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View from India: Modi urges vigilance as country moves to phased lockdown exit

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The Government of India (GoI) has announced a phased exit from the lockdown which began over two months ago. Lockdown 5.0 has been turned into Unlock 1.0 from 1 June 2020.

Even as Unlock 1.0 is being rolled out, the Union Cabinet has announced new measures for MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), street vendors and farmers. It is packaged under GoI’s Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. This 'Self-Reliant India Campaign' has been rolled out due to the impact of the pandemic outbreak.

According to media reports, the turnover limit for medium enterprises has been further amended to Rs 250 crore and the investment limit raised to Rs 50 crore. Around two lakh stressed MSMEs are likely to benefit from this. The proposal for equity infusion of Rs 50,000 crore for MSMEs through fund of funds has been cleared.

'PM SVANidhi' or 'PM Street Vendor's AtmaNirbharNidhi' is a special micro-credit facility scheme being made available to street vendors and hawkers. Their community - comprising over 50-lakh people hawkers - can resume their work by availing affordable loans under this scheme.

A digital platform with web portal/mobile app is being developed to execute this urban livelihood programme. This will also be a means of bringing the vendors and hawkers into a formal financial digital system. Digital transactions will happen as the web portal or mobile app integrates with the UdyamiMitra portal of SIDBI for credit management and PAiSA portal of MoHUA.

Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI)’s Udyamimitra is a credit delivery platform enabling ease of access to MSMEs financial and non-financial service needs. Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has launched PAiSA portal, which is a portal for affordable credit and interest subvention access. 

Farmer assistance comes in the form of a hike in minimum support price (MSP). Paddy’s MSP is being raised marginally by Rs 53 per quintal. That makes it Rs 1,868 per quintal for the crop of 2020-2021. The rates for oilseeds, pulses and cereals have also scaled up. This decision will help farmers fine-tune their choice of the forthcoming summer crops which will happen with the arrival of the south-west monsoon.

Moving beyond these announcements, three Indian companies have been selected by Nasa to make a new ventilator for Covid-19 patients. Titled VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), the device is being manufactured by several international manufacturers. Alpha Design Technologies Pvt Ltd, Bharat Forge Ltd and Medha Servo Drives Pvt Ltd are the three Indian companies that have made it to the list. Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California has chosen eight US manufacturers along with 13 international companies to take this forward.

To think of it, the coronavirus pandemic has unleashed an innovative spirit among people from diverse sections of society. Whether it is people from villages and cities or small-scale traders and startups, they are looking for simple as well as mechanised solutions to fight coronavirus. A case in point is Rajendra Yadav who belongs to Satna village in Nasik. To protect his village from the spread of coronavirus, the farmer has managed to devise a sanitisation machine. This is attached to his tractor and performs the task of safeguarding him.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared these insights via the radio broadcast 'Mann Ki Baat' over the weekend. It coincided with the last date of the fourth phase of nationwide lockdown. “A major chunk of the economy is active now. There should be no laxity in maintaining six feet distance (do gaj doori), wearing masks and staying indoors as much as possible,” said the PM, adding, “We need to be more vigilant now. Due to everyone's support, [the] fight against Covid-19 is being fought strongly.”

Citizens continue to wage their battle against Covid-19 through various efforts. The inherent fear caused by the virus has brought out the best in them. For instance, small traders have hit upon the idea of installing big pipe lines in their shops. It may seem odd, but it serves the purpose of protection. Merchandise is released from one end and collected at the other end by the customer. At the same time, the pipes help keep customers at a distance.

Coronavirus has led to a suite of digital educational offerings. Online classes and video sessions are being offered in different ways; bringing teachers and students together through unique packages.

Iscuela, a mobile app, has been conceptualised by the Punjab Government. This is for the government school children to access subject material online. The app comprises e-books, videos and class-specific YouTube playlists. Smart boards and audio visual rooms are the latest hallmarks of the government schools in a suburb in Bangalore. This is being implemented for students to adapt to e-learning.

Interestingly, women from self-help groups in villages and small towns have found a new occupation. At a time when pay cuts and job uncertainty are doing the rounds, these spirited women have depicted an entrepreneurial outlook. They are sewing thousands of face masks on a daily basis. 

Forms of transport such as railways and airplanes have begun to operate. Shramik special trains are operational; other special trains, too, have begun. With utmost precaution, flights have resumed. Industry, too, is returning to normal. Hence, it’s important to be even more alert, cautioned Modi.

Coronavirus impacts the respiratory system and yoga has several techniques to strengthen it, Modi suggested. Yoga, he said, is something that has caught on with everyone, from Hollywood stars to Haridwar people are showing much more interest in yoga than before.

Modi described it is a people-driven fight against coronavirus. This pretty much sums up the sentiment here.

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