The dumb Indian government

The Indian government (aka Modi government) loves flaunting its new powers. The epidemic has given a once in a lifetime opportunity to the politicians and the policemen (among others in power) to treat the common citizens of this country like their subjects. Their decisions are no longer as rigorously questioned as they would be otherwise and the majority of the media, which had already decided to become Modi devotees before the spread of the virus, is now bolder in it’s devotion to the ruling party. All this happens while the courts of justice are shut and despite the ever-increasing backlog of cases in Indian courts, an important pillar of democracy has yet to decide when to get back to business.

We’ll look at three areas which have been in news due to government action (or the lack of it), and how ill-informed these policy decisions are:

  1. Sin: Alcohol, paan, gutka
  2. Travel: Quarantine requirements
  3. Work: Migrant workers

Sin:

When the state governments started running out of cash due to lack of tax collections, limited transfer from the central government and large outflow to medical needs of the state, they turned to their cash cow: Taxes on sin goods.

Now there is a reason they are called sin goods:

  • Alcohol kills 260,000 people in India every year
  • Tobacco attributed deaths in India are around 900,000 every year (2,500 in a day)

So while we have this statistic, we have closed our borders, shut down our industries due to coronavirus while we contemplate whether we can deliver alcohol to the doorstep so that the government can keep making money off people dying due to consumption of sin goods? All they can do is to show Mukesh’s story before the movie starts? Corona deaths are more important than tobacco deaths? Logic is dead.

Travel:

Many states in India have a 14-day quarantine requirement for people entering their borders. However, there is no such requirement when moving within a state although there are hotspots in their own states. People entering Rajasthan are to be mandatorily quarantined but people moving from a red zone (which does not fall in a containment area) are free to travel anywhere within the state.

There should either be quarantine everywhere or no quarantine anywhere in the country. States have made the quarantine requirement without much thought or reason. It just unnecessarily creates new problems in people’s lives. An opportunity the government does not want to let go of apparently.

Work:

One thing that the current government has done consistently well is not being able to anticipate the needs of the people at the margins of society. Whether it was demonetisation or the lockdown, the government realised that they have messed up pretty badly only after the decision was taken.

The grandiose plan to keep the population frozen at their respective location fell apart as soon as the ration started running out. Governments ‘ordered’ companies to keep paying salaries while their cash inflows came to a standstill. Only if you can ‘order’ the economy to keep running while people stop buying and markets are shut down, people would not even need to work, let’s just ask our elected representatives to ‘order’ things and make them happen.

This might just be a small subset of a constant barrage of illogical decisions thrown at the citizens of this country in the last few weeks. Needless to say, we need better people in power and more people criticising their decisions rather than praising them for decisions which are just plain stupid.

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