This Virus Has Multiple Threads
Can a deposit Rs.5000 in each of the Jan-Dhan accounts be made to compensate for loss of employment?
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The Global virus, COVID 19 is assuming monumental proportions the world over, with almost half a million cases recorded with the number increasing by the day. Remember, we are in a world completely networked and connected, be it by the Web or otherwise. Why is it that some countries, most technologically advanced, with the best health care facilities on the Globe have been hit the hardest? Every nation big and small has been at its receiving end with the US reporting more than 800 deaths while Iran is grappling with almost 2000 deaths. Italy with the second-best health care system in the world, has been severely tested while accounting for a staggering 7000 deaths in a matter of days, with no respite in sight. Spain with more than 2500 deaths and UK with almost 350 deaths have baffled the world. With global deaths approaching 20000 and at least 1500 added every day, this virus must be one of the most monstrous killer on the prowl. Several factors must be collated to make a discernible pattern out of the mayhem.
India, a country with 1.3 billion people, most of them poor, lacking even in basic facilities like food and shelter are also hit but not as hard. As on date, there have been about 550 active cases recorded out of which 11 died. The woefully inadequate medical facilities seem to have been offset with some of the best and committed medical practitioners, para medics and some very sensible measures implemented by the government. The complete lockdown announced and ruthlessly implemented by the forces on the ground seem to be having a salutary effect on the killer menace. The Indian example of dealing with the crisis must surely figure in science and management journals for a long time, though it still is too early to write an epilogue.
Wuhan, the most populous capital city of Hubei, largely irreligious province in China, is alleged to be the epicentre of the virus. China too reported almost 3500 deaths. What went wrong with this political, economic, financial, commercial, cultural and educational centre of Central China? Wuhan has been a traditional manufacturing hub for decades with five automobile giants promoting modern industrial changes in China and affecting the policies apart from economies across the world. The economic downturn that the other countries will experience will be as much a reflection of China’s manufacturing downturn as much as due to a complete disruption of every conceivable business activity in the world.
Several theories have been doing the rounds of the outbreak bordering on conspiracy to religion to science to clairvoyance. As the phrase goes, the ‘streets are talking’ the rumour mills are running overtime with social media hogging the lion’s share. A passage from the 1981 book ‘The Eyes of Darkness’ by Dean Koontz eerily predicts the Coronavirus outbreak that quickly went viral in which a character named Dombey narrates an account of a virus called ‘Wuhan-400’, the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganisms created at that research centre, the RDNA lab outside the city of Wuhan. What is eerie about this story is that it gives intricate details about how the virus affects the human body with a chilling resemblance to the Coronavirus. Is this true? Was this meant to be a bioweapon? Why were the Chinese scientists in Canada accused of spying and stripped of their access in the past to Canada’s National Microbiology Lab which is known to work on some of the deadliest pathogens?
Such questions need credible answers for the human faith in humanity to be restored. In another take on the genesis of COVID, the Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organization said that “most” cases had links to the seafood market. Was it a sleight of hand that prompted this supposition? Another theory suggests that the coronavirus pandemic was caused by 5G technology and electromagnetic radiation which was debunked by many virologists as fast as it originated. That it was made by an American doctor Thomas Cowan who is on a disciplinary probation makes his credibility susceptible. Does it make his theory too susceptible?
A research paper on Coronaviruses Replication and Pathogenesis published in 2016, describes Coronaviruses as enveloped positive-sense, unusually large RNA genome viruses, characterized by club-like spikes that project from their surface with a unique replication strategy that cause a variety of diseases in mammals and birds ranging from enteritis in cows and pigs and upper respiratory disease in chickens to potentially lethal human respiratory infections. Until a vaccination or a cure is found, like all contagious diseases, this one too needs people to practice home quarantine. To save themselves and others.
What is however of immediate concern and would be a serious one for many more years into the future is the hit, the economy, the health sector and the markets have taken. A downtrend of an economy is being pushed to dire straits. An 80% informal sector has taken a colossal hit with many laid off and many others taking a cut and many businesses shutting shop. The inadequate health sector is being exposed to untold pressures though the doctors and para medics are doing a valiant job. The Markets that indicate the health of wealth in the country have spiralled down in an abyss. A Sensex that slid from 40,000 to 25000 in a matter of days has turned many a small and big business and their traders bankrupt. The government must step in like it did in pushing a lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus, else our entrepreneurs suffer sudden death. Promoters need to be enabled to buy own shares from the market with no tax implications to stabilise the stock market. This stock market rout can have a cascading effect on banking too.
Our straight thinking too must be disrupted to provide solace, lest we are forced to declare an economic pandemic. That the government allowed a delayed tax & GST payment by companies and allowed them time till 30th June is laudable.
Can a deposit Rs.5000 in each of the Jan-Dhan accounts be made to compensate for loss of employment? The 298 million accounts would mean about 1.50 lac crores. Can all payments owed by government to all companies be released early? Can all tax refund cases be processed early? This would mean more cash in companies’ hands to handle the crisis. May be the government can draw a loan against delayed tax receipts for it to run, which is far better than companies seeking loans from banks. Similarly, deferral of EMI and loan repayment by 6 months could apply a little balm. Can the NPA norms of banks be changed so that it doesn't hurt their balance sheets? Can a onetime exemption on all forms of tax on income for salaries paid in March, April and May be made for companies that aren't retrenching any staff or daily wagers? In these stressed times, Health and Life insurance must have zero taxes. We save almost Rs.45000 crores each month on crude oil price fall. Can we convert this into a fund that can be used to fight the current Corona Crisis and later to establish medical and health facilities? The education sector is in deep turmoil exacerbated by the current malady. Can we have zero tax on all expenditure incurred on education & health institutions? This will also bring down the cost of education, life and health services in the country.
Incidentally, SARS coronavirus identified in 2003 also an animal virus, that spread to other animals and first infected humans in the Guangdong province of southern China in 2002 was more contagious than the present virus. Scientists argue that more contagious the virus, lesser is the mortality rate, which simply means that viruses which are highly contagious are less deadly. The mortality rate for coronavirus as per a CIDRAP report is 2.3% while for SARS, it was a whopping 9.6%. Should we see this as light at the end of the tunnel, in these highly stressed times?
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