Lockdown in place, economic task force yet to take off
Prime Minister Narendra Modi last Thursday announced the setting up of an economic response task force to deal with the adverse fallout of the spread of the coronavirus. Yet even a week after the announcement, the government has not made public the names of the members of the task force that has been set up under Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
At first, the finance ministry was clueless about the task force, saying that its composition will be announced by the Prime Minister’s Office. Then, in a press conference Tuesday, Sitharaman, while announcing relief measures for businesses and taxpayers from compliance requirements, said a multi-layered task force is firming up suggestions for the economy. She explained that different sub-groups have been formed representing industry, academicians, MPs with interest in economy and finance, among others, and that they are giving their inputs on the steps needed.
Each input is being discussed with the departments concerned, Sitharaman said. However, she did not answer a specific question on the composition of the task force and said the government will come back on this later.
With economic activity coming to a standstill with the 21-day lockdown, the Indian economy and the poor are likely to be adversely hit. All eyes are on the finance ministry to announce a comprehensive relief package. Sitharaman has promised that the package will be announced sooner rather than later. At such a time, the government’s reluctance to provide details of the task force seems bizarre.
Bengal governor all for social distancing not emotional distancing
Social distancing may have postponed or cancelled regular meetings at the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata, but it has not stopped work at the Governor’s office. With the lockdown in force and because of social distancing, Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar has taken to making phone calls. Through these phone calls, the Governor is inquiring about the health of people concerned and also asking them to spread awareness to tackle coronavirus. Over the last few days, the Governor has spoken to industry captains, the chambers of commerce and will now initiate calls with vice-chancellors of different universities. “Practice social distancing. But let this not lead to emotional distancing,” he said recently at the Raj Bhavan. And now, he is practicing what he preaches.
Nithyananda’s latest gem: ‘Covid-19 won’t affect my country’
At a time when most people are speaking about social distancing, fugitive ‘godman’ Nithyananda has taken the opportunity to explain why he formed his own country “Sri Kailaasa”, an island off Ecuador. In a message to his disciples, Nithyananda says that people mocked him when he isolated himself by creating a new country. Now the whole world is talking about “social distancing”, which he says he did months ahead of others. He claims that Covid-19 will not affect his country and that the positive vibrations there will keep the virus at bay. He signed off the message as ‘Nithyananda Paramasivam, Prime Minister, Sri Kailaasa’.