Coronavirus presents a hard bet on the future of Modi’s career. Not only he has to contain the spread of virus but to also prevent the stagnation of India’s flagging economy. The foreign affairs article underscored, “If Modi seizes this opportunity to address India’s underlying problems as he battles COVID-19 and the economic wreckage it has caused, he has a chance to emerge from this crisis in a stronger position both at home and abroad.”
After his victory in 2019, he diverted the government towards enacting divisive policies. Special autonomy of Kashmir was revoked and the “passage of a citizenship bill seen as discriminating against Muslims drew widespread international scrutiny and domestic criticism.”
The pandemic has exposed the economy to a worse crisis which was already tapering from last year. According to Center Monitoring Indian Economy, India’s unemployment rate tripled from for 8.7 percent to 23.4 percent in the span of a month. Thousands of migrant workers who work in informal sector (which accounts for 80 percent of all jobs) were left stranded after the abrupt lockdown. Although, the lockdown has slowed the swelling of cases with positive cases nearing 50,000.
Today, India is undergoing the lowest growth rate in 40 years. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the Indian economy to grow at only two percent.
Yet the pandemic provides huge opportunities for Modi to “improve infrastructure, streamline the tax code, make the labor markets more flexible, and cut the infamous red tape that impedes business in the country, as well as open India to more imports and foreign investment.”
In its South Asian backyard India can provide a leadership role. India is ramping up assistance to its neighbors except for the success of these measures lies in regional stability and “easing of tension with Pakistan, a task that Modi has not embraced.” Modi also need to abate the internal discontent in its borders. He must ensure the security of its minorities as it has been witnessed that the virus has induced a spate in Islamophobia.
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