“Today it is actually a war that we are fighting. The enemy might be microscopic but it is a war. In war times you have to make relaxations and you cannot start looking at who is deserving and who is not,” the former SBI boss said.
Former State Bank of India chief Arundhati Bhattacharya has called for very strong, radical reforms to deal with the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
Comparing the present upheaval with the situation India had faced during the 1991 balance of payment crisis, she said, “We already had a number of soft spots in the economy when this whole thing broke. Those soft spots will obviously no longer be just soft spots, the whole economy is going to be impacted.”
Focusing on the situation when the pandemic eases, she argued that the economic activity will take some more time to return to normal as the workers have moved out from their respective places of work. So, it will take time for remobilisation, for workers to return to the sites.
According to her, coronavirus-induced disruptions could ease in 60 days in the best case scenario, but thereafter the remobilisation of labour will take some more time. To put the economy back on a firm growth path, the policymakers “will have to obviously keep tweaking measures to make sure that the near term is taken care of, and then look at the medium and the long term,” Bhattacharya said.
She said the current situation is like fighting a war, adding that this is not a time to see who’s more deserving of the relief announced by the government. Citing the example of deferment of loan EMIs, she said if there’s anyone who doesn’t want to defer it, he or she should voluntarily opt out of it.
“Today it is actually a war that we are fighting. The enemy might be microscopic, but it is a war. In war time you have to make relaxations and you cannot start looking at who is deserving and who is not,” the former SBI boss said.
“Let us take what is really required and ensure that there is leftover for others who also may need it. Those who do not require it, should come forward instead and volunteer that we do not require it, so you do not have to give it to us. That is the way people come together in the times of crisis. We need to appeal to the best nature in people to do that,” Bhattacharya added.
On printing money and spending it, Bhattacharya said that it cannot continue beyond a point. Workers will have to return to productive employment and for that to happen the government has to find a solution for sectors that are badly hit, she said.
She also shed light on her thoughts on power sector’s woes. Talking of the sector’s pain on account of discoms’ rising dues to power generation companies, she said states can’t be expected to handle it on their own. Tough decisions taken jointly by the Centre and the states are the only solution, she stressed.