India's Covid Crisis Decimates Country's Middle Class

Indian economy shrank 7.3% in fiscal year 1920-21, its worst performance since independence in 1947. Nearly 230 million middle class Indians have slipped below the poverty line, constituting a 15 to 20% increase in poverty since Covid-19 struck last year, according to Pew Research. Middle class consumption has been a key driver of economic growth in India. Erosion of the middle class will likely have a significant long-term impact on the country's economy. “India, at the end of the day, is a consumption story,” says Tanvee Gupta Jain, UBS chief India economist, according to Financial Times. “If you never recovered from the 2020 wave and then you go into the 2021 wave, then it’s a concern.”  

India's Economic Performance Since Independence. Source: Bloomberg


Mainstream Indian media have long been afraid to cover the incompetence and failures of Prime Minister Modi's government. But this is finally changing with the COVID pandemic hitting India's newsrooms. Dozens of Indian reporters and their family members have died after being infected with coronavirus. 

Middle Class Decline in India, China. Source: Pew Research

The disastrous turn in the situation on the ground couple with the change in media coverage have brought focus on Modi government's failed policies in handling the deepening health crisis and its devastating impact. The images of large numbers of people gasping for breath and dying on the streets for lack of oxygen have shocked the world. The covid crisis has exposed the hollowness of India's super-power delusions fed by the country's western boosters who see it as a counterweight to China. An example of such western propaganda is a recent novel by retired US Admiral Janes Stavirides. 

Increase in Debt-to-GDP Ratio During Pandemic. Source: Business Standard

Prime Minister Modi's government has taken on significant debt to cope with the crisis of covid pandemic. As a result, India's debt-to-gp has increased 17% to 89.3%, the third highest among emerging economies. By contrast, Pakistan's debt-to-gdp has risen by a mere 1.6% to 87.2% during the pandemic, according to figures released by the IMF.  

Modi's Hindutva Rate of Growth in India


The authors of "2034: A Novel of the Next World War" portray Indians as heroes whose statesmen-ship de-escalates World War III, negotiates peace and helps India emerge as the new global superpower. Patel, the Indian uncle character of the Indian-American deputy national security advisor Sandeep Chowdhury tells him, "America’s hubris has finally gotten the better of its greatness." The authors imagine the United Nations headquarters moves from New York to Mumbai after the war. Had this book been written after watching thousands of Indian victims of COVID19 gasping for breath and dying daily on the streets of New Delhi, I think Ackerman and Stavridis would have conceived  and developed a completely different plot line for their novel.  

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Comments

Anonymous said…
India’s external debt was US$ 563.5 billion at the end of December 2020. It recorded a marginal decrease of US$ 0.5 billion over its level at end of December 2019. The external debt to GDP ratio increased to 21.4% at end of December 2020 from 20.1% an year ago.

India's total foreign exchange (Forex) reserves stand at around US$590.185 Billion on 29 January 2021, the highest ever, with the Foreign Exchange Assets (FCA) component at around US$547.218 Billion, Gold Reserves at around US$36.294 Billion, SDRs (Special Drawing Rights with the IMF) of around US$1.508 Billion and around US$5.165 Billion Reserve Position in the IMF, as per Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) weekly statistical supplement published on 29 January 2021.[3] The Economic survey of India 2014-15 said India could target foreign exchange reserves of US$750 Billion-US$1 Trillion.[4]
Riaz Haq said…
India’s public debt to gross domestic product (GDP) is likely to increase to a record high of 89.3 per cent in 2020, breaking the previous high of 84.2 per cent in 2003. The ratio was 72.3 per cent in 2019 and 68.8 per cent five years ago in 2015, according to the data from the International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook (WEO).

This makes India the most indebted major economy after Brazil and Argentina among the emerging markets. In South Asia, India now becomes the most indebted country after Bhutan and Sri Lanka and worse off than Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal.


https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/india-s-public-debt-to-gdp-likely-to-reach-record-high-of-90-in-2020-120102201553_1.html
Riaz Haq said…
Some #Modi Bhakts are trolling his critics. The tragedy unfolding for #Indian-#Americans is nothing to "lol" about as some #Hindutva trolls are doing on #socialmedia while attacking critics of #BJP. Many have lost multiple family members. Read "The Quint"

https://www.thequint.com/us-nri-news/unrelenting-covid-19-disparate-realities-for-indian-americans-in-india-and-united-states#read-more


A tech entrepreneur and community activist based in San Francisco Bay Area, Bhushan has lost seven family members in India to COVID-19. While he remains thankful for those recovering, the loss of loved ones has hit him hard.

Bhushan’s aunt passed away, followed by his uncle a few days later. Their California-based daughter and Bhushan’s cousin, Ruchika Kumar wrote in a Facebook post, “Mummy was right in calling papa a copycat. He copied her even in death…”


Indian Americans are an educated and high-income migrant community. Even though most of them have moved to the US willingly for professional opportunities, they always carry a bit of yearning for their motherland in their hearts. Watching India surrender to the virus, have left them bereaved and exasperated.





“The difference is access to life-saving health care. Here (Santa Clara county, California) the guidance was reasonably clear. Data was published, and you could trust the data. Numbers were not being underreported. In India the official figures have no bearing of reality. How do you have faith in what’s going on?” says Sanjiv Sahay.



Desis are constantly swaying between optimism in America and gloom in India. Happy and boisterous social media groups, connecting them with their loved ones in India, have turned into a harbinger of death. Laughter has been replaced by much-needed prayers.

A resident of Foster City in California, Sonia Bhanot was to be in Delhi this spring, to meet her mother and sisters. She felt confident to make the long journey after getting fully vaccinated. She has had to put her travel plans on hold given the public health situation in India.

“I haven’t met my sister after her husband passed away last year. I was hoping to visit. There are family members and close friends in Delhi who have COVID-19. Some are recovering. Hamare liye to COVID khatam hi nahi ho raha. Pehle yahan, ab wahan. I am not removing my mask, even if others do,” says Sonia.
Riaz Haq said…
India’s suspect ‘Quad’ credentials. #COVID19 #pandemic has brutally exposed the hollowness of #India’s pretensions to power, status and influence and boasts of being a #vaccine superpower and #pharmacy to the world. #Quad #Modi #US #China #Hindutva #BJP https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2021/06/05/commentary/world-commentary/india-suspect-quad-credentials/

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue process brings together Japan, Australia, India and the United States as an informal grouping of democracies to cooperate around the vast and critical Indo-Pacific maritime space.
India has always been the weakest link in the chain. Its sizable armed forces equipped with nuclear weapons are a bulwark against China’s much superior military might. Still, it’s a very poor country with a per capita income of only 3% to 5% of the other three; a weak state with limited capacity to govern a billion plus population; and a soft state without the political will to make and implement tough decisions.
The second wave of COVID-19 in April and May is India’s biggest national tragedy and international embarrassment since partition in 1947. The national and world press covered this in graphic detail (more than they would in their own countries), with images of people gasping to death on the streets, bodies piled up awaiting last rites and cremation and mass numbers of corpses floating in the Ganges River, many of which having washed up on its banks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s carefully cultivated competence bubble has been punctured by the open display of mass ineptitude.
In the wake of this stark and grim reminder of its manifold pathologies and weaknesses, the question must be asked: at which point would India become a liability rather than an asset for the other “Quad” partners? The question is important because the other three are bound together in formal alliances by security treaties and India is not, demonstrating less commitment.
The excitement, expectations and hopes of the Modi government in 2014, with promises of “minimum government, maximum governance” and “sabka sath, sabka viswas, sabka vikash” (with all, with everyone’s trust, development for all), are fading memories. On June 1, India’s official COVID-19 deaths per million was 238 compared to the world average of 457, the U.S. at 1,832, the U.K. at 1,873 and Brazil reporting 2,163.
The crux of the problem thus is not the unmitigated spread of COVID-19 but the lack of a fit-for-purpose public health infrastructure and the availability of medical supplies, equipment and drugs. India is a sobering reminder of why a strong economy is not an optional luxury but an essential requirement for good health.
Modi’s neglect of urgent economic and governance reforms in addition to requirements for a good public health infrastructure — choosing instead to go into a semipermanent campaign mode in every state election and focusing on a Hindu nationalist agenda — further aggravated the COVID-19 misery.
People’s health is vitally dependent on a healthy economy that gives the government the financial wherewithal to create an efficient universal-access public health system. No country achieves better health outcomes by becoming poorer.
The pandemic, for its part, hastened an economic decline that had already begun. According to World Bank figures, India’s annual GDP growth tumbled from 8.3% in 2016 to 4.2% in 2019. It contracted by 7.3% in 2020–2021 and the 2021 GDP forecast has been downgraded by around 17% — the worst among the G20 countries.
India got the worst of both worlds: a smashed economy and a massive COVID-19 toll that peaked in May with the official count recording nearly 400,000 daily new cases and over 4,000 daily new deaths. Recovery will be a long haul on both the disease and the economy front.

Riaz Haq said…
#Modi's #vaccine policy flip-flops. Before 2nd wave hit #India hard, health officials had repeatedly said there was no need to vaccinate all adults. But in the past few weeks, the government has said all adults would be immunized for #COVID19 by December. https://www.reuters.com/world/india/indias-vaccine-policy-flip-flops-2021-06-07/

India initially planned to vaccinate only 300 million of its health/front-line workers and the most vulnerable in the first six to eight months of the year. But Modi expanded the programme to all adults from May 1, though supplies were not meant to rise until June, leading to widespread shortages across the country. read more

* Modi's government asked individual states to buy vaccines from domestic manufacturers or import the shots themselves to inoculate their adults aged below 45 from May 1 onwards. Many states floated global tenders to import vaccines but none could secure doses via that route. Delhi's chief minister complained Indian states were made to compete against each other internationally for a scarce commodity. read more

Modi reversed the policy on Monday, saying the federal government would offer vaccines to all adults free of charge starting June 21. Rates for private hospitals - catering to those willing to pay for their shots - will be capped. read more

Modi said in a televised address all vaccine decisions have been taken based on consultations with state leaders.

* Modi's government placed no advance orders for vaccines from companies such as the Serum Institute of India (SII), the maker of the AstraZeneca shot, before it was approved in early January. It signed a purchase deal with SII nearly two weeks after the company's licensed version of the vaccine was authorised for emergency use. read more

Last week, the government placed its first advance order for a vaccine still undergoing Phase 3 trials, as it tries to speed up the immunisation drive. read more

* Until the second wave hit India ferociously, health officials had repeatedly said there was no need to vaccinate all adults. But in the past few weeks, the government has said all adults would be immunised for COVID-19 by December.
Riaz Haq said…
Can #Modi Shift Narrative? "So much death, so much despair — children lost their parents overnight, elderly parents lost their young children, people lost their spouses,” said Shruti Chaturvedi, an entrepreneur doing relief work in the state of Goa, #India https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/12/world/asia/india-modi-covid.html?smid=tw-share

In the face of crisis, Mr. Modi has displayed a talent of inventing a new narrative and switching personas, including combative national champion, digital leader and spiritual guide. At times he could seem deeply relatable, at others above it all. And he had what the opposition lacked: an ability to take his message viral.

During the 2019 election, with the economy weakening, he emphasized the threat from Pakistan. Referring to an earlier comment Mr. Modi had made, his party projected him as the nation’s toughest “watchman,” boasting about the size of Mr. Modi’s chest as a sign of his strength.


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Mr. Modi’s approval rating is still above 60 percent, according to one poll. But the growing dissatisfaction suggests the prime minister may not so easily be able to change public sentiment by pushing emotional nationalist causes or shifting his image as he has done in the past. Rather, like any other politician, he may increasingly be judged by his ability to deliver.

“There was a template — that if you invisibilize problems you do not want to focus on and convince the rest of the population that only the visible part is the entire part, that seemed to work in the past,” said Kota Neelima, the founder of the Institute of Perception Studies in New Delhi. But in a once-in-a-century catastrophe, she said, “you actually notice the government is absent.”

Perhaps the most telling criticism has come from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a powerful organization with millions of members that has long supported turning India into a Hindu state and that has placed its hopes in Mr. Modi.

The R.S.S. recently tried to help the positivity campaign by holding a series of lectures by influential figures called “Positivity Unlimited.” But in his own speech, Mohan Bhagwat, the R.S.S. chief, couldn’t entirely deflect blame from Mr. Modi’s administration: Both the government and the people had lowered their guard, he said.


Mr. Modi picked up many of his skills as a communicator as an R.S.S. volunteer, said Badri Narayan, a social historian and political analyst who has written extensively about the group. Its “language of mobilization” emphasizes storytelling loaded with symbolism echoing thousands of years of history.

“He was trained in that pedagogy of oratory,” Mr. Narayan said. “He came to learn how to use storytelling for bigger messaging, and he evolved that training in his own ways.”

How Mr. Modi will emerge from the pandemic could depend on those talents, which have bailed him out in the past.

To become prime minister, Mr. Modi overcame a reputation tarnished by his alleged involvement in fanning religious violence when he was chief minister of the state of Gujarat two decades ago. For a time, he was banned from entering the United States on grounds that he had violated religious freedoms. He successfully rebranded himself as the Hindu nationalist who could be India’s development champion. Soon after winning election in 2014, he traveled to the New York and spoke for an hour in a packed Madison Square Garden to chants of “Modi! Modi! Modi!”

In seven years as prime minister, he has tightly controlled his image. He prefers choreographed rallies and selective interviews over news conferences, avoiding vulnerability while offering plenty of content for his social media apparatus and network of celebrity supporters.


Riaz Haq said…
#COVID #pandemic could be #Indian leader #Modi's undoing but he remains wildly popular despite his failure to kickstart #India's staggering #economy, to create millions of new #jobs and to provide #healthcare to India's poorest citizens. #BJP #Hindutva https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/12/asia/india-covid-modi-intl-hnk-cmd/index.html


Dr. Satyendra Kumar Tiwary thinks of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as superhuman. A leader like Modi comes along "once in 2,500 years," he says, and should be remembered among the greats in India's history, like Mahatma Gandhi, and even the Buddha.

"The world will never see another leader like Modi," said the 47-year-old professor of general surgery from Varanasi, which is both Modi's parliamentary constituency and one of the holiest cities for Hindus. "He is not a man, he's superman. He's a saint."
Like so many Modi supporters, Tiwary boasts that the Prime Minister, at 70, works more than 18 hours a day and has never taken a day off work in 23 years, echoing a claim that senior officials from Modi's Bharatiya Janatiya Party (BJP) have made many times.
It is precisely this image of a hard-working people's man -- with little time for a personal life, but plenty for yoga and his Hindu faith -- that catapulted Modi to a landslide re-election in India's 2019 general vote. His party's unapologetic Hindu nationalist agenda attracted 100 million more votes than the main opposition.
Modi, who has ruled India since 2014, has remained wildly popular despite setbacks in his efforts to kickstart the country's staggering economy, to create millions of new jobs and to provide healthcare to India's poorest citizens.
Dr. Satyendra Kumar Tiwary pinned the blame on state governments for India's coronavirus crisis.
Dr. Satyendra Kumar Tiwary pinned the blame on state governments for India's coronavirus crisis.
But India is now gripped with a catastrophic second wave of Covid-19 that has left its crematoriums overflowing with bodies and put its health system under enormous strain. Modi is taking heat over his mismanagement of the national health crisis, for holding rallies during regional elections with no social distancing or mask-wearing rules, and for failing to prevent the gathering of millions of pilgrims at the Kumbh Mela religious festival, which contributed to one of the country's most dramatic surges in infections.
Just as the pandemic contributed to the defeat of Donald Trump in the US, Modi was "almost certain" to take a hit politically too, said Ashutosh Varshney, director of the Center for Contemporary South Asia at Brown University.
"A very large part of the base is hugely disenchanted because they've lost their loved ones. They've lost their siblings, their parents, their children," he said.
Modi's loyal base
Modi may be 70 years old, but he also has legions of young Indian supporters.
Rishabh Mehta, a 24-year-old university student, said he was drawn to Modi's unwavering nationalism and thought well of the leader's achievements on improving India's defense systems.
When asked about the country's high Covid-19 death toll, Mehta said he believed the numbers had been inflated by state leaders seeking to tarnish Modi's image. Mehta believes there is a targeted "campaign going on to defame the ... central government."
Most experts and critics say the opposite, and Indian media organizations are gathering more and more evidence that show country is undercounting the dead, whether deliberately or simply because India is unable to measure the pandemic's true impact.
But Mehta's loyalty has remained strong, even after losing one of his close friends to the virus. Mehta himself took his friend to hospital in the capital, New Delhi, where he described chaotic scenes of "people shouting, people coughing, people crying" in desperation.
"It was a very horrific moment for all of us," he said.
Riaz Haq said…
#COVID19 Punctures #Modi’s Aura as Some Supporters Sour on #India’s Strongman. There are few #Indians right now who don’t know, within one degree of separation, somebody who died in the past year. #BJP #Hindutva #Islamophobia #economy #jobs https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-punctures-narendra-modis-aura-as-some-supporters-sour-on-indias-strongman-11623643694?reflink=desktopwebshare_twitter via @WSJ

Veteran political experts said the Covid-19 crisis has tarnished Mr. Modi’s aura of invincibility and sparked the kind of vocal public criticism that his government has tried to muzzle in recent years. Indians have taken to social media to rail against Mr. Modi and the BJP, with hashtags such as #ModiResign and #ModiFailsIndia going viral.

“There are few Indians right now who don’t know, within one degree of separation, somebody who died in the past year,” said Irfan Nooruddin, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, a think tank based in Washington. The visuals beamed out from all corners of India—including people dying outside hospitals and dead bodies floating down the Ganges River—serve as a visceral punch reminding every Indian of how badly the government bungled the pandemic, he said.

“The notion that Modi could not be criticized, that you couldn’t really say anything against the government—that has been punctured,” he said. “And that I think is a big step.”

Even Indian media outlets, which in recent years have increasingly shied away from critical coverage of the government, have aggressively covered the breakdown of India’s healthcare system, Mr. Nooruddin said. The Supreme Court has also harshly criticized the government for failing to ensure hospitals had adequate oxygen and other medical care.

The opposition Congress party has repeatedly criticized Mr. Modi’s leadership and the government over the slow pace of vaccination and deficiencies in the country’s healthcare system. “The prime minister is also missing along with vaccines, oxygen and drugs,” opposition leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted last month.

The prime minister’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a spokesman for the BJP, said Mr. Modi’s government has been working to protect the Indian people by ramping up healthcare capacity, working to get oxygen to the areas that need it and creating supply chains to deliver vaccines. He said the farmers’ protests contributed to the spread of the virus and that the state governments, which are largely responsible for regulating healthcare in India, were unprepared for the speed of the surge. To blame the prime minister, he said, “is simply not understanding how governance functions in India.”

Riaz Haq said…
South #Indian state of Andhra Pradesh reported over 130,000 deaths in May 2021, or nearly 5X the usual number of deaths reported in the month. Excess mortality reported by the state from January to May 2021 was 34X the official #COVID19 toll in the period. https://scroll.in/article/997427/andhra-pradesh-saw-400-increase-in-deaths-in-may-tamil-nadu-saw-more-modest-excess-mortality

Death registration data shows the second wave of Covid-19 hit Andhra Pradesh much harder than what has been captured in official data.

More limited data available for Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, shows a more modest increase in mortality: between January 1 and June 13, Tamil Nadu registered 129,000 excess deaths over the average, roughly 7.5 times the official reported Covid-19 toll for the same time.

Officially, India has reported 370,000 deaths from Covid, substantially lower than the death tolls in the United States and Brazil, and among the lowest deaths proportionate to its population. India has officially reported just 266 deaths for every million people, as against nearly ten times that number in Brazil.

However, doubts persist over the proportion of its Covid toll that India is able to accurately capture. Some of the undercounting is a legacy of India’s problems with state capacity; even pre-pandemic, India was able to capture only an estimated 86% of all deaths, with death registration as low as 35% in states like Bihar as of 2018.

However, some of it is specific to the pandemic: despite the guidelines of the World Health Organisation and the Indian Council for Medical Research that encourage adopting as liberal a definition of a Covid death as possible, Indian states have systematically adopted an excessively stringent definition – only deaths of people who tested positive for Covid prior to death and died with a typical progression of disease in hospitals are typically counted as India’s Covid dead.

Simultaneously, there is some evidence that routine health services were severely affected. Doctors across the country have reported premature deaths in their patients with chronic disease on account of being unable to access life-saving measures, including dialysis and cancer treatments.


All of this has driven attempts in India to gauge “excess mortality” – the difference between mortality from all causes during the pandemic and in normal years. Across the world, countries make updated all-cause mortality data freely available. The United Kingdom and South Africa are among the countries that publish this data weekly, and Peru recently significantly revised its official count upwards to account for this excess mortality.

Indian states collect all-cause mortality data every day through the Civil Registration System which functions under the Office of the Registrar General of India. The process is decentralised down to the sub-district level in every district in the country. But states are not making this data public.

CRS data for Madhya Pradesh accessed by Scroll.in showed that Madhya Pradesh saw over 160,000 reported deaths in May 2021, or nearly five times the usual number of reported deaths in 2018 and 2019.

In all, Madhya Pradesh saw more than twice as many deaths between January 1 to May 31 this year compared to the 2018-’19 average. There were over 180,000 “excess deaths” in 2021 over the usual, and over 42 times the reported Covid death toll for the same period.

Riaz Haq said…
Dangerous #India variant, also known as #DeltaVariant, is spreading rapidly in #US. The virus accounts for nearly 10% of #coronavirus cases in the US, according to the #CDC. The good news is that #vaccines appear to be effective against it. #COVID https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/16/health/us-coronavirus-wednesday/index.html

As states lift more coronavirus restrictions, experts are worried people who aren't fully vaccinated could contribute to further spread of the virus.

The Delta variant, first reported in India, accounts for nearly 10% of coronavirus cases in the US, according to the CDC.
With concerns it could become the dominant strain soon, medical experts are underscoring the importance of vaccination.
"I'm worried about those who are unvaccinated," Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told CNN on Tuesday, noting the Delta variant "is rapidly increasing here in the United States."

The CDC has determined the Delta variant is a "variant of concern," a designation given to strains of the virus that scientists believe are more transmissible or can cause more severe disease.
The Delta variant "appears to be significantly more transmissible than even the Alpha variant or the UK variant, which is now dominant in the United States," Murthy told CNN.
"The second reason it's concerning is that there is some data to indicate that it may in fact also be more dangerous, may cause more severe illness. That still needs to be understood more clearly, but these are two important concerns and they explain in part ... why this is become the dominant variant in the UK, where over 90% of cases are the Delta variant," Murthy said.
The good news is that vaccines appear to be effective against the Delta variant.
A new study by Public Health England found that two doses of a coronavirus vaccine is "highly effective against hospitalization" caused by the variant. The study found the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalization after two doses.
Murthy said there isn't enough data to indicate the effectiveness of Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine in regard to the Delta variant, but the vaccine has shown it can help prevent hospitalizations and deaths when people are infected with other strains.
"The key is get vaccinated, get both doses," Murthy said.
As of Wednesday, 44.1% of the total US population was fully vaccinated while 52.7% has received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the CDC.
This comes on the heels of the US surpassing 600,000 deaths since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That means about one in every 550 people in the US has died from the virus.
States continue to reopen
So far, 14 states have reached Biden's goal of vaccinating 70% of adults with at least one dose by July 4, according to CDC data.
New York is among the states that reached that milestone, pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to lift most state-mandated Covid-19 restrictions.
Restrictions were lifted across all commercial and social settings, including the requirements on social gatherings, capacity restrictions, social distancing, health screenings, cleaning and disinfection protocols, and contact tracing. Mask requirements will continue in pre-K settings, on public transit and in health care settings, Cuomo said.
Fireworks displays were put on at various locations across the state Tuesday night to celebrate essential workers and the lifting of restrictions.

"This is a momentous day, and we deserve it because it has been a long, long road," Cuomo said. "We can now return to life as we know it."
California lifted most of its Covid-19 restrictions Tuesday, ending capacity limits, physical distancing and mask requirements for the vaccinated.
Businesses in the state are already adjusting.

Riaz Haq said…
#Modi #Vaccine Disaster Leaves #India Vulnerable to 3rd #Covid Wave. Modi has made himself the face of country’s #vaccination drive. Quite literally—vaccination certificates issued by govt feature a smiling photo of Modi, the only world leader to do so.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/06/16/modi-vaccine-failures-india-covid/

As a deadly second wave raged across India through April and May, the Narendra Modi government made an unprecedented move: It shifted the responsibility of procuring vaccines onto different regional governments in the country.

For decades, India’s vastly successful universal immunization program has relied on the central government procuring vaccines and distributing it to different regional authorities. When the pandemic hit, the expectation was that the country would build on that model.

But on April 21, as India recorded nearly 315,000 coronavirus cases, the Modi government announced it would only buy half the country’s requirement of vaccines. Local governments and private hospitals would have to source the remaining by themselves, within 10 days.

The move left the 36 regional governments shellshocked—with zero notice, they were expected to locate and contact vaccine manufacturers around the world, negotiate prices and secure supplies, even as the country’s hospitals were overwhelmed with those struggling, while cremation sites overflowed with the dead. In doing so, Modi was—wittingly or otherwise—emulating former U,S. President Donald Trump, who in March 2020 passed off the responsibility of buying life-saving ventilators and masks to the governors, insisting that his government was “not a shipping clerk.”

With the Modi government’s announcement, local governments floated global tenders, and even municipalities tried their luck—Mumbai’s authorities wrote to its six international “sister cities,” pleading for vaccines. Nothing worked. Companies like Moderna and Pfizer offered a reality check, insisting that they would only deal with the federal government.

Even the Supreme Court of India, normally shy of crossing paths with the Modi government, came out and called the policy “arbitrary and irrational.”

Stung by the criticism, Modi last week came on television and announced that he was reversing the policy, adding that his government was now taking back responsibility for the country’s vaccination procurement.

But a steep price has already been paid. Six precious weeks were wasted in the race between vaccination and infection. Right now, the country is already opening up again, easing restrictions on everything from marriages to eating out. But with only 3.7 percent of its population vaccinated, the country faces the grim prospect of a being caught in yet another new wave of coronavirus infections.

Much of the blame for this should be shouldered by Modi and his government.


Since the beginning of the pandemic, Modi had made himself the face of the country’s vaccination drive. Quite literally—vaccination certificates issued by the government feature a smiling photo of Modi, possibly the only world leader to do so.

On the country’s Independence Day celebrations in August last year, Modi first broke the news to the country that there were “not one, not two, as many as three coronavirus vaccines” in different stages of testing, assuring citizens that the country was fully prepared to vaccinate the country as quickly as possible with indigenously developed vaccines. A month later, in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Modi said he wanted to assurethe global community that “India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis.”

In January this year, he reminded the world againthat India was “ready to save humanity.”

Riaz Haq said…
#India’s devastating #coronavirus surge turned children into orphans. The full severity of India’s recent wave of infections — now receding at last — is hard to grasp. #COVID #Modi #BJP #economy https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/interactive/2021/india-coronavirus-orphans/

BHOPAL, India — The nights are the hardest.

Five-year-old twins Ruhi and Mahi go to sleep late. In the dark, they often wake up crying or seized with fear.

In the morning, their great-uncle dresses them and combs their hair. They ask him the same question over and over: Where are our parents?

Your mom and dad are with the doctors, he tells the girls. They’re at the hospital.

The truth is too difficult for him to speak. Ruhi and Mahi’s parents are both dead, swept away in a matter of days during the calamity of India’s second wave of coronavirus cases.

The girls’ father, Mohan, known for his helpful nature and devotion to his daughters, died on April 30, his lungs straining on a ventilator at a government-run hospital in this central Indian city.

Three days later their mother, Rita, died at home in a rooftop room with pale yellow walls, crushed by sickness and grief. Her daughters were asleep nearby.

The full severity of India’s recent wave of infections — now receding at last — is hard to grasp. In April and May, the virus overwhelmed hospitals and killed nearly 170,000 Indians, according to official statistics. Experts believe the true figure is far higher.

Perhaps no phenomenon encapsulates the nation’s losses like the number of children orphaned in the surge. What happened to Mohan and Rita’s daughters is not unique: Nearly 600 children in India have lost both parents to covid-19, said Smriti Irani, the government minister for women and child development, in a tweet last month.

Even that figure may understate the tragedy. Across India, more than 3,600 children have been orphaned as a result of covid and other causes since the start of the pandemic, according to an affidavit filed this month by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Although India’s situation is extreme, the country is far from alone. The pandemic has killed parents of young children around the world. Researchers in the United States used Census Bureau data to estimate that about 43,000 American children had lost a parent to covid since March of last year. There were also families in the United States where both parents died.

In India, the ferocity of the second wave left hospitals too full to treat the sick. Many died because they could not get enough oxygen or other treatment, leaving their families with the unanswerable question of whether their relatives might have been saved with proper care.

Most of the children orphaned in the surge are staying with relatives. A small minority have been placed in institutional care, say child protection authorities. The perils are myriad: Children who lose their parents are at higher risk of depression, dropping out of school and being exploited, experts say.

In April, messages began to circulate on social media allegedly seeking adoptive parents for children whose parents had died of covid. The appeals became so widespread that the authorities issued a warning that such direct adoptions are illegal and could be used for child trafficking.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced that the national government would cover educational expenses and provide health insurance to children orphaned by covid, as well as set aside funds they could access upon turning 18. In such trying times, Modi said, according to an official statement, “it is our duty as a society to care for our children.”

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan donates relief supplies to #Afghanistan to fight dangerous #India variant of #coronavirus. Supplies include ox­ygen cylinders, oxygen concentra­tors, ICU ventilators, BIPAPs, digital X-Ray machines, Thermal guns and PPEs kits. #COVID19 https://pajhwok.com/2021/06/17/pakistan-donates-covid-19-ppes-medical-equipment-to-afghanistan/

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1406387850891841537?s=20


KABUL (Pajhwok): Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has handed over Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) to Afghanistan to combat Covid-19, according to a media report on Thursday.

In a statement issued, the NDMA said that on behalf of the government of Pakistan PPEs and medical equip­ment have been handed over to the Ambassador of Afghanistan to combat Covid-19.

SAPM Health Dr. Faisal Sultan was the chief guest of the ceremony held here. Special Representative of Prime Minister for Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq and Ambassador of Afghanistan were also present on the occasion.

The relief items included 500 ox­ygen cylinders, oxygen concentra­tors, ICU ventilators, BIPAPs, digital X-Ray machines, Thermal guns and PPEs kits. The SAPM Health highly ap­preciated NDMA’s effort to deal with emergencies and its role in combat­ing Covid in Pakistan. The Ambassa­dor of Afghanistan while appreciating the role of NDMA also appreciated this timely assistance in helping Afghani­stan to control the pandemic.
Riaz Haq said…
#India Official Warns of Early Third #COVID Wave As Highly Transmissible & Dangerous #DeltaVariant Spreads Further Faster. The virus is believed to be responsible for India’s “devastating second wave” and continues to pose a high risk to the unvaccinated https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-06-20/india-offical-warns-of-early-third-covid-19-wave-times-reports

India may be hit by a third wave of Covid-19 far sooner than predicted because people are ignoring guidelines, the Times of India cited Randeep Guleria, director at the state-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences, as saying.

Infections could start rising again in 12 to 16 weeks, the report quoted Guleria as saying. That compares with the four to five months new waves are expected to take to peak, the Times of India reported on Sunday.

Guleria earlier told a television channel that a third wave could come as early as in six to eight weeks time, according to the report.

He said the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus is believed to be responsible for India’s “devastating second wave” and continues to pose a high risk to a large section of the population that has not yet been vaccinated, according to the Times of India report.

India’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 29 million, with more than 380,000 deaths. Experts believe both numbers are vastly undercounted.
Riaz Haq said…
Mr. Biden announced this month plans to donate 500 million coronavirus vaccine doses produced by Pfizer to the rest of the world. Of those doses, 200 million are expected to be exported this year and 300 million in the first half of next year.

Outbreaks in countries such as India and Brazil have underscored the gap in vaccinations between rich and poor countries, with many developing nations still struggling to administer vaccines.


Of those being donated through Covax, 14 million will go to Latin America, 16 million to Asia and 10 million to Africa. The White House also listed more than two dozen countries and regions that will receive doses directly, including Colombia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ukraine, Bosnia, the West Bank and Gaza.


https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-administration-to-miss-june-target-for-some-covid-19-vaccine-donations-11624306309?mod=searchresults_pos3&page=1
Riaz Haq said…
#India's #economy under #Modi. #GDP is shrinking, inflation rising. High budget deficits forcing India to borrow heavily. #BJP #Hindutva #CIOVID #DeltaVariant https://news.yahoo.com/india-economy-seven-years-modi-230103338.html

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1407342206730526721?s=20

Narendra Modi stormed India's political stage with grand promises - of more jobs, prosperity and less red tape.

His thumping mandate - in 2014 and again in 2019 - raised hopes of big bang reforms.

But his economic record, in the seven years he's been prime minister, has proved lacklustre. And the pandemic battered what was an already under-par performance.


Here's how Asia's third-largest economy has fared under Mr Modi, in seven charts.

Growth is sluggish
Mr Modi's avowed GDP target - a $5 trillion (£3.6 trillion) economy by 2025, or roughly $3 trillion after adjusting for inflation - is a pipe dream now.

Independent pre-Covid estimates for 2025 had touched $2.6 trillion at best. The pandemic has shaved off another $200-300bn.

Rising inflation, driven by global oil prices, is also a big concern, economist Ajit Ranade said.

But Covid is not solely responsible.

India's GDP - at a high of 7-8% when Mr Modi took office - had fallen to its lowest in a decade - 3.1% - by the fourth quarter of 2019-20.

A disastrous currency ban in 2016, which wiped out 86% of cash in circulation, and a hasty roll-out of a sweeping new tax code, known as the Goods and Services Tax (GST), hit businesses hard.

This spurred the next big problem.

Joblessness is on the rise
"India's biggest challenge has been a slowdown in investments since 2011-12," said Mahesh Vyas, CEO of the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE). "Then, since 2016, we have suffered too many economic shocks in quick succession."

The currency ban, GST and intermittent lockdowns all reduced employment, he added.

Unemployment climbed to a 45-year high - 6.1% - in 2017-18, according to the last official count. And it has nearly doubled since then, according to household surveys by CMIE, a widely-used proxy for labour market data.

More than 25 million people have lost their jobs since the start of 2021. And more than 75 million Indians have plunged back into poverty, including a third of India's 100 million-strong middle class, setting back half a decade of gains, according to estimates by Pew Research.

Mr Modi's government has also created far short of the 20 million jobs the economy needs every year, Mr Ranade said. India has been adding only around 4.3 million jobs a year for the last decade.

India is not making or exporting enough
'Make in India' - Mr Modi's high-octane flagship initiative - was supposed to turn India into a global manufacturing powerhouse by cutting red tape and drawing investment for export hubs.

The goal: manufacturing would account for 25% of GDP. Seven years on, it's share is stagnant at 15%. Worse, manufacturing jobs went down by half in the last five years, according to the Centre for Economic Data and Analysis.

Exports have been stuck at around $300bn for nearly a decade.

Under Mr Modi, India has steadily lost market share to smaller rivals such as Bangladesh, whose remarkable growth has hinged on exports, largely fuelled by the labour-intensive garments industry.

Mr Modi has also hiked tariffs and turned increasingly protectionist in recent years - in tandem with his rallying cry for "self-reliance".

Infrastructure building is a rare bright spot
Mr Modi's government has been laying 36km (22 miles) of highways a day on average, compared to his predecessor's daily count of 8-11km, said Vinayak Chatterjee, co-founder of infrastructure firm Feedback Infra.
Riaz Haq said…
Third wave abating! #Pakistan's #COVID19 positivity rate drops to 1.69%, the lowest in 8 months!! The country last recorded its lowest positivity rate at 1.64% on October 18, 2020. #Coronavirus #pandemic https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/853429-pakistans-covid-19-positivity-rate-drops-to-169-lowest-in-8-months

Pakistan's coronavirus positivity rate is down to 1.69% today, according to daily data issued by the National Command and Operation Center. This is the lowest positivity rate recorded by the country in eight months.

The country last recorded its lowest positivity rate at 1.64% on October 18.

A major decrease was also seen in the daily number of COVID-19 cases detected in Pakistan.

In the last 24 hours, 663 new infections have been detected and 27 people have died from the virus, according to the NCOC.

The NCOC said a total of 39,017 tests for COVID-19 were conducted in the last 24 hours.

The total number of deaths from COVID-19 in the country so far has reached 22,034 and the total number of cases has reached 949,838, while 894,352 people have recovered from the virus so far. The active number of cases currently stands at 33,452.

During the last 24 hours, the most deaths occurred in Punjab followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Out of the 27 deaths, 17 people died on ventilators.
Riaz Haq said…
Thanks to #Modi, #India Had a ‘State-Orchestrated Covid Massacre’, says popular #Indian comedian Kunal Kamra.“My people are needlessly dying,” Mr. Kamra says. “Our government has blood on its hands.” #BJP #Hindutva #Islamophobia #Covid https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/23/opinion/modi-covid-kunal-kamra-india.html?smid=tw-share

In the Opinion video above, Kunal Kamra, an enormously popular stand-up comedian in India, puts all jokes aside and takes a serious look at his government’s handling of the pandemic. His assessment is withering: He accuses the nation’s leadership, especially an overconfident Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of putting political vanity before common sense and opening the door to a devastating resurgence of coronavirus infections that have devastated the country.

India has been struggling for weeks amid this second wave, which has sickened millions, killed hundreds of thousands and overwhelmed the nation’s health care system. At the peak of the crisis, new infections numbered about 400,000 a day, a record-breaking pace.

Since then, the daily counts of infections and deaths have dropped. But Mr. Kamra says that had Mr. Modi and other political leaders responded more quickly and more effectively, a lot of lives and heartache would have been spared.

“My people are needlessly dying,” Mr. Kamra says. “Our government has blood on its hands.”

Riaz Haq said…
#Bangladesh to go into nationwide hard #lockdown from Monday June 28, 2021. The daily #COVID #infection rate rose to 21.22%, up from 15% a week ago. #DeltaVariant #India https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2021/06/25/bangladesh-goes-into-nationwide-hard-lockdown-from-june-28

All offices will remain closed; no one will be allowed to leave home without emergency


Amid the dramatic surge in coronavirus infections, Bangladesh is going into a nationwide hard lockdown from Monday (June 28) for seven days.

In a notification on Friday, the Information Ministry said that all government and private offices, except for emergency services will remain closed during the lockdown.

All kinds of transports, except for those carrying emergency supplies, will remain suspended, it said before adding ambulances and vehicles used for healthcare services and media will be exempted from the curbs.

No one will be allowed to leave home without emergency purposes.

The Cabinet Division will issue a detailed notification on Saturday, reads the notice by the ministry’s Press Information Department.


The announcement comes after the national Covid-19 advisory panel on Thursday recommended imposing a nationwide shutdown for two weeks, with all kinds of offices remained closed.

Soon after the panel made the recommendation, State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain told the media that they were all set to impose a complete shutdown any time.

As Covid-19 cases kept growing at an alarming rate since mid-March this year, the government was forced to impose a nationwide lockdown for one week from April 5 to contain the spread.

Later, a stricter set of restrictions on public movement and gathering were extended several times, including the latest one till July 15.

Additionally, the authorities across the country has been imposing district-wise restriction on public movement in areas with higher Covid-19 infections till now.


But now, with the fresh directive, a strict lockdown will take place across the nation.

On Friday, the death toll from Covid-19 rose by 108, the second highest single-day jump since the pandemic unfolded last year in Bangladesh.

The caseload surged by 5,869 to 878,804, according to the latest government data. The daily infection rate rose to 21.22%, up from 15% a week ago.

Amid the dramatic surge in infections, public experts fear that the pandemic in Bangladesh could take a catastrophic turn.

Riaz Haq said…
#India is in the grip of severe #poverty amidst #COVID19 crisis. There's increasing malnutrition, homelessness and unemployment in the country. #Modi #economy #BJP #Hindutva https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/06/27/india-in-the-grip-of-severe-poverty-amidst-covid-19-crisis/

The Covid19 persists to trigger havoc all over the world and many countries are stumbling under the deadly wave of the pandemic rapidly transforming into hunger and malnutrition disasters. The bigger challenge is however to deal with the poverty caused by the pandemic, and it has unveiled the reality of our system and increasing the existing inequalities. The economic consequence is expected to be sensed for years. Lockdowns seem to have halted the rise in the cases, but many people lost their jobs and were in a situation where they were unable to support their families. A country like India which makes up approximately 17 per cent of the world’s population observed one of the sharpest decline in the GDP wiping the gains achieved in the last decades. Unemployment has raised to the highest level over the last decades as economic activity has come to a screeching halt which is since 90 per cent of the labour force is in zones with no social security. Increasing poverty, homelessness, unemployment directed to the unparalleled increase in infant mortality, mental health problems and even suicides. Around 230 million people in India plunged into poverty- living on less than US$5 per day. Inequality in India has escalated to an extraordinary level as Mukesh Ambani became the 4 wealthiest men in the world in this pandemic while it’s deprived stand unsteadily at the brink. According to a report by Oxfam,1 per cent of Indian elites held 4 times the wealth of 953 million (70%) people. For impoverished covid 19 is not a concern but the socioeconomic catastrophes which could lead to soaring in child labour and child marriages. Dalit who is deemed as a lower caste and face everyday intolerance and inadequate access to social
Riaz Haq said…
After #COVID surge, some signs of internal dissent against #India's #Modi. Doing badly in #UttarPradesh would be a major setback for the #BJP, analysts say, and could have a knock-on effect on the next general election. #Hindutva #coronavirus #pandemic https://www.reuters.com/world/india/after-covid-surge-some-signs-internal-dissent-against-indias-modi-2021-06-29/

Govind Pasi, a grassroots member of India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), says he got no help from his connections in the ruling party when his wife contracted coronavirus and died at home for lack of proper treatment.

Now, he says, he is done with the party that has ruled India since 2014 and with its leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"I am heart-broken, nobody came to help us when we needed help the most," said Pasi, 45, speaking in Balai village in Uttar Pradesh state. Nearby, on the banks of the Ganges river, scores of bodies of people believed to have died of COVID-19 have washed up.

Anand Awasthi, a district vice president of the BJP, said he was aware of the death of Pasi's wife and that the party was trying to get him monetary compensation. He said there was some confusion around her death relating to whether a government database established she had COVID, but did not have details.

Pasi is among more than a dozen ground and mid-level BJP members who told Reuters they are disillusioned with the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has devastated India. In addition, six state lawmakers in Uttar Pradesh have written letters criticising the government for not responding to frantic calls for help from their constituents, which Reuters has reviewed.

A high-profile national level BJP official in New Delhi said he was taking a sabbatical because of the "failings of providing basic medical care, mixed messaging on lockdowns, abysmal medical oxygen cylinder shortages and clear lack of priority".

He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing worries about a backlash for stepping out of line.

The BJP is a mammoth organisation, claiming 150 million members, and Reuters could not determine the degree to which the unhappiness has spread. But it is highly unusual for those within the party to speak out against Modi, who has dominated Indian politics in his seven years in power and whose control of the BJP has been unquestioned.

The BJP headquarters and the prime minister's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Kailash Vijayvargiya, a senior BJP leader who is one of its nine general secretaries, told Reuters he had no knowledge of any unhappiness or dissent within the party.

"The pandemic was tough for everyone and we know some of our workers also lost their loved ones," he said. "At so many levels we have helped each other and there were times when we could not because the situation has been very difficult."

Modi, a Hindu nationalist who gets wide support in the country's majority community, has faced criticism before, including for a shock demonetisation that threw the economy into disarray and haphazard tax reform. But the shortage of hospital beds and medical oxygen in the COVID crisis and the country's stuttering vaccination programme have battered his reputation for action and competence, analysts and opposition leaders say.


Analysts say public anger over the handling of the pandemic coupled with even some disaffection in the party rank-and-file could hurt the BJP when it faces its next political test - an election early next year in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state and currently ruled by the BJP.
Riaz Haq said…
Big #Tech Is Gearing Up for a Massive Fight With #Modi’s #India. Modi government has demanded #Facebook & #Twitter take down hundreds of posts this year, divulge sensitive user information or face potential jail terms for executives. #Hindutva #censorship https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-06-30/big-tech-is-gearing-up-for-a-massive-fight-with-modi-s-india

India is growing increasingly assertive in its efforts to control online communications, challenging Twitter and Facebook’s practices and threatening to set a precedent that could extend far beyond its borders.

--
While the administration’s push to exert more control over user data and online discourse reflects efforts globally to come to grips with tech giants and their enormous influence, the stakes in India are particularly high for internet firms because -- shut out of China -- it’s the only billion-people market up for grabs. Unlike authoritarian regimes such as Beijing, critics fear actions taken by the world’s largest democracy could offer a template for other governments to encroach on personal privacy in the name of domestic security.

“India has introduced draconian changes to its rules,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in April. They “create new possibilities for government surveillance of citizens. These rules threaten the idea of a free and open internet built on a bedrock of international human rights standards.”

Holding internet companies responsible for content posted -- and in some cases, executives personally liable -- goes beyond what many countries demand and is a key point of dispute. Caught in this tug-of-war are hundreds of millions in India whose way of engaging with the internet now hangs in the balance. Facebook’s WhatsApp is in court arguing the new rules would circumvent its encryption, a key feature the company has touted in global marketing.

Modi’s administration has trained its sights on Twitter in recent months, given its role as the social platform of choice for politicians and celebrities. Cabinet ministers have accused the U.S. company of defying orders and suggested it should be stripped of its intermediary status -- making it directly accountable for content posted by its users. In May, Twitter slapped a “manipulated media” label on tweets from several accounts linked to Modi’s party. Police investigators have since called on senior executives and its offices, placing business in the world’s second most-populous nation at risk.

“Twitter is in a no-win situation here,” said Mike Masnick, founder of tech policy blog Techdirt. “Giving in to excessive government demands not only suppresses important speech, but opens the company up to even further pressure to silence critics of the government in India and elsewhere.”

Representatives for the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) that oversees regulation did not respond to several calls and emails seeking comment. WhatsApp and Twitter representatives declined to comment beyond past statements that they will aim to comply with government regulations.

India has said it welcomes criticism and dissent and its new rules are aimed at safeguarding public order and preventing harmful content such as child pornography and abuse videos. The country in recent years has grappled with an explosion of fake news across social media, much of it targeted at a largely first-time internet audience unaccustomed to sifting through online falsehoods. It came into conflict with Facebook in 2018 when the government asked WhatsApp to curb the spread of messages in connection with two dozen lynchings. Facebook’s response then was to restrict the forwarding of messages and label them as “forwarded.”


Riaz Haq said…
#India #Covid: AI shows #Pakistani Twitter prayed for neighbor. Artificial intelligence (AI)-driven study which looked at thousands of tweets from #Pakistan posted between 21 April & 4 May says overwhelming number were indeed positive. #Modi #coronavirus https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-57683808

It is perhaps not surprising that the fractious relationship between historic adversaries India and Pakistan has spilled over into social media in recent years.

But at the end of April, as India struggled with a ferocious second wave of Covid-19, citizens on either side of the border shelved their barbs in favour of supportive hashtags like #IndiaNeedsOxygen and #PakistanStandsWithIndia.

Experts say it is well known that supportive hashtags do not always mean positive tweets - users often "hijack" them for anything from trolling to wishing happy birthday to a cricketer or Bollywood star.

But an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven study which looked at thousands of tweets from Pakistan posted between 21 April and 4 May says an overwhelming number were indeed positive.

Researchers, led by Ashiqur KhudaBukhsh of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in the US, used machine learning tools to identify the tweets that expressed kindness, empathy and solidarity.

They collected 300,000 tweets with three biggest trending hashtags: #IndiaNeedsOxygen, #PakistanStandsWithIndia and #EndiaSaySorryToKashmir - the last a reference to the long-running dispute over the Himalayan territory. Of these, 55,712 tweets were from Pakistan, 46,651 were from India and the remaining were from around the world.

The researchers then ran the text from these tweets into a "hope speech classifier" - a language processing tool that helps detect positive comments. They looked for patterns to identify if the text had "hostility-diffusing positive hope speech", or words like prayer, empathy, distress and solidarity.

Their study found that tweets containing supportive hashtags originating in Pakistan heavily outnumbered those containing non-supportive hashtags and also had substantially more likes and retweets. Their method also amplified the positive tweets, making it easier to find them quickly.

"Our research showed that there's a universality in how people express emotions. If you search randomly, you'll find positive tweets a little over 44% of the time. Our method throws up positive tweets 83% of the time," Mr KhudaBukhsh said.

Riaz Haq said…
Wealth Gap in #India: Ambani is worth $80 billion, $15 billion more than last year. Adani 's wealth jumped from $13 billion last year to $55 billion. Meanwhile, number of people who are poor (with incomes of $2 or less a day) is up 75 million. #COVID19 https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/05/economy/ambani-adani-india-covid-billionaires-intl-hnk/index.html

The report noted that the Gini coefficient — a popular measure of inequality — increased from 74.7 in 2000 to 82.3 last year. The higher the number, the greater the disparity in income. A rating of 0 means that income is equally distributed throughout a society, while a rating of 100 means that one person takes home all of the income.
India slipped into a rare recession last year, after a lockdown that lasted for almost four months. While the economy recovered this year, unemployment numbers approached record levels this May after a massive surge in Covid cases this spring.
According to an analysis by Pew Research Center, India's middle class shrank by 32 million people last year as a consequence of the economic slowdown, compared to what it was expected to be without the pandemic.

"Meanwhile, the number of people who are poor in India (with incomes of $2 or less a day) is estimated to have increased by 75 million because of the Covid-19 recession," senior Pew researcher Rakesh Kochhar wrote in a post in March, adding that it accounted for nearly 60% of the global increase in poverty. That increase didn't account for the second wave.
By comparison, the change in living standards in China has been "more modest," Kochhar added.
Many households coped with the loss of income last year by cutting back on food intake, selling assets, and borrowing informally from friends, relatives, and money lenders, according to researchers at Azim Premji University in the Indian state of Karnataka. The researchers estimate that some 230 million Indians fell into poverty — which they defined as income of less than $5 a day — because of the pandemic.
"An alarming 90 per cent of respondents ... reported that households had suffered a reduction in food intake as a result of the lockdown," the researchers wrote in a May report examining the impact of one year of Covid in India. "Even more worryingly, 20 per cent reported that food intake had not improved even six months after the lockdown."
The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab has been studying the impact of the pandemic on workers from some of India's poorest states. In a report on young migrant workers from the states of Bihar and Jharkhand, the researchers found that Covid-19 pushed men out of salaried work, and women out of the workforce entirely.
"They [women] had this one chance of working. Now they are back home with their families and being pushed to get married," Clément Imbert, associate professor of economics at the University of Warwick and one of the researchers, told CNN Business.
Now, as India braces for a potential third wave of Covid-19, researchers hope the government can introduce some bold measures to cushion the impact on the world's weakest.
Riaz Haq said…
#India’s Biggest Job Creators Being Killed by #COVID19 #Pandemic. Small businesses employ over 110 million workers & are the nation’s biggest non-farm employer. Their revival is key to getting jobs on track for domestic demand and #GDP growth. #Modi. #BJP https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-09/india-s-biggest-job-creators-are-being-killed-by-the-pandemic

Small businesses may be the bedrock of the Indian economy, helping expand its industrial base and creating jobs by the millions, but the pandemic has shown it’s better to be bigger, according to research by Societe Generale.

The so-called micro-, small-, and medium-enterprises haven’t benefited much from the government’s stimulus steps such as liquidity and loan moratorium, forcing them to let go a large swathe of their employees, Kunal Kundu, an economist with Societe Generale GSC Pvt. in Bengaluru, wrote in the report. While the bigger companies sailed through with a minor blip, he said.

Read: $277 Billion Package May Not Give Immediate Boost to India

Given that small enterprises account for more than 110 million workers and are the nation’s biggest non-farm employer, Kundu said their revival is key to getting jobs on track, and, in turn, domestic demand.

Here’s how Kundu sees small companies faring poorly compared to larger ones:

MSMEs, which have a much higher staff cost-to-sales ratio, saw a 10.5 percentage point drop in the ratio between the second and fourth quarters of 2020, while the drop for the larger companies was only around 5 percentage point
Despite large-scale layoffs, MSME’s margins continued to suffer not just because of high and rising input costs, but also because of a sharp increase in their financing cost
Small businesses also face a double whammy on the tax front. Currently, these businesses are liable to pay consumption tax as soon as they raise an invoice, irrespective of whether or not the invoices have been settled. Failure to pay goods and services tax, in turn, leads to an additional burden in the form of penalties
Riaz Haq said…
#Indian Rupee Slides Toward Year’s Low as #India’s Trade Deficit Widens. India’s widening trade deficit & elevated commodity prices are bearing down on the #currency , reinforcing a recent downward trend pushing it toward a new low for the year.- Bloomberg


https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-11/rupee-slides-toward-year-s-low-as-india-s-trade-deficit-widens

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1414378178777272322?s=20


After months of wild volatility in the rupee, India’s widening trade deficit and elevated commodity prices are bearing down on the currency, reinforcing a recent downward bias and pushing it toward a new low for the year.

That’s the view of traders who’ve seen the rupee whipsaw from being Asia’s best performer in the first quarter to its worst in April when another wave of Covid-19 infections took hold.

This volatility and the prospect of tapering by the Federal Reserve have also reduced the attractiveness of India’s currency for carry trades, adding to its headwinds.

“We expect oil and broader commodity complex prices to remain elevated in the short term, which will weigh on India’s trade balance,” said Standard Chartered Plc’s Parul Mittal Sinha. “We maintain a bearish view on the rupee,” said Sinha, who heads the bank’s India financial markets and macro trading for South Asia.

Standard Chartered and RBL Bank Ltd. forecast the currency to depreciate to 76 per dollar by year-end, while their peers at Deutsche Bank AG have a slightly less pessimistic projection of 75.

The rupee closed at 74.6350 on Friday while Brent crude, the benchmark for India’s oil imports, was around $76 per barrel, up more than 45% since the start of the year.

Amid the devastating human toll that the coronavirus is taking in India, the rate of increase in new infections is slowing, which is improving the prospects for reopening the economy. But as the Covid curve flattens and consumers and businesses become more active, demand for imports is also set to increase, weighing on the currency.

Updated trade data due Thursday are expected to confirm the deficit widened to $9.4 billion in June, from $6.3 billion in May. Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. estimates that billion dollar deficits will continue and average in the “double digits” as the economy reopens.

Technical indicators also point to further depreciation of the currency given dollar-rupee’s moving average convergence-divergence gauge, a measure of momentum, remains above zero in bullish territory. The pair has room to run before reaching resistance at April’s peak of 75.3362.

Yet even RBL Bank’s domestic markets head Anand Bagri, who expects the rupee to weaken, sees pockets of support for the currency, including inflows for equity offerings.

Notable among these is a $1.3 billion initial share salesfrom Zomato Ltd., and Paytm’s bid for shareholder approval of a $2.2 billion stock sale that would set in motion the process for the country’s largest ever debut.

The Reserve Bank of India also has $600 billion of currency reserves to draw on to curb any sharp fall in the rupee.

‘”We expect the RBI to remain proactive with its FX intervention strategy to ensure limited volatility in the rupee and to prevent excessive rupee depreciation from feeding into inflation,” said Kaushik Das, chief India economist at Deutsche Bank.

Riaz Haq said…
Sashi Tharoor: #India besieged by #Covid19, rising #poverty, falling #GDP growth & tensions with #China & #Pakistan. #Modi's embrace of the #Quad with the #US, #Japan and #Australia should be seen in this light: it is shield, more than sword https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/3140393/coronavirus-poverty-pakistan-india-under-siege-not-ready-war?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=share_widget&utm_campaign=3140393 via @scmpnews

The Hindu nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government in India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi marked the seventh anniversary of its ascent to power a little over a month ago without any of its customary fanfare. The subdued air around the government’s conduct reveals a country in many ways under siege.
First of all, the deadly coronavirus has besieged India, with the authorities’ response to a devastating second wave bordering between the inept and the irresponsible. So far, close to 400,000 people have lost their lives, though unofficial estimates place the toll much higher. More than 30 million people have been infected; many have had to struggle for basic supplies of medicines and oxygen in the last three months, as hospitals overflowed and the health-care system buckled under the pressure. Only 4 per cent of Indians are fully vaccinated, the government having failed to order sufficient doses even while it was boasting that it had done the world a favour by preventing a major calamity.
Next, the economy is under siege. The GDP growth rate has cratered, thanks in part (but not only) to the draconian nationwide lockdown imposed in March 2020 and fitfully renewed since. Some 75 million people were pushed below the poverty line in 2020 and 97 per cent of Indians reported becoming poorer during the last year. Unemployment figures are at the highest levels ever recorded. Tens of thousands of micro, small and medium enterprises (especially those employing fewer than twenty people) have been forced to close. India’s middle class is estimated to have shrunk by 32 million in the last year. It is clear that both lives and livelihoods have been in jeopardy since the Modi government’s re-election in May 2019.
Riaz Haq said…
#Indians Sell Their #Gold As #Covid 2nd Wave Pushes Millions Into Poverty. Many Indians who had clawed their way out of poverty face grim job prospects as #lockdowns crippled the #economy. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva #Islamophobia #coronavirus #pandemic https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/coronavirus-indians-sell-their-gold-as-covid-2nd-wave-pushes-millions-into-poverty-2484466 via @ndtv

Paul Fernandes, a 50-year-old waiter in India, last year took out a loan using his gold as collateral to pay for his children's education after losing his job on a cruise liner. This year, he is selling his gold jewelry to meet expenses, after failed attempts at starting a home business and finding another job.
"A gold loan is after all a debt that I am taking on," he said from his hometown in the coastal state of Goa. "Selling my jewelry means I am not obligated to pay someone back along with an additional interest on that."

With the pandemic pushing millions into poverty or bankruptcy, many Indians are now turning to their last resort: selling their gold jewelry to make ends meet. In rural India, the biggest bullion buyer, a brutal new wave of the virus has had a catastrophic impact on the economy and incomes. With fewer banks around, people in rural areas rely on gold in times of need as it can be easily liquidated.

The likelihood of financial distress caused by the second wave is much higher and it could lead to more outright sales of gold, unlike in 2020, when consumers chose to take out loans against their stash of the metal, according to Chirag Sheth, a consultant at London-based Metals Focus Ltd.

Gross scrap supplies, which include old gold melted to make new designs, may exceed 215 tons and surge to the highest in nine years if a new wave emerges, he said. For a nation that imports almost all its gold mainly from Switzerland, higher local supply will also limit overseas inflows.

"You already had a financial problem last year and you got out of that problem through gold loans. Now again, you are having financial problems this year with a potentially third wave on the way, which can again mean lockdowns and job losses," said Sheth. "We can expect distress sales in a big way in August and September when the third wave could actually set in."

Many Indians who had clawed their way out of poverty face grim job prospects as lockdowns crippled the economy. More than 200 million have gone back to earning less than minimum wage, or $5, a day.

Signs of Distress

In an initial sign of stress among consumers, Manappuram Finance Ltd., one of the nation's biggest gold loan providers, auctioned 4.04 billion rupees ($54 million) of gold in the three months through March from loans that turned sour following a sharp drop in prices.

That compares with just 80 million rupees auctioned in the prior nine-month period. The jewelry was sold as Manappuram's borrowers -- typically daily wage earners, small time entrepreneurs, and farmers -- couldn't afford to repay the money.
Riaz Haq said…
Top #Indian newspaper raided by #tax authorities after months of critical coverage.Under #Modi, several critical media outlets have found themselves in tax investigators’ crosshairs, raising fears about the health of the independent press in #India. #BJP https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-modi-press-raid/2021/07/22/facbc01a-eabd-11eb-84a2-d93bc0b50294_story.html?tid=ss_tw

“The raid is the outcome of our aggressive reporting, especially during the second wave of the pandemic in April,” Gaur said by telephone. “Unlike some other media, we reported how people were dying for lack of oxygen and hospital beds.”

--------------


Indian tax authorities on Thursday raided one of the country's most prominent newspapers in what journalists and the political opposition denounced as retaliation for the outlet's hard-nosed coverage of the government's pandemic response.

The Dainik Bhaskar Group, whose Hindi-language broadsheet boasts a combined circulation of more than 4 million, was raided simultaneously in at least four locations, including at its headquarters in Madhya Pradesh state.

Surabhi Ahluwalia, a spokeswoman for the tax authority, said searches were underway at multiple locations across the country linked to the group, but she declined to share details about the case. She said the department usually conducts searches in matters of tax evasion.

But the justification of tax evasion was panned by government critics, who pointed out that Dainik Bhaskar has been persistently needling India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with its coverage, including as recently as this week.

India used spyware to hack journalists and others

The Press Club of India said in a statement that it “deplores such acts of intimidation by the government through enforcement agencies to deter the independent media.”

Under the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who rose to power in 2014, several critical media outlets have found themselves in tax investigators’ crosshairs, raising fears about the health of the independent press in the world’s largest democracy. Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for journalists, recently placed India at 142nd place in its press freedom rankings, roughly on par with Myanmar and Mexico.

Om Gaur, Dainik Bhaskar’s national editor, said his staff’s mobile devices were seized during the raids as a “tactic to harass journalists.”

“The raid is the outcome of our aggressive reporting, especially during the second wave of the pandemic in April,” Gaur said by telephone. “Unlike some other media, we reported how people were dying for lack of oxygen and hospital beds.”

The tax investigation “is not going to change anything for us,” he added. “We will keep doing good journalism.”

As covid-19 roiled India this spring, Dainik Bhaskar splashed photos of funeral pyres on its front pages, reported on corpses floating in the Ganges River and repeatedly challenged the government’s narrative about the disaster and its official death statistics. Gaur, the editor, contributed an op-ed in the New York Times that made waves in his home country.

The paper has sometimes taken a less-than-orthodox approach to holding government accountable: As citizens in the state of Gujarat struggled to procure covid-19 medication in April, the paper published the phone number of the BJP’s state president in a massive front-page headline.

Riaz Haq said…
#India’s #Economic Recovery Stumbles with decline in both #manufacturing and #services sectors, which contribute more than two-thirds of India’s #GDP (gross domestic product). #COVID19 #BJP #Modi #economy #pandemic https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-28/india-s-recovery-stumbles-setting-stage-for-sustained-low-rates

India’s economy showed signs of cooling in June as the slow easing of localized lockdowns hurt activity, a factor likely to encourage monetary policy makers meeting next week to consider keeping interest rates at record lows to foster a durable recovery.

Contractions in both manufacturing and services sectors, which contribute more than two-thirds of India’s gross domestic product, pulled the needle on an overall activity indicator to 5 from 6, a level not seen since February and the first downward shift since May 2020 data. The gauge uses a three-month weighted average to smooth out volatility, and a move left signifies loss of momentum.
Riaz Haq said…
Forecaster Who Predicted #India’s #Covid Peak Sees New Wave Coming. India may see daily cases grow again to 150,000 in October. New variants, rate of vaccination key to tipping the balance. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-08-01/forecaster-who-predicted-india-s-covid-peak-sees-new-wave-coming

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India is likely to see a rise in Covid-19 infections building into a new -- though smaller -- virus wave that may peak in October, according to a mathematical model by researchers who accurately predicted the tapering of a brutal surge of cases earlier this year.

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