Impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the Indian economy - statistics & facts

After reporting its first case in late January 2020 in the southern state of Kerala, India introduced rigorous airport screenings for the coronavirus (COVID-19). The following weeks saw a quick succession of events leading to a suspension of all travel in and out of the country by March 22.

That same day, prime minister Narendra Modi called for a 14-hour Janata Curfew, which some called a trial-run for the lockdown that was implemented later that week. While infections continued to increase during this period, Indians were now confined to their homes to contain the spread of the virus. The announcement did not come without chaos – it created widespread panic, specifically among lower classes of society including farmers and migrant workers who were left stranded and jobless overnight from their faraway homes and no mode of transport. Despite the government announcing a relief package of 1.7 trillion rupees, it was clear that a large portion of the country’s population was going to be scouring for livelihoods. Additional support from state governments, and non-governmental organizations were expected to widen the radius of aid. This included the distribution of daily free food in some regions.

Economists slashed GDP rates for the foreseeable future due to the obvious impact of the lockdown. However, it was also estimated that the country might bounce back quickly because its industry composition, with unorganized markets being largely dominant. Losses from organized sectors amounted to an estimated nine trillion rupees in late March, projected to increase with the prolonging of the lockdown. Unsurprisingly, the most affected industries included services and manufacturing, specifically travel & tourism, financial services, mining and construction, with declining rates of up to 23 percent between April and June 2020.

The pandemic came with uncertainty and implications on all aspects of business across the world. Despite India being ahead of most countries in being able to implement work-from-home measures, specifically in white collar work, job and earning deficits, along with instability in prices was expected. The months of the lockdown resulted in the free fall of employment, which slowly stabilized after the economy reopened in late May in most parts of the country. After zonal segmentation of districts, research showed that the worst affected areas included orange and red zones (districts with higher numbers of COVID-19 infections), and largely the urban economy. Maharahstra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat were estimated to have the steepest decline in GSDP at an average of 15 percent for the following year.

Segments including consumer retail expected to see sharp falls ranging between three and 23 percent depending on the market. For the big players across segments, this meant operating at less than full capacity to keep afloat. For small businesses, however, it depended on how long they could ride out the storm. Overall, the pandemic changed daily lifestyles drastically.

From a socio-economic standpoint, the pandemic exposed class and caste brutalities in determining who had access to basic healthcare. Even in the face of increasing infections and an economy inching feebly towards its pre-COVID-19 state, the Indian government was optimistic in fighting and containing the virus with minimal affects to the country.

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