Two days ago a lady carrying her child and travelling by the Shramik Special Train from Ahmedabad to Muzaffarpur died at the Muzaffarpur railway station. It was a heart-breaking scene that the kid without realising anything and completely ignorant of what is happening around tried to lift the bedsheet that covered the dead body ( mother’s body ).
Everyone is aware that motherly love is the embodiment of binding one another not just in the family but in the entire community. Everyone who was witness to that heart-rending scene in the train must have left with a sinking heart. The photo has already gone viral in social media and may not be any big news now, as I pen this. But, it is the lesson learnt that is important.
That the lady has not been provided with proper food and died of hunger was the reason cited by Sanjay Yadav, Special Assistant to Tejesvi Yadav ( son of former Bihar CM, Lalu Yadav). This was communicated through his Twitter feed along with a video and few words.
Deprived of jobs and lack of decent means of living, migrants are now returning to their native heath. Government has arranged special trains to transport them to their respective places even as many try to leave on their own using bicycles or even simply walking it.
Despite proper arrangements for travel by special trains, complaints regarding food and water service have been big and strong. Trains also get stopped in several places unduly and excessively or guided in different routes making the journey tedious.
Supreme Court has instructed that migrants should not be charged for their travel ; when migrants wait for trains the respective State Government should take care of their needs in terms of food and water ; when migrants travel, the Railway Administration should provide these needs to them. In a 11 page note, details regarding these are specified clearly in terms of responsibilities of State Governments, Railway Administration, and others concerned.
Railway Administration’s request as necessary conditions for travel to be permitted – individuals be free of blood pressure, heart diseases, cancer, poor immunity responses, pregnant women, and individuals aged less than 10 years and more than 65 years – are felt unsympathetic, unwarranted, unsentimental, and unsustainable.
These migrants will for sure be more safe, comfortable, and secure in their ‘homes’ rather than in their workplaces. Their burdens will be lighter there certainly. When we see them we remember : “these people are people”.
These helpless, impoverished, faceless migrants clamoring for help at every place should not be terrified but happy the next time they board the train.
It is the unbounded responsibility of the Government, States, and the Railway Administration to make fair arrangements to send them back homes.
” Dieu avec nous “
Saturday, May 30, 2020 – 11.19 a.m. (IST)
Tidbit : ” Migrants should move as a matter of genuine choice “.
India finds itself massively confronted by China in Ladakh forcing a choice between a submissive and aggressive approach. China seems to be in pursuit of a possible goal – to disturb and destabilize the Government. This is not the first time that China is adopting a confrontational approach (style of management in dealing with India). For China, promises and pie crusts are made to be broken.
One only has to recollect our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru’s desire and proclivity for amicable Sino-Indian relationship in the mid 1950s (specially after the Panchsheel Treaty in 1955), and how the Chinese Premier, Chou en lai, betrayed the relationship going to war with India in 1962. China has always been considering India as a threat to its ambitions of big power status.
The border area near Ladakh is being used as a patrolling area by both nations for long. There used to be skirmishes, but they got settled by mutual high level conversations. The following are possibly the happenings that got on China’s wick now :
1. China felt irritated about the creation of Ladakh as a Union Territory of India. ( UT creation is right and fair from the Indian point of view as it is according to the principles treating Indian citizens fairly).
2. Global anger and moral outrage that Coronavirus originated in China causing it to spread worldwide ( Right, as a majority of nations subscribe to this view and WHO is likely to initiate an investigation too ).
3. China is likely to face ban on its Companies threatening the economy ( Right, as many major nations support , and it is a good deal !).
4. China is annoyed that two Indian legislators greeted on virtual TV, the reelected woman Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen ( India is Right, Greetings from India is irreproachable and China’s expectations are misconceived ).
5. Approval by China’s National Peoples’ Congress to the ‘National Security Laws’ for Hong Kong that paves the way for anti-sedition laws to be enacted in Hong Kong. The joint statement from US, UK, Canada, and Australia that the law conflicts with International Obligations is extremely painful to China, coming at this juncture (that China is facing International scrutiny over Coronavirus pandemic now is to be noted now).
Protests are going on in Hong Kong now, and India is in no way involved in others’ affairs.
As when the scorpion stung the coconut tree, the Palmyra tree had a glandular swelling – the Chinese position has altered. That is all.
Hong Kong protests that began early this year stopped during the last week of February due to the Coronavirus pandemic. China felt easy to gain time and to create trouble for India. India has always adopted the stand : ” It will not be the first offender in any confrontation or conflict. If forced into a conflict, India will not submit to threats is now the decision “.
The friendly nation that America is to India, it recognises the good qualities and maintains an appreciative feeling. The big nations of the world are clear about peace, no encroachment , no transgressing, and no violation by India in the border area of Ladakh.
Significant to note is the fact that US has made its intentions clear that Hong Kong Security Laws should be discussed in the United Nations forum. America is now open to engaging with countries that are willing to oppose China.
These are what mark and make India’s peaceful posture in Ladakh at this juncture look acceptable and appropriate.
This may well be the beginning of a new phase in International relations.
” Dieu avec nous “
Friday, May 29, 2020 – 10.59 a.m. (IST)
Tidbit : ” Morale is when your hands and feet are working but your head says ‘No’ ”
(My independent narration and personal views without any specific interest )
The world will be witness to an unprecedented economic slide due to COVID-19. A nation of 130 crore people, India, is also facing the economic wrath of Coronavirus at a time when it started facing the music of unemployment and low productivity simultaneously.
Let me turn to my observations as a common man – I am not an expert in Economics, though.
I used to read about the 3 periods when India faced serious economic downside during 1958, 1966, and 1980. The singular reason in each of these instances was “the failure of monsoon”. Today’s economic predicament is different prompting everyone to attribute the difficult situation to the Coronavirus.
Lockdown with all its inherent benefits in terms of public health safety is also an inevitable contributor to our economic challenges of the day.
Agricultural production is on a high even during this lockdown period. Its contribution to our GDP is also increased now. But production from other means minus agriculture is reduced by 6%. Hence, the GDP fall in this quarter could be to the extent of 25% painting a bleak outlook for our economy. An economic war is in the offing.
Add to this the woes of our MSMEs (Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises) and the picture is not anything but discouraging. Our government has been wise to announce relief measures to the extent of 3 lakh crores – for the benefit of MSMEs. About 45 lakh entities will benefit according to the Government. If everyone of them apply for the benefit each will get RS 6.66 lakhs.
The Government has given a time period of 4 years for the repayment of loans. The borrower can start repaying the principal amount after 12 months. The interest rates will not change. The plan/scheme will be open till October 31. Employees PF share will be paid for 3 months. Distribution of loans by banks, and EMI concessions have also been part of this bonanza.
There are totally 6.34 crore of them (MSMEs) in the country today. About 51% are located in rural areas. Prevailing general perception about the Government’s relief measure, however, is – “inadequate and unsatisfactory”. Borrowers with a poor record of repayments earlier will face difficulties in securing fresh loans. Bank’s have not received any instructions/communication from the Government in this regard.
Borrowers’ expectations lie in the following : (a) return of the ‘fines’ paid by them in respect of GST ; and (b) 10% of the amount to be paid to those interested in securing jobs. They cannot afford to take loans any longer because their capacity to repay has been lost. They have already come to the margins of death.
What they plead with the Government : 1. Unforseen circumstances and occurrences in the past prevented them from paying back what they owed. 2. Loan to be granted now will be an uncertain source of income that can get them into a debt trap. 3. They would like to change their lives and make efforts step by step to climb out of their debts.
They seem to sense their responsibilities, though debt of gratitude is not visible.
The strength of Indian economy also lies in States contribution. But in today’s situation the States are yet to receive their due share of revenue from GST fully, though it has empowered the central government in terms of economic control. And States should rise to the occasion and make their role perceptible.
With the Corona attack on one side and economic slide on the other, unemployment is also growing. Migrants leave for their native heath in droves. Government is doing all it can in terms of financial aid. Rigid economy with free spending is, however, not possible. Only plausible solution at this juncture is to inject more quantities of cash in the economy with the unavoidable risk of increasing the national debt. Risk in terms of time whether this can ease the situation has to be taken. Big corporates in great measures have also to chip in and help keep the economy warm. Our extremely good cash flow of 2019 and earlier is turning into an anxiety flow now.
Our PM is a revivalist. Everyone expects that he will sow the right seeds for the revival and revitalization of economy. Truth, hardwork, and practical perspective will alone make the recovery possible.
” Dieu avec nous”
Thursday, May 28, 2020 – 11.29 a.m. (IST)
Tidbit :. ” Economy is too late at the bottom of the purse ” – Seneca.
Human Spittle is not Lord’s Spittle possessing inherent virtues like raising a corpse to life or the change of Moses’ rod into a snake. When human ‘spittle’ falls on floors, especially of mud/cement as in many homes and being seldom or never cleaned out, it fosters a gradual accumulation of ‘poison’ to which infected rats and concealment of illness contribute.
COVID-19 which took its origin in China has infected more than 42 lakhs of people in 235 and more countries today. It is a Global Threat. Countries are panting heavily without being able to combat the virus impact fully. Scientists and medical researchers are engaged in the twin tasks of : (a) finding drugs/vaccines for the control of the disease ; and (b) finding methods to prevent the spread of the disease.
It is evident that breathing is the route by which the virus finds its entry into the human body. Cells near the throat are the first affected. Tissue irritation of the throat and lungs may appear as noisy breathing, coughing, hoarseness, black or grey ‘spittle’, and fluid in the lungs. Through tracheal passage it reaches the lungs and transforms it into a virus producing factory. These viruses in turn gain entry into our cells easily.
It is common to observe that people who speak loudly spread the virus through their ‘spittle’. Even in today’s hygiene conscious world it is not uncommon to find a huge majority of people releasing the ‘spittle’ on the roads, pavements, or even when standing near roadside shops, bus stands, parks, and such commonly crowded places. Spitting has become a habit be it in villages, towns, or cities. It is this pervasive perversity that endangers and causes serious harm to people in a big way.
American National Science Academy researchers have detailed the path of contamination that ‘spittle’ effects on human beings. They affirm that the droplets of ‘spittle’ stays in the atmosphere for 10 minutes atleast. When this ‘spittle’ harbouring 1000s of viruses stays in the atmosphere, one can imagine how easily it can carry this via breathing on people who pass along the path during those 10 minutes.
It is imperative that stringent action is taken on people spitting in common places as a measure of control. People need to change their habits. ‘Spittle’ is more dangerous than even mass gathering, physical contact, and playing together.
There are laws in place to prevent spitting. Pre-independence Madras Government enacted Health Act 1939 under which fine for spitting can be levied. Union Health Ministry has asked all States to prohibit the use and spitting of smokeless tobacco in public places. Telengana government has banned spitting on road in April this year. Gujarat has imposed a fine of RS 500/- for spitting on the road or in public places. What sadly lacks is the strict enforcement. This needs to be pursued vigorously in our efforts to contain the COVID-19 impact.
We do not need superficial cardboard characters handling the situation but real people with iron hands !
“Dieu avec nous”
Wednesday, May 27, 2020 – 10.09 a.m. (IST)
Tidbit :. ” A wise King would not want his officials to lick his ‘spittle’ “.
Last week (Wednesday) Nepal released its new map including the areas/land under control of India – Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhara. Nepal PM, KP Oli, declared assertively in the Parliament that they will wrest these areas even while making the accusation that Indian Coronavirus is more dangerous than that from China or Italy evoking serious debate, discussion, and dispute. Earlier this month Nepali President, Bindhya Devi, while addressing a joint session of parliament had also indicated this.
The face to face confrontation between the Chinese and Indian armies near Pangong Tso lake near Ladakh 4 days ago is still ringing hard in our ears. This is another related development escalating tension between nations.
China’s attempt to destabilize India and to disturb our peace is clear. China’s earlier attempts to push Pakistan against India didn’t succeed against India’s resilience. Hence the new attempt to pit Nepal against India instigating trouble now.
Speculations galore. But the plausible reason seems to lie in the concerted opposition to China as the Culprit in the propagation of the Coronavirus by powerful countries as U.S.A., U.K., Australia, Italy and others. Chinese companies also face the risk of a ban from a host of countries above. This puts Chinese economy under tremendous threat.
Companies planning to shut shops in China are almost likely to see India as a possible, favorable destination. It is a frightening thought and prospect for the Chinese who are now alarmed, afraid, and anxious that something dangerous or unpleasant can happen to their business strength. This is the reason behind China’s fresh designs to create differences in our borders, even while provoking nations (like Nepal ..) to speak/act against India.
India’s strategy will be to maintain patience at this critical moment with simultaneous attempts to welcome investments from Companies coming out of China which will help strengthen our economy. India in its attempt to lure companies willing to relocate (after moving out of China) is ready to offer incentives to them. Food processing, medical equipment suppliers, textiles, leather, and auto parts makers are among the 550 products covered according to sources (Bloomberg news, May 7, 2020). That India initiated this even before Nepal releasing the map and Chinese army confrontation in Ladakh is triggered by US President, Donald Trump’s hard posture against China about the origin of the Coronavirus.
This is a grand opportunity for India to get its economy rallying while keeping a check on China. Significant to note is the fact that Chinese President, Xi Jinping, has refrained from giving any figure regarding Chinese economy growth last week. China is on the verge of a serious setback and that should strengthen India’s resolve to contain COVID-19 and increase foreign investments.
Conclusion : Display patience, contain coronavirus, and encourage investments from companies leaving China constitute the ‘strategy triad’ facilitating our dreams of lifting the economy during this COVID-19 crisis. This is the positive aspect of the corona downside.
“Dieu avec nous”
Tuesday, May 26, 2020 – 9.59 p.m. (IST)
Tidbit : ” Calm down in the midst of incredibly hurried and stress filled situations to achieve greater success “.
If you ask the next person you see which is the most engaging business that he can cite, the answer will undoubtedly be “Healthcare or Real Estate”. But that distinction could be given to “e-Commerce” now.
COVID-19 is a ‘shock’. Young people and big businesses will get over this shock admiringly without doubt. It is like young and rich recovering faster than the aged and poor from any medical condition resulting from injury. One way of treating a shock is by employing shock therapy. Implied in my above statement is the need for a drug that will have the effect of another shock. Economy also needs a counter shock.
These are times that try Human’s resilience. New concepts of living are also likely to emerge simultaneously. Businesses may also make new strides.
On the morning of Thursday, May 21, 2020, I ordered vegetables, fruits, and a couple of grocery items from a popular e-Commerce vendor. The promised delivery time was 6 to 8 p.m., the same day. Payment along with the confirmed order by credit/debit card has been suggested. I tried several times to effect the payment but each time an error (unknown to me) in the system prevented spelling the OTP causing the transaction to fail. Within a minute of each failed attempt, the vendor responded by e:mail acknowledging the transaction failure but emphasizing the promise that the placed order will be delivered on time with ‘cash on delivery’ mode as the possible alternative. Delivery associate came at 8.09 p.m. with the items but insisted on e-payment only as per instructions from his superior. The offer will not stand and be cancelled otherwise, he added. I am a regular buyer from that popular vendor for more than three years with an accurate and clear record of e-transfer by card before delivery each time! I wanted to give one last try with the card on hand in his presence and to my surprise the OTP message popped up firmly and I consummated the transaction. His relieved glance at me was a pleasant moment.
What’s special here ? The vendor who used to accept ‘cash on delivery’ for purchases stood firm on e-payment, a move away from cash transfer and towards digital transformation. Good business move.
In the digital world on-line shopping is now high on the agenda. It also points the way business will likely change for ever after COVID-19 containment. It spells the challenge that MSMEs need to face to remain in competition in retail to post profits, since technology, expertise, and resources still remain their constraints. They used to serve the local community primarily and more than 70℅ do not have even a website. There are more than 36 million of them in the country ; they produce/manufacture more than 6000 products, traditional and hi-tech ; they contribute 50℅ and more of total exports ; they provide 45℅ of total employment while making up 95℅ or more of all industrial units. For them to take the bite out of big players, strong on-line presence and “guidance” is a must.
Some of these MSMEs are being guided by ‘Bluehost’ , a unit of ‘ Endurance International Holdings, Massachusetts, U.S.A. (NASDAQ : EIG)’ but that is only a miniscule part. Many want to grow their on-line presence but need adequate support. GoDaddy Inc. (NYSE : GDDY)., the largest domain register company in U.S.A. providing many other services like setting up on-line stores, guiding e:mail marketing, and search engine optimisation is also likely to be involved in helping us. Significant in this context is the relief measures announced for MSMEs by the Finance Minister recently that cover : 1. Providing necessary credit and finance ; 2. Rs 3 lakh crore collateral free loans ; 3. Rs 20000 crore subordinate debt ; 4. Rs 50000 crore equity infusion ; 5. Revised MSME definition ; and 6. Disallowing global tenders up to 200 crores and clearing MSME dues in 45 days. With these measures in place, revival of MSMEs look promising.
E:Commerce is set to rise sharply and dramatically to be of great significance to our economy in future. People have also started feeling the impact of this rise. It has the potential to rise to the challenges of an economy that is expected to shrink and wane. It is also getting popular with the public. MSMEs need to be enthusiastic about it. Analysts are already bigging up e:Commerce on their shows and writings. It can make a big difference in business in future.
MSMEs, their recovery, and their aggressive foray into e:Commerce will make the backbone of our economy is our realistic expectations and great curiosity. Everybody is excited and waiting expectantly. India may be opening its new Gate – well intentioned, well timed, and well advised – capable of arresting the economic slide in the years to come.
“Dieu avec nous”
Saturday, May 23, 2020 – 11.09 a.m. (IST)
Tidbit : ” First ever on-line sale was on August 11, 1994, when a man sold a CD by the band Sting, to his friend through his website ‘Net Market’ an American retail platform.”
Health crisis of an enormous scale, and grave economic consequences and concern individually, locally, nationally, regionally, and globally mark COVID-19 at its worst point now. Structural/behavioral adaptation, courage, dogged determination, desire, and resilience mark the responses to fight the tragedy.
Subsequent to the months long lockdown declared and implemented by most nations, removal of restrictions and opening of businesses are now happening slowly. Government’s proclivity for spending money to ease the financial stress faced by citizens and businesses – improved access to food, health, shelter, safety, working capital, and recurrent expenses – underlined the essential remedial responses. Concomitant with these are the changes noticed in consumer expectations, needs, preferences, sentiments, beliefs, choices and behaviors.
COVID-19 effects and responses seem on course to bring about a dramatic change in the attitude of people in most sectors of Economy ( Education, health, safety, personal finance, work, leisure, sports, entertainment, and life itself ) like the wave of a magic wand changing everything. As easily as the wind changing directions, as easily as the traffic lights changing from red to green, as easily as the leaves changing colours in autumn. In modern times it has never been known even.
If the predictions are anything to go by, we will be in this situation of uncertainty – unbridled, unbounded, and unbridgeable – for at least 2 to 3 years. It is like the babies born during this period taking uncertain steps. Really uncanny !
” Coronavirus Will never go away” – says WHO Executive Director, Health Program, Dr Mike Ryan. WHO Infectious Disease Epidemiologist, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, however, sounds very optimistic on the contrary. “We have seen countries bring this virus under control. We have seen governments using public health measures effectively. Coronavirus will be controlled.” – says Dr Maria Van Kerkhove. U.S. President, Donald Trump, is also optimistic that a vaccine with a few hundred millions of doses will be ready by the end of this year. Significant to note is also the fact that Vietnam recorded zero deaths due to decisive handling of the pandemic. Life is almost normal there. Discipline and swift action are the key to their success. It speaks high of the Country’s core value system. It can be replicated in other places too.
So, what after COVID-19 ? Will the human population remain the same ? Will the human population fall from a high ? or Will the human population emerge stronger than ever before are the ideas that will be debated for weeks/months or even years.
Let me now record a few reported changes that are likely :
1. Youth, specially those constituting Gen Z and Millennials are accustomed to a luxurious, extravagant lifestyle spending large amounts of money generously. COVID-19 situation forces significant reduction in discretionary spending. Digital activity and on line spending are expected to compensate for the reduction, but the reality is far from encouraging on this count because the increase is actually quite small in degree as at present.
2. If we managed to overcome our difficulties during demanding/challenging situations as floods, droughts, fires and other natural calamities earlier by bringing people to pull themselves together and taking control of the situation in the moment of survival, with COVID-19 now this culture of doing things together and taking care of people feature more prominently than ever before in practice.
3. When I was young, I used to share information and thoughts from news magazines, peer discussions, scientific papers, photos, views, opinions, and personal interviews ; with COVID-19 and the accompanying isolation, technology has become the ‘vital pivot’ in sharing information while staying under one roof. No movement demanded. This places youth at a tremendous advantage. COVID-19 at the same time creates three different classes of individuals : One, those in murky, stormy, uncharted waters ; Two, those with the feeling of ennui ; and Three, those with a mix of traditional and modern work pattern. This separation which is expected to widen with time needs to be viewed critically.
4. COVID-19 has accelerated compliance with norms, rules and regulations, and discipline and order at all levels. Acceleration in support for local communities, local businesses, and products is visible more than ever before. People do not hesitate to spend more to help local businesses, sellers and producers due chiefly to ‘imposed movement restrictions’.
5. COVID-19 has brought parenting, teaching, coaching, training, official tasking , entertaining, cooking … … under one roof out of sheer necessity. Home is now office ; home is now the school ; home is now the exercise lab ; home is now the training ground ; home is everything in one place. Personal, professional, social, and familial chores are organised and guided in one place. Home is the centre of all. There are no boundaries and even if there is any, it is difficult to recognise clearly.
6. With COVID-19 people start taking health seriously more than ever before. Self healthcare is a priority and highly prevalent now. Taking physical exercises, consuming vitamin tablets and health tonics, disinfecting rooms, maintaining clean areas, and avoiding sharing of chairs, beds, baskets are all common. Physical and mental welfare is the priority now. Desire for human contact is still prevalent, but ‘fear’ drives people more towards social and digital platforms.
7. COVID-19 challenges our social and personal habits too. As consumers we think and make our choices of spending time and money with care. Meetings and social events are replaced by home entertainment and improvements in recreational habits saving costs. From off line to on line is the primary shift in our choice as consumer. Oft heard out of stock messages, slow or inaccurate delivery, reduced quality of customer service, and poor buying experience are now beyond excuse and considered serious failures. Faith in retailers’ ability to serve is key to trust and reputation more than earlier. On line shopping is, nevertheless, becoming an important part in the lives of people.
Conclusion : With the above reported changes come changes in beliefs and value systems. What one consumes ; how one uses time ; how one engages in work and leisure ; how one views support,demand,reward, or punishment ; and how one interprets normal life – will also change. Will these changes get accepted after the lockdown is lifted completely ? Will they become permanent ? What will be the future ? These will finally shape the next “normal”.
” Dieu avec nous “
Friday, May 15, 2020 – 10.09 a.m. (IST).
Tidbit : ” Arbidol, Flavipiravir, Remdesivir, Kaletra – anti virals that are likely to be approved for COVID-19 treatment.”