Why India needs a major policy overhaul for the post-Covid period

The need of the hour is rethinking policies and planning for the post-Covid days. The process must start right now.

 |  4-minute read |   25-06-2020
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India right now is going through the Unlockdown Phase-1 and within a week, we will hit Phase-2 of the same. With time we are preparing and going towards the “new normal” as many people have termed it. However, the fact is that post Covid, times will be very different, and these times will need a major policy overhaul. If policymakers ignore this reality, then India could be in a much bigger mess than the one it is in right now.

The Covid-19 curve has not flattened in India as of now. However, we have managed to avoid catastrophes, unlike other countries such as the USA. The cases testing positive are increasing, as are the number of deaths. Every month, experts claim that there will be a spike and numbers don’t seem to be coming down any time soon. While some cities and states have done a commendable job in containing the spread, others have failed miserably. At the same time, we have seen that in this extraordinary crisis, Centre and state governments are working in tandem to contain the spread.

main1_covid-19-masks_062520012425.jpgWith the unlockdown, there is an urgent need to rethink policies and plan for effective implementation. (Photo: Reuters)

While there should be no doubt that robust planning and implementation of policies are required at this time, we have to agree that the initiatives are being taken at every level. However, only the time will tell how successful these initiatives have been.

The need of the hour is the parallel planning for the post-Covid days that must start right now. Rethinking policies regarding education, power, road, transport, water, environment, housing and law and order system should be done by the states on a priority basis.

A major focus is also required in the labour sector. As we know, during the lockdown, the employment sector was severely hit. The government should make robust policies on generating new jobs. There is also the need to have a plan on bringing back the migrant labourers who have left the metro cities. We cannot stay in the misconception that the migrant labourers will come back on their own once the economic activities restart. They are scared because they have never witnessed such a massive crisis, and it is very probable that they will incline towards a smaller income in their hometowns rather than indulge in the mess of the metros. They have also lost faith in the governments as they were given a raw deal. The pandemic is extraordinary. However, the days after the pandemic will be even more extraordinary. Which is why there is an immediate need to rethink our policies and draft a plan of action for the post-Covid days.

Since the Centre and states are already working in tandem, the time is right to brainstorm together and come up with the plan for the days ahead. It is not enough if the Centre and state governments alone come up with policies. The thinktanks, domain-area experts and the NGOs should also be factored in in the decision-making process. To start with, we can have a panel with the representatives that can start working on drafting the polices at a pan-India level.

Parallelly, the state governments should form independent panels to look at the micro-level scenario. These state panels should first prepare a status report of the ongoing policies, review pending work and then prioritise the projects based on the financial condition of the states. Next, they should formulate a blueprint for future projects. Every state government will have different requirements. So, there cannot be a full-fledged centrally-controlled plan for the future.

On the other hand, the Centre needs to look into policies that could be applicable for all. For the Centre, policies on economy, agriculture, business and start-ups, education, health and labour should be the key focus. The state panels need to periodically review the progress and give their recommendations to the cabinets. This approach could also be adopted by the Centre. The Parliamentary committees that have autonomous powers can also pitch in for the same.

The pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge. However, these challenges strengthen us as a nation. For the policymakers, this is a one-of-its-kind opportunity where a robust overhaul of our ongoing policies can take place.

Also Read: Why Centre and States need to work together in the Covid-19 fight


Sayantan Ghosh Sayantan Ghosh @sayantan_gh

The author is an associate research fellow with the Delhi Assembly Research Center.

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