If one asks about what comes to my mind when someone says 'Corona', well I would reply, a vaccine and the economy. We will leave the first to doctors and scientists and focus on the latter. It is needless to mention the extent to which the economy has suffered due to the ongoing COVID -19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown which has brought the economy to a grinding halt.
The initial growth projections for India byfinancial institutions and brokerages for 2020-21 were at around 5-6.5 percentbut with the Covid-19 pandemic, these numbers have seen a constant downward sinceIndia announced a lockdown beginning 25 March and subsequently extendedit. Credit rating agency Moody's forecast that the Indian economywill grow at zero percent in 2020-21 pointing out that growth concerns willweigh until the second half of 2020-21. The International MonetaryFund (IMF) said that India's growth estimate for FY21 to 1.9% from 5.8%estimated in January, warning that the "worst recession since the GreatDepression" will dwarf the economic damage caused by the global financialcrisis a decade back. With such predictions, it is now time to buckle up andrestructure and redraw the path of the economy for a post-Corona world.
Call it an irony or a misfortune but the factis that Assam represents a unique example of poverty amidst plenty of naturalresources. Assam's economy is fundamentally based on agriculture. It accountsfor more than a third of Assam's income, even as 69% of the population isengaged in agriculture for their livelihood. However, there is considerable potentialfor agricultural growth in the State. A study shows that there is a furtherscope to increase agriculture in Assam by 146% in terms of production.
There is no repudiating the fact that for increasing Agricultural production, the provision of irrigation is a vital need. Irrigation potentiality created in the state is far less than required, especially during summer paddy and Rabi season and the position needs to be substantially improved. While the gross cropped area and the net cropped area are 4075871ha and 2817500ha respectively, the total irrigated area is 748530ha which is merely 40% of the total net cropped area. Again the total crop water demand stands at 29065MCM while the existing water potential is at 9008MCM which means that there is a need to create an additional potential of 20371MCM.
In order to assure area under irrigation by anadditional 2.0-lakh hectare, the Agriculture Department proposes to install,total 1,01000 nos. of Shallow Tube Well (STW) (60,000 nos. of Diesel, 30,000nos. of Electrical and 11,000 nos. of Solar ). However as we discuss thisscenario in the wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic with the economy at stake, atime-bound action plan should be implemented.
Another issue that is widely discussed is the issue of returning migrant labourers. What finds space in the media is the concern regarding their return to the home state. But that's only one side of the coin. What awaits on the other face is even more troublesome: their rehabilitation. There is also a growing realisation that the absence of livelihood could cause further distress to migrant workers. There's a way that could help the situation and that is "skill mapping". The Central Government has an initiative, the Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support (SWADES) to conduct a skill mapping exercise of the citizens returning to India under the Vande Bharat Mission. There is an urgent need to launch a similar program for returning migrant workers too.
There is no denying that the pandemic has served us with some rare opportunities, that come once in a lifetime. Discussions are often overshadowed by the darker side of the pandemic but if we do not seize these opportunities, then there will be more trouble. The age-long idea of nourishing the rural economy finds its space now. Jyotiprasad Agarwala once said – "ওপজিছেই আমি এডৰা মাটি পাওঁ". Now is the time to return to that piece of native land and start crafting our dreams and planning into reality.
Snehangshu Bhattacharjya is an undergraduate student of History at Zakir Hussain Delhi College, Delhi University.
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