74th Independence Day, a Distant and Digital affair

74th Independence Day, a Distant and Digital affair

Written By: / Articles / Thursday, 13 August 2020 18:23

In the back drop of COVID-19, celebration of 74 Independence Day is expected to be a low key affair, given the adherence to social distancing norms, which prohibit large gatherings, across the country. 
The function at historic Red Fort in New Delhi, will be limited to the Prime Minister’s speech, a 21 gun salute, unfurling of the national flag, the national anthem and release of tricolour balloons. The PM is expected to dwell upon efforts to become self-reliant India since theme this year is “Aatmanirbhar Bharat”, based on economy, infrastructure, system, demography and demand. 
PM is expected to speak on Chinese border aggression, the economy and Ram Temple. In his I-Day speech last year, the PM had highlighted the passage of legislation criminalising instant triple talaq and abrogation of Article 370 stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status. He had also underlined the need for population control, outlined his vision for water on tap in every household and had projected the dream of a 5 trillion dollar economy. 
While Independence Day is a grandiose celebration, this year the activities have been limited thanks to the corona virus pandemic. Around 300 National Cadet Corps (NCC) have been invited. But school children, who used to present drills every year, have not been invited at the Red Fort. Instead, schools and colleges have been advised to organise Inter-school, inter-college debates, quizzes, competitions online. 
The number of invitees for the Red Fort function remains restricted to 250, who would include high raking government officials and members of consular corps, as against over 900 people invited every year. To maintain social distancing, chairs will be placed in designated areas and the staff present will have to be in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits. A limitation has been placed also on the number of attendees for ‘At Home’ reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Large congregations will be avoided and digital technology will be used to ensure maximum participation. 
Performance of Military bands
There will not be a march past of divisions of the Indian Armed and paramilitary forces and  pageants, showcasing scenes from the freedom struggle and India’s cultural diversity. Instead, the recent recorded performance of Military bands across the country, as a gesture of gratitude towards COVID-19 warriors, will be displayed through large screens and digital media.   
BSF to walk at border posts
The Border Security Force (BSF) will be organising an “Independence Day Walk” at its  posts along the Pakistan and Bangladesh border on 15 August. Besides, formation commanders will ensure that a senior officer spends two nights at each border post, with other offices and training centres of the paramilitary on the eve of I Day. 
Although the I Day functions will be more or less a subdued affair, it is expected to enthuse people with patriotic songs, played on the occasion across the country, reminding them about sacrifices by freedom fighters and armed forces. On the occasion of Independence day, an assessment of present status of various factors is an imperative. 
“Atmnirbhar” Package
As a reprieve to the economy, reeling under the pandemic, the Government has already announced Rs. 21 lakh crore package. But according to economists, although the package is big, the actual fiscal hit will only be around Rs 2 lakh crore to Rs. 2.5 lakh crore, which is around 1 to 1.2 per cent of GDP. 
GDP
Even though the PM had aimed at a 5 trillion dollar economy by 2024, the task seems to be difficult. The India’s economy was expected to grow at 5%, however the GDP came down to 4.5 per cent in quarter II of 2019-2020. Even before the pandemic hit the country, it grew only at 4.2% in March and finally 3.1% in the quarter that ended with the lockdown, due to a lack of investment. Now GDP is expected to shrink up to 5.1 2% in the fiscal year 2020-21, as against earlier estimate of 6.2 GDP by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 
FDI
With relaxation of norms in single-brand retail trading, coal mining and digital media, the government was working on a plan to bring in $100 billion FDI. According to official data, FDI inflows to India, rose up to $ 49.97 billion in 2019-2020. But as per the UNCTAD, the FDI into India may decline sharply this year due to the impact of the pandemic and supply chain disruptions. 
Indian Rupee
Indian rupee which has gone through bouts of volatility, has been hovering around 75 against US dollar. A surge in global oil prices has been pushing the Indian rupee lower. As of now there does not seem to be a drastic change in this situation. 
RBI’s way forward
According to RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das, despite the impact of pandemic in our daily lives, the financial system of the country, including all the payment systems and financial markets, are functioning without any hindrance and the Indian economy has started showing signs of resumption to normalcy. But it is uncertain when supply chains will be restored fully. As such the reallocation of factors of productions within the economy is the need of the hour, for rebalancing and emergence of new growth drivers. 
Loss of jobs
Due to the prolonged lock downs, over 12 crore people lost the jobs with an estimated wage loss of Rs 33,800 crore, as per the survey by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). India’s overall unemployment rate in July 2020 stood at 7.43 per cent. There is a cause for concern in some states which are facing higher unemployment. The unemployment rates are: Bihar (12.19 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (8.35 per cent), Rajasthan (15.23 per cent), Telangana (9.05 per cent) and Delhi (20.3 per cent). They are markedly higher than the national average.  
Nearly 125 million households applied for work under the government MGNREGA scheme, between April and July, compared to 90 million households during the same period last year, signifying a rise of nearly 40 per cent. While further investment into the scheme is  warranted, the fact is the employment opportunities are not equally distributed and fewer opportunities exists in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, two of India’s most populous states.  
Poverty
As per the paper presented earlier to the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), by three authors, the number of poor came down to 8.4 crore, (from 27 crore in 2011), due to high growth rate, MGNREGA, Direct Benefit Transfers, PM Kisan Yojana, LPG subsidy and other measures. But now the lock down may exacerbate India’s poverty figures. A United Nations University study estimates that over 10 crore Indians could fall below the World Bank-determined poverty line of $ 3.2 (Rs 239 a day). 
Food grains
As per the figures released by the Union agriculture ministry, the target of total food grains production for 2020-21 is around 298.3 MT, comprising 149.92 MT in kharif season and 148.4 MT during rabi. In 2019-20, production was 291.95 MT, against the target of 291.1 MT. 
Population
The country’s population is estimated at 138 crore, equivalent to 17.7% of the total world population. 35.0 % of the population is urban, while 65 per cent population is located in rural area. The total land area is 2,973,190 Km2 (1,147,955 sq. miles) and the population density is 464 per Km 2 (1,202 people per mi 2 ). 
Literacy
The overall literacy rate is 64.8 % in the country, comprising the male literacy rate at 75.3% , and the female literacy rate at 53.7%, showing a gap of 21.6 percentage points between the sexes at the national level. The gap is more in the rural areas, while higher literacy rate has been recorded both for men and women in the urban areas. Kerala, Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Goa and Chandigarh occupy the top five positions in literacy, while Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Bihar are at bottom. 
Amid Covid-19 pandemic, the economy is slowly limping back to normalcy. India is expected to become one of the most powerful countries in the time to come. Let us hope that we become super power at least by 2030.

About the Author

Raju Vernekar

Raju Vernekar

Raju Vernekar is a Media Professional based in Mumbai and is a regular contributor of Imphal Times. He had served as Chief Reporter at Free Press Journal (1996 – 2015 ). His Activities includes writing for different news papers, script writing/production for TV channels, Films Division. Writing poems in Marathi, Hindi, English, Guiding mass media students and helping people to solve their problems. Raju may be contacted at [email protected]

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