati, one of India's most advanced industrial states, Modi has consistently raised hopes that he'd fix the economy and create enough jobs for the 12 million youths who join the country's workforce each year.

six years after riding a wave of optimism into office, India's economy is a shattered mess, with gross domestic product expected to contract for the first time in four decades and unemployment at an all-time high. None of the major growth engines -- consumption, private investment, or exports -- are firing. Worse, the government doesn't have the capacity to try and spend its way out of the downturn.

Managing the economy hasn't been Modi's only fumble. After promising to rein in corruption, Modi approved a disastrous banknote demonetization scheme aimed at eradicating the black market economy and clamping down on tax evasion. In addition to the chaos it created, the scheme ruined the prospects of hundreds of thousands of farmers and small to medium enterprise owners, the two sectors which relied most on cash transactions. While supporters insist the adverse impact of the note ban was short-term, the supposed long-term gains in the fight against corruption remain a pipe dream.

Then came the introduction of a nationwide goods and services tax, which, weakened by inconsistent rates and a plethora of exemptions, hasn't been the game changer voters were promised. Instead of creating a seamless market of 1.3 billion people that businesses could tap to grow faster, it's been a compliance nightmare. In other words, Modi's attempts to use the note ban and the GST to help clean up the Indian economy have actually dampened India's growth prospects.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 6, 2020 at 10:16am

#Modi seems oblivious to what his Finance Minister has publicly admitted. There could be war with #China, the #economy could totally collapse, young, jobless #Indians could soon take to the streets out of desperation. #India #COVIDー19 https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/narendra-modi-ind... via @IndianExpress

Life in our dear Bharat Mata can sometimes seem more surreal than real. Last week we saw surrealism totally subsume reality. It began with the official release of a video of the Prime Minister, in Rishi mode, strolling solemnly in his garden as peacocks frolicked and danced and ate birdseed from the hands of our leader. Who would have thought watching the Prime Minister in his garden that hours later would come the horrible news that the economy has shrunk by 23.9 per cent India has done worse than any other G20 country. This is attributed to that brutal first lockdown being imposed without warning.

The surreal element of this awful news is that the Prime Minister then addressed the US-India Strategic Partnership and said all was well. He urged investors to bring their money to India because of the boundless opportunities for investment that exist. He said, “You have a government that believes in delivering results. A government for which ease of living is as important as ease of doing business.” The truth is that neither is living easy nor doing business. Modi seems oblivious to what his Finance Minister has publicly admitted. Things were bad, she said, but what had happened was ‘an act of God’.

Wrong, Madame, quite wrong. The economy was showing such serious signs of contraction before Covid arrived, that economists evoked memories of those dark decades when the Indian economy was mocked for growing at ‘the Hindu rate of growth’. The economy was doing badly because since his second term began Narendra Modi has concentrated on political matters such as abrogating Article 370 and ramming through that discriminatory amendment to our citizenship law. Both decisions have failed in their separate ways. The Kashmiri people are more alienated than ever before from India, and jihadi violence continues despite the Valley having been under curfew for more than a year. As for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), it has made most Indian Muslims feel as if they are lesser citizens than their Hindu brethren. No amount of soothing words from Modi will erase the memory of the Home Minister describing illegal immigrants from Bangladesh as ‘termites’.


To return to the surreal quality of the week gone by, may I say that the media played its own part in this. With the terrible economic news and the bad news from Ladakh you would think that there would be an end to the obsession with Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. The highest investigative agencies are now examining whether he committed suicide or was murdered, so there is no need for senior TV anchors to behave like bloodhounds waiting for the kill. Alas, the hunt goes on and seems to turn uglier and uglier. On the morning that I write this I switched from channel to channel in English and Hindi and the main story was this venomous hunt.

There could be war with China, the economy could totally collapse, young, jobless Indians could soon take to the streets out of desperation but the only thing that seems to bother our ‘investigative’ TV reporters is the tragic death of a Bollywood star. They have turned the heartbreaking death of a talented young star into a tawdry circus. Indian journalism has never stooped this low.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 8, 2020 at 10:39am

Goldman Sachs projects deeper recession for #India in FY21 with #GDP contraction of 14.8% against its earlier estimate of 11.8% dip in #economic activity. India’s #economy shrank 23.9% in June quarter. #Modi #BJP #COVID19 https://www.livemint.com/news/india/goldman-sachs-projects-deeper-r...

Investment bank Goldman Sachs on Tuesday said it expects Indian economy to undergo a deeper recession in FY21 with a contraction of 14.8% against its earlier estimate of 11.8% dip in economic activity.

“In light of the Q2 (June quarter) GDP report, we are making further significant adjustments to our GDP forecasts for India. We now forecast Q3 (September quarter) 2020, and Q4 (December quarter) 2020 at GDP growth of -13.7% yoy and -9.8% yoy, respectively (compared to -10.7% yoy and -6.7% yoy previously). Our estimates imply that real GDP falls by 11.1% in calendar year 2020, and by 14.8% in FY21 (vs growth of -9.6%, and -11.8% in our previous forecasts)," the investment bank said in a research note.

India’s economy contracted 23.9% in June quarter, worst among the G20 countries and significantly below expectation of most economists. The stringent nationwide pandemic-induced lockdown created a double whammy through both a supply and demand shock as businesses shut down operations and consumers were forced to stay home.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 11, 2020 at 4:55pm

#Indian #startup valuations uncertain amid uncertainty about more #Chinese investments. #China has already invested in 18 of India's 30 #unicorns that include food delivery apps, a ride-hailing app, a hotel chain & #edtech startup. #technology #Ladakh https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-54085830

Indian start-ups, still reeling from the effects of a global pandemic, are now faced with a fresh challenge: the ongoing military standoff between Delhi and Beijing.
India has been on an economic offensive since June, when a border clash in the Himalayan region of Ladakh left 20 Indian soldiers dead. The two sides have since accused each other of violating the border consensus, and tensions have been rising.
Chinese companies have already invested in 18 of India's 30 unicorns - technology companies with a valuation of over $1bn (£772m). The list spans popular food delivery apps, a taxi aggregator, a hotel chain and a company that offers e-learning programmes.
But now their fate - and that of start-ups that were hoping to attract Chinese money in the future - looks uncertain.
“Clearly one big source of capital has vanished,” Haresh Chawla, partner at True North, a private equity firm, said.
“The ecosystem is likely to see muted valuations and slower deal flows, since they [Chinese] were very active, especially in the mobile and consumer segment of the market.”
Delhi has already banned more than 200 Chinese apps, including hugely popular ones such as TikTok and PUBG. It also proscribed investment from China in highway projects and small and medium enterprises. And “boycott China” has become a loud rallying cry.

But all of this came on the heels of something bigger - in April, India introduced tighter foreign direct investment rules to prevent hostile takeovers during the pandemic.
The result has had an outsized impact on India’s capital hungry start-ups.
A decade ago, Chinese investment in India was negligible.
But data obtained by the BBC from start-up research firm Tracxn shows that 35 Chinese corporations and 85 venture capital and private equity firms have invested over $4bn in major Indian start-ups including PayTM, Snapdeal and Swiggy since 2010.
Chinese investment into India as a share of foreign direct investment has more than doubled during this period, from 5% to 11%.
India may have refused to sign up to Beijing’s multi-billion Belt and Road Initiative – a mammoth infrastructure project of overland and maritime routes, often called the modern Silk Route.
But the country “has unwittingly signed up for the virtual corridor,” Gateway House, a think tank, observed in a recent report.
“The impact is unlikely to be dramatic on early-stage investments," Mr Chawla said. "There is enough dry powder with many VCs to shepherd firms through.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 16, 2020 at 9:05am

#Modi's supply chain fantasies will not save #India's failing #economy. #Japan's SCRI offers a way to counter #China's dominance of global #manufacturing but #Delhi's ill-prepared for it, writes Ritesh Kumar Singh, chief economist of Indonomics Consulting https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/Modi-s-supply-chain-fantasies-will-...

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been busy reminding the world, again, that he remains clueless when it comes to securing India's long-term economic future.

The issue this time is trying to reduce India's dependence on China by teaming up with Australia to join Japan's proposed Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, or SCRI.

It's not a bad idea, in theory. Supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19 have underscored the risks associated with excessively relying on China, and provided the perfect opportunity for India to present itself as the world's next best manufacturing hub as more and more countries and corporations seek to limit their China exposure.

Given this backdrop, Japan's SCRI proposal offers a way to counter China's dominance of global manufacturing. Plans to invite the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and probably the U.S., which is engaged in an intensifying trade and tech war with Beijing, would further strengthen the initiative.

But joining Japan's SCRI is not just a matter of flicking a switch. Integrating with the Japanese or Australian economies will be no easy task, not to mention the U.S. and ASEAN. Overcoming the challenges required will involve a deep commitment not only from India, but Japan and Australia as well.

Has Modi forgotten India's recent experience, where freer trade with Japan, South Korea and the ASEAN bloc has resulted in more imports than exports? Despite a full-fledged free-trade agreement with Japan, India's apparel exporters say they are still effectively denied preferential access to Japan's market. Pharmaceutical companies complain that slow regulatory approvals are acting as non-tariff barriers.

India has had a similar experience in Southeast Asia, where its trade deficit with ASEAN has risen from $5 billion in 2011 to $24 billion last year. And despite India signing a free-trade agreement on services with ASEAN, it doesn't benefit Indian services companies all that much, especially those in software development and information technology.

India has its own protection problems too. After raising import duties on 3,600 tariff lines since 2014, more and more goods are being added to its restricted import list. India's excessive cane and sugar subsidies have made it difficult for Australia to compete in international markets, forcing it to take India to the World Trade Organization. Japan, along with Taiwan, has already filed a separate WTO case after India raised its import duties on information and communications technology products.

Trying to involve the U.S. -- the world's largest economy and top importer -- in any alternative supply chain initiative makes sense because it will expand the size of the market needed to help manufacturers reap the benefits of economies of scale. But that's easier said than done.

After nearly four years of President Donald Trump complaining about the size of the U.S. trade deficit, Washington is clearly not in the mood to join an alternative alliance that would lead to it importing even more goods and services. Even a limited India-U. S. trade deal has proved elusive, with Trump demanding improved access for American merchandise, agriculture, and dairy products that no Indian politician can afford to give. Besides, if the U.S. joined the SCRI, it would likely insist on tighter rules on intellectual property, extensive labor law reform, and a range of environment and investment protections that would be difficult for India to comply with.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 17, 2020 at 9:46am

On #India's PM #Modi's 70th Birthday, 'National Unemployment Day' Trends on Social Media. #BJP #Hindutva #Achhedin #राष्ट्रीय_बेरोजगारी_दिवस #NationalUnemploymentDay #NationalUnemploymentDay17Sept https://thewire.in/politics/narendra-modi-birthday-national-unemplo... via @thewire_in

On the occasion of Narendra Modi’s 70th birthday, Twitter users took upon themselves to remind the prime minister of the growing joblessness and acute economic crisis that the country is facing.

Several individuals and political parties simultaneously launched a social media campaign and the day was soon called “National Unemployment Day” on social media. Hashtags like ‘#17Sept17Hrs17Minutes’, ‘#राष्ट्रीयबेरोजगारदिवस’ and ‘#NationalUnemploymentDay’ have been trending on Twitter since morning. These hashtags are part of a protest campaign against the government’s failure to provide employment.

At the time of publishing, the hashtag #राष्ट्रीय_बेरोजगारी_दिवस (or national unemployment day) had over 1.68 million tweets.

The unemployment rate in India has been steadily decelerating and there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people losing jobs in the past quarter. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), since the lockdown was imposed in March, there have been significant job losses across the country, with the overall unemployment rate hitting over 23% in the last week of March 2020. There has been a recovery in recent months, but the unemployment remains higher than the pre-lockdown levels.

The organisation’s recent estimate has shown that the employment situation worsened from the beginning of March 2020, before the lockdown was put in place, and then rapidly spiked in the last week of the month and the first week of April 2020. The downward trend has since continued. The National Statistical Office (NSO) report has also indicated that India’s April-June quarter GDP contracted by 23.9%, the first contraction in more than 40 years.

The angst could be sensed in the memes and messaged that began to pour on Twitter since early September 17.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too joined in and hit out at the Centre over the growing rate of unemployment in India amid the economic crisis. “Massive unemployment has pushed the youth of this country to call today #NationalUnemploymentDay. Employment is dignity. For how long will the Govt deny it?” Gandhi tweeted.

In his tweet, Gandhi tagged a Hindi news report on how over 1 crore Indians are seeking jobs while only 1.77 lakh jobs are currently available across states.


In some places, the celebration took a bizarre turn with party members comparing Modi to the Hindu mythological figures. In Maharashtra, BJP spokesperson Avadhut Wagh compared Modi to Hindu God Vishnu’s 11th incarnation. “Hon PM @narendramodi Ji is the 11th #Avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu (sic),” state BJP Wagh tweeted.

Such comparisons are not new. In the past too, party leaders have compared Modi with Vishnu’s mythological incarnation called Kalki Avatar. Three years ago, the party’s Manipur leader Laishram Jatra Singh had released a book titled Kalki Avatar and Narendra Modi.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 24, 2020 at 8:38pm

In #India, engineers and MBAs are turning to manual labor to survive the #economic crash amid #COVID19 . “If I don’t work, we don’t get to eat,” said Bawge, flicking beads of sweat from his brow. “Hunger trumps any aspiration.”


On a recent muggy afternoon in southern India, Earappa Bawge hacked at the ground with a pickax, his white shirt pasted to his back. Each dull thud reminded him of how far his hopes had fallen.

Just months ago, the 27-year-old engineer was poring over project files in an air-conditioned room at a factory hundreds of miles away. The job was a ticket out of rural poverty for Bawge’s entire family, who had sacrificed for years so he could complete his studies.

Now he was back in the village where he was born, propelled by a wave of economic destruction rolling across India during the pandemic. To survive, Bawge began digging ditches under a public works program. Alongside him were a former bank employee, a veterinarian and three MBA students. At the end of the day, each received $3.70.

“If I don’t work, we don’t get to eat,” said Bawge, flicking beads of sweat from his brow. “Hunger trumps any aspiration.”

As India’s economy reels in the aftermath of one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, a rural employment program has emerged as a lifeline for some of the tens of millions left jobless. The government program — which aims to guarantee 100 days of unskilled work in rural areas — was intended to combat poverty and reduce the volatility of agricultural wages. Now it is a potent symbol of how the middle-class dreams of millions of Indians are unraveling.


India Is Expected To Surpass The #US In Reported #Coronavirus Cases Soon. #India has more new cases daily than any other country but #Modi is still reopening #economy, making the #pandemic worse. #COVID19 https://www.npr.org/2020/09/24/916625401/india-is-expected-to-surpa...

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 25, 2020 at 8:15am

#COVID19 in #India: false optimism amid rapidly rising cases & continuing relaxation of #Modi's lockdown that created a parallel crisis as incomes fell dramatically, hunger increased, and migrant workers walked long distances home. #economy #coronavirus https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32001-8/fulltext#.X24HL0t2N-c.twitter

Despite a strong response at the outset of the pandemic, as of Sept 22, India has the world's fastest growing outbreak of COVID-19 in absolute numbers according to WHO, reporting more than 5·6 million infections. Restrictions began to be lifted in June, and this relaxation has continued in the face of a continuing dramatic increase in case numbers nationally. Beneath these alarming national figures, the pattern of spread in India is nuanced and complex, with marked differences between states, and between rural and urban areas. For example, cities like Kolkata and rural areas in the north of India were relatively spared the outbreak initially, whereas Delhi, with strong international connections, was at the forefront of the first wave. Even so, India is clearly facing a dangerous period.
The country has responded well in many regards, especially for such a large and diverse nation. India instigated a national lockdown in March, which was praised by WHO. During the lockdown period, tertiary care provision was increased, including access to specialist equipment such as ventilators. Testing numbers also increased quickly, with India being among the first to roll out innovations like pooled testing. India has also been at the forefront of efforts to develop and manufacture a vaccine, both through domestic vaccine candidates and manufacturers such as the Serum Institute of India preparing production capacity for internationally developed vaccine candidates.


According to news reports, hours before announcing the national lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told owners and editors from India's largest media organisations that it was important to tackle the spread of pessimism, negativity, and rumour. This pressure to avoid negative news, and to offer reassurance, appears to have been felt by several professional scientific organisations in India. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been singled out by experts for straying from scientific evidence, appearing at worst politically motivated and at best overly optimistic. A letter from the Director General of the ICMR, Balram Bhargava, said that the ICMR envisaged launching a coronavirus vaccine on Aug 15 (Indian Independence Day; a deadline considered unrealistic by most medical experts); ICMR has supported treatment with hydroxychloroquine despite insufficient evidence; and news reports claim that data on coronavirus infection were removed from a scientific paper.
Transparency of the data on COVID-19 cases and deaths, especially those underpinning the case fatality rate, has also been questioned, as detailed in a recent World Report. The Indian Government reports a case fatality rate of 1·8%, much lower than the reported rate in other countries, but it is difficult to know if the numbers are comparable.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 26, 2020 at 7:10am

Harley-Davidson to close #India factory, another blow to #Modi's #MakeInIndia. #US #automobile companies Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) have both cut back operations in India in recent years. #COVID19 #economy #coronavirus #BJP https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/25/business/harley-davidson-india-exit/...

Harley-Davidson is retreating from India, calling time on a decade-long attempt to break into the world's biggest motorcycle market.

The company said in a statement on Thursday that it will close its Bawal factory in northern India and "significantly reduce" the size of its sales office in Gurgaon, near Delhi. Dealers will serve customers through the end of their contracts and the company is exploring ways to continue to sell its iconic motorbikes in the country.

India is the world's biggest market for motorcycles and scooters, with more than 17 million sold last year, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. Two-wheelers are by far the most popular means of transport in the country, which was also until recently one of the fastest growing markets for cars.
When Harley-Davidson (HOG) entered India in 2010, it was the second-fastest growing two-wheeler market in the world behind China. But its 33 dealers have collectively sold just 25,000 motorcycles since then, according to the company. Its business has struggled with high import duties and sales taxes, which have been repeatedly criticized by President Donald Trump.

News of the company's retreat will come as a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's hopes of attracting more foreign investment and broadening India's manufacturing base. Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) have both cut back operations in India in recent years.
The withdrawal is part of an overhaul that Harley-Davidson (HOG) unveiled in July, which will see it streamline models and focus its energy on North America, Europe and parts of Asia Pacific. "A total rewire is necessary to make Harley-Davidson a high-performance company," CEO Jochen Zeitz said in a statement at the time. The company was battling a slump in sales even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, which has further dented demand for luxury goods.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 13, 2020 at 5:44pm

#India's #Modi is turning to deregulation amid an #economic crisis. So far, the overhaul has led to more confusion. The poor have been hit hardest by #COVID19, with migrants returning from cities & unable to support families in rural areas. #BJP https://www.wsj.com/articles/india-turns-to-economic-overhaul-as-gr... via @WSJ

The changes pushed through in recent weeks by his Bharatiya Janata Party, affecting everything from factory floors to farming, have so far led to more confusion than acclaim, but economists say the economic overhaul could ultimately improve India’s troubled growth prospects.

“The reforms are in the right direction. They are bold steps,” said Ashok Gulati, an Indian agricultural economist and professor at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.

India’s economic growth was slowing alarmingly even before the pandemic abruptly threw it into reverse, starting in March. In the months that followed, the economy contracted by almost one-quarter, the sharpest blow suffered by any of the world’s largest economies during the coronavirus-induced downturns.

The poor have been particularly hard hit, as workers who had migrated to cities to support families in rural areas returned home when those jobs disappeared. With many returning to farming, they now depend more than ever on India’s heavily regulated agricultural economy.

Mr. Modi, whose government’s perilous financial state has left few options for addressing the crisis, pushed through a grab bag of dramatic regulatory changes last month with little warning and no debate in Parliament. In a voice vote—obscured by technical glitches with the public broadcast of the proceeding that made it difficult to determine which parliamentarians actually supported the measures—the BJP passed a flurry of politically difficult changes.

In a single swoop, it dismantled a longstanding regulatory system that forced farmers to sell most of their crops through government-approved wholesale markets dominated by traders and middlemen instead of directly to consumers or food processors.

Then the BJP passed a series of new labor measures that increased the number of companies that can fire workers without government permission, raised the barriers for workers to unionize, relaxed rules preventing women from working night shifts and restricted unions’ ability to organize strikes. At the same time, it expanded the country’s social security program to include many contract workers


The new laws, for example, allow for the first time for many crops to be stored and sold later, eliminating restrictions that contributed to the spoilage of as much as one-third of some crops. That along with the elimination of the monopoly wholesale markets should encourage food processors to purchase goods directly from farmers or farmer cooperatives. Other companies are already planning new businesses that would purchase produce directly from rural farms and deliver them to urban grocers.

“It presents an opportunity to organize agriculture in modern terms,” Mr. Roy said, since the changes upend a system whose foundations go back more than 70 years to India’s founding as a nation. “It attacks a system that has become very corrupt and exploitative.”


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