INDIA and COVID-19

About the Article

The article firstly talk about when coronavirus cases started reporting in India, when was lockdown implemented and what activities were permitted. Secondly, it puts the light on the impacts of the spread of the virus and lockdown on the country. Thirdly, the laws and legislations on the basis of which lockdown was implemented are discussed.  Towards the end of the article, an insight into the present situations and conditions due to the spread of the virus in the country and around the world has also been discussed. 

INTRODUCTION 

The start of reporting of coronavirus cases in India was seen around the end of January. Since then the number kept on increasing from 100-120 per day to 17000-20000 every day crossing the overall figure over 7 lakhs at present. Looking at the conditions of countries which were worst hit by this pandemic like Italy, Spain, USA The Government of India on March 24’2020, with only 4 hours prior notice imposed a nationwide lockdown continuing for 21 days as a step to stop the virus from spreading. Since then there have been 4 waves of lockdown and then finally on May 31’2020 government came up with the guidelines of Unlock 1 and on 30 June 2020 guidelines for Unlock 2 were released. 

During the lockdown, only essential services such as food, medical supplies, municipal cleaning were permitted to continue. Everyone except for those who were engaged in essential services was mandated to stay at home and observe the guidelines of social distancing. All interstate borders were sealed and flights, trains and metros were stopped. 

IMPACTS  

Economy  

With the start of the financial year 2020-21, the effects of coronavirus have affected the economic stability of 150 countries — jeopardising their lifestyle, culture, business influence, and the expectation of general well-being that we take for granted.

Recession in India is expected to impact the unorganised sector and semi-skilled job seekers losing their jobs. The labour sector under the MGNREGA, 2005 is worst affected because, due to lockdown, most of the labour sectors are affiliated with construction companies and daily wage earners, they are not provided with work.

The increase in GDP quarterly has been gradually decreasing since Q4 of FY18. If there is a divergence in Q4 of FY19, it is because the National Statistical Office (NSO) updated its data on 28 February 2020, significantly decreasing growth levels in the first three-quarters of FY19 (from 8% to 7.1% for Quarter 1; from 7% to 6.2% in Quarter 2 and 6.6% to 5.6% in Quarter 3. 

Besides this, the contribution of the tourism industry has declined and will be even less in the future as international flights have been cancelled and people would choose to fly/travel less domestically as well.

Migrant Workers 

Lockdown resulted in the closure of all means of transport all over the country. 

As no other activity except for essential services was allowed migrant workers were left jobless. They lost their source of earning and couldn’t pay for their accommodations which forced them to shift their shelters, millions were forced to start marching thousands of kilometres on foot. Many of them lost their lives because of starvation and accidents. In some cities workers revolted against the government to let them go back to their homes safely. These revolts were brought to control by the police department. 

Unlike migrant workers, students and citizens who were abroad at that time, flights were sent to bring them back. However, when the lockdown was partially lifted on May 1’2020 special trains were arranged for these workers wherein earlier they were asked to pay the fare but later on, the government took the responsibility to pay for it. The problem was there was no proper food provided to them and even there were some states which cancelled the trains to stop at their stations. 

These actions violated migrant workers rights like the right to equality under article 14 and the right to life under article 21 of the Indian constitution. 

Communal Hysteria 

In a diverse country like India, the pandemic also led to the spread of communal hatred against people of Islam religion. The press and media portrayed that Tablighi Jamat people are wholly responsible for the spread of the virus in the country and this led to aggression by people against a certain religious community. 

Jagannath Rath Yatra is another example wherein religious sentiments are given much more importance than COVID -19 pandemic. The Supreme Court of India on 22nd June 2020 allowed Jagannath Rath Yatra to be held under certain conditions, including that no public attendance will be possible. Modifying its order of 18 June 2020 in which it stated that this year’s Yatra could not be allowed due to the pandemic, the apex court allowed the Yatra to be held after taking note of the position of the Odisha government that it “can be held in a limited manner without public participation.”

Increased in crime

Domestic violence and sexual abuse of children has increased during the COVID -19 period. In India, the first signs of the issue emerged in mid-April data given by the National Women’s Commission (NCW), which indicated a rise of nearly 100% in domestic violence during the lockdown. In 25 days between 23 March and 16 April, 239 complaints were received by the NCW, mainly via e-mail and a dedicated WhatsApp number. This is nearly double the number of complaints (123) received from 27 February to 22 March during the previous 25 days. Apart from this, cases of theft and suicides have also increased because many people have lost their livelihood and are short of money to even fulfil their basic essential day to day needs.

Education 

On 16 March, the union government implemented a country-wide lockdown of schools and colleges and postponement of board exams for Class 10th  and 12th. The pandemic has caused huge losses to the department of education. Class 12 students were promoted without any test, but what about going to college as entrance exams have been postponed to Aug and September. All-year college students except for the final year were promoted to the next semester without taking examinations. The main question here is how one can get a degree without learning and appearing for exams in these subjects. Is there any certainty that the left out subjects will not be of any help to them in their future? The certainty of these facts is very low. The education sector is now focused entirely on the digital platforms where the colleges and universities conduct their daily classes in the comfort of their home with various online platforms such as google classrooms, zoom, etc. They also incorporated new technologies into their curricula such as digital campus where students can access their college library, fee payments, online exams. The Karnataka High Court on July 8, 2020, expressed the prima facie view that state government orders banning online classes infringed on the fundamental right to life and education granted by Articles 21 and 21A of the Indian Constitution.

 The present situation has pushed the importance of investment in technology. On  June 2020 an 11th class girl belonging to a farmer family committed suicide because she didn’t have a smartphone to attend online classes. The government in the coming time should come up with schemes wherein technology mainly for educational purposes should be made available to each and every student of the country so that no such incidents happen in future. 

Impact on Business 

Disturbance in the supply chain – As the factories were shut down and production was stopped the actual demand for goods did fall down but it didn’t come to zero. No production led to a decrease in supply resulting in disturbance of the supply chain. Massive 200 per cent increase in searches powered by hygiene and health care needs. Lifestyle selling segments experienced a decrease in market price sensitivity between 15 per cent and 30 per cent.

It will also have implications on contracts and it is likely that many contracts might be delayed or even cancelled. Because of the non-performance of their suppliers, companies may not be able to meet their obligations under their customer agreements and may in effect attempt to postpone and/or escape the fulfilment (or responsibility for non-performance) of their contractual obligations and/or cancel contracts. 

Insolvency – Spread of COVID -19 has resulted in a rise in financial pressure faced by businesses as the chain got disturbed and there was a decrease in consumer demand. Companies with already high debt are facing problems creditors are asking them to pay back their loans. Consequently, companies may seek protection from their creditors in the delay of repayment but they might / might not get help and may get stuck in the cycle of insolvency.  

Impact on M&A Transactions

Some buyers who have entered into M&A transactions at pre-COVID-19 valuations may wish to terminate transactions or renegotiate the purchase price prior to closing and will be looking for ways to do so without incurring liability. For those deals in negotiation or new deals, the parties will have the opportunity to adjust and/or set deal terms by taking into account COVID-19. Not so for signed M&A transactions. Where the target company has been substantially affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, the parties to the signed agreements will need to analyse their purchase agreement to determine their preferred route and potential liability — focusing on closing conditions, termination rights and fees, compensation provisions, the impact of delayed regulatory or other closing procedures and the continued availability of liability. 

Mental Health 

The spread of this disease has not only affected economically but also mentally and emotionally. It has led to mental health crises amongst people of all age groups. At-risk groups include people with pre-existing mental health problems, COVID-19 survivors, care staff, teenagers, women, unorganised business workers and elderly people. India being a county with a high number of poor and malnourished individuals with depression and anxiety there is a huge risk of mental health crises. Even a good chance of alcohol addiction can be seen in the post corona period. These crises can be put to control if Firstly, the government appoints the cabinet minister as head of mental health and well being. Secondly, implementation of Mental HealthCare Act 2017 which promised mental health care to people and implants a policy of suicidal prevention. India’s mental health investment — the last Union budget cut it from Rs 50 crore to Rs 40 crore by 20 per cent — will need a boost. Rs 93,000 crore will be required to enforce MHCA, 2017 according to estimates. This could come from the PM Cares Program, programs on corporate social responsibility, private equity, and maybe a new national lottery.

LEGALITY OF LOCKDOWN 

Firstly, the centre took the support of article 256 and 257 of the Indian constitution. Article 256 states that the centre can give directions on how to implement laws made by parliament. 

Article 257 states that the executive power of the states should be exercised in a manner that it does not “impede for prejudice” the executive power of centres. 

Secondly, it took the support of two legislations:- 

  1. Epidemic Diseases Act,1897 
  2. Disaster Management Act, 2005 

The Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 

  1. Section 2 of this act gives power to the state government to take special steps and measures and prescribe regulations at the time of dangerous epidemic disease. 
  2. Section 2A prescribes powers of the central government as to when the central government feels satisfied that the country or any part of it is facing an outbreak of any dangerous pandemic disease and the already applicable provisions of the law are insufficient to prevent the outbreak from spreading if the central government has restricted powers. 
  3. Section 3 of the act lays down penalty for those who disobey any regulation made under the act and are punished under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. 

Disaster Management Act of 2005 

  • Definition of disaster in the act does not specifically mention “pandemic” to be included in “disaster” but national disaster management authority (NDMA) considered coronavirus pandemic within its meaning and issued social distancing guidelines on March 24 2020. 
  • Section 6 specifies functions of the National Authority. This section empowers the central government to issue binding directions to authorities and state government. 
  • Section 11(3) of the act specifies as to what a national plan should include while dealing with a disaster and measures which should be taken to adhere to its preparedness. 
  • Section 22(2)(h) deals with giving directions to any department of the government of the state regarding actions to be taken in response to any threatening disaster situation/disaster. 
  • Section 24,34 lays out the fine powers and functions of the State Executive Committee and District Authority in the event of a threatening disaster situation. 
  • Section 35 permits the central government to take measures such as coordinating work between various authorities and govt departments, deployment of forces, measures to secure effective implementation etc. 
  • Section 36 specifies the Responsibilities of ministers or departments of the government of India. 
  • Section 51 states “Punishment for Obstruction”. It sets an imprisonment term of one year ( two years in an event of loss of lives ) for persons obstructing discharge by any government officer or employee. 

PRESENT SITUATION

On analysing India’s response and preparedness towards the Global Pandemic as declared on 11 Feb 2020 by World Health Organization, World Organisation for Animal Health and FAO the country wasn’t much prepared as the first case of COVID -19 was reported in India on January 30, 2020. 

As of Jul 05 2020, there are 673165 confirmed COVID-19 cases in India. Among those cases, 19268 individuals succumbed to the infection while 409083 recovered. Globally, there are 1,12,65,793 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 188 countries that have resulted in 530750 deaths, reports the World Health Organization (WHO). 

CONCLUSION 

After over 100 days of partial lockdown ( starting 60 days full and then restricted unlock) in the country, the control in COVID-19 cases is not seen as the number has crossed 11 lakh at present. But if we look at the recovery rate of India which is 62.86% at present and fatality rate which is at 2.49% and stands much better as compared to other countries worldwide. The issue which remains unaddressed here is “ Has India Been Successful in Controlling /Tackling the Pandemic?”. The answer to this is not certain as if a migrant worker is asked this question the obvious answer would be no but on the contrary, all those well settled and high-income people would answer yes. The answer basically depends on the number of sufferings you have faced during the tough pandemic times. 

Revision of Women’s Legal Age for Marriage

At the end whatever the present situation is, the world urgently needs a vaccine to go back to the usual lifestyle until then we have to change our lifestyle adjusting to the present situation and live according to what people call it “THE NEW NORMAL”. 

REFERENCES 

https://government.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/opinion-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-indian-economy/75021731

https://www.deccanherald.com/specials/insight/coronavirus-crisis-no-lockdown-for-domestic-violence-829941.html

The Mental Health Care Act, 2017

https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/covid-19-india-is-staring-at-a-mental-health-crisis/story-hmBOzUYsbo3SmtlWilmBzL.html

Section 2, 2(A), 3 of The Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 

Section 6, 11(3), 22(2)(h), 24, 34, 35, 51, Disaster Management Act , 2005 

https://www.ndtv.com/coronavirus/dashboard

https://m.timesofindia.com/india/indias-covid-19-recovery-rate-now-62-86/amp_articleshow/77054304.cms 

BY- Janavi Chhabra | Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies , GGSIPU

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