Webinar: What does data tell us about Covid’s impact on India’s economy
Newslaundry, in collaboration with the India Data Portal project of the Bharti Institute of Public Policy, ISB, is organising a series of monthly webinars on specific datasets created by the platform, which is a one-stop open-access portal for journalists to access, interact with and visualise information, data and knowledge on agriculture and financial inclusion.
The first webinar, titled “Indian Economy and Covid: Insights from Data” and organised on August 28, was moderated by Meghnad S, associate editor at Newslaundry.
The panelists were Paojel Chaoba of the Frontier; Mitali Mukherjee of the Wire; Sukirat, Punjabi writer and columnist; Prerna Mukharya, founder of Outline India; Ashwini Chhatre, executive director of the Bharti Institute of Public Policy.
Mukherjee describes the Indian economy as being in a “state of mess” now. Though “economic slowdown” seems to be a vague idea, she says, its impact will be personal for the majority of the people. She points out that the pandemic has caused job losses and salary cuts and limited work opportunities for new entrants into the job market. Further, the service sector, one of the Indian economy’s stronger performers, has been the worst hit. MSMEs have also been disproportionately affected.
Talking about the coronavirus situation in Manipur, where he is based, Chaoba points out the people there are living relatively normal lives. This is mainly because they rely on agriculture as the primary source of income. Moreover, since the people of Manipur are used to having limited access to education and healthcare facilities, their daily lives haven’t been affected as much by the pandemic as those in other places.
Surkirat says more than the pandemic, the nationwide lockdown imposed in March to contain it did the most damage in his home state of Punjab. There had been only one Covid-19 death in Punjab until then, he adds, but the lockdown led to unnecessary panic, which, among other disastrous consequences, has brought the newspaper industry to the brink of collapse.
Mukharya cites an ILO report estimating that the pandemic could push “400 million Indians into object poverty”. A major reason for this is migrants being forced to return to their villages from cities due to the lack of work. There are limited job opportunities for them in rural India and so they face unemployment. She notes that four out of 10 women have become unemployed since March. The virus disproportionately affects women since they work in sectors like education and domestic labour, which are the worst impacted by Covid-19.
Lamenting the inaccessibility and unreliability of government data, Chhatre underlines the need for private organisations to enter the data collection space. If data is digitised and made more accessible, he says, it will be harder to manipulate. The India Data Portal is one such endeavour.
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