2020-07-14 08:12:00

Coronavirus continues to spread across India, despite the efforts by both the central and state governments, with the metropolises bearing the dual brunt of health and economic crisis with no respite from the disease and the consequent shutting down of businesses.

India’s major cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, are facing a major burden of covid-19, with Mumbai and Delhi being the worst-hit.

The cities are striving to prevent the spread of the virus and are largely bearing the brunt of the economic impact because of the lockdown and the resultant disruption of services as they are hubs of trade, restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

The covid-19 outbreak has had a “particularly profound” impact on the functioning of Asia’s megacities and the clusters around them, according to a report by Barclays, released in April, which focuses on Asia’s mega cities. “We find that the absolute economic loss is likely be the largest from the shutdown of Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Delhi, and Mumbai, ranging from $1-1.7 billion per week.”

The economists said that metro cities usually have a large majority of the non-farm output. “Concentration of activities in large cities results in productivity gains and, hence, real wages are also higher in metros compared to small- and medium-sized towns. That is the reason why rural-to-large city migration in India is high, though the rural-to-all-urban areas migration is only moderate,” said Arup Mitra, professor of economics at the Institute of Economic Growth, University of Delhi.

The covid-19 pandemic has created a critical situation in terms of the economy of these cities as the spread of coronavirus has displaced people and all sizes of businesses.

“The informal sector in the metros is more dynamic than that in small towns. If such opportunities are curtailed, livelihood hardships will increase and this cannot be compensated in any manner. There are many people in metros who are not migrants. Hence, even if the government offers rural employment opportunities, these non-migrants will not be able to benefit,” said Mitra. “A shutdown in large cities means major economic losses and decline in livelihood. The spread of the disease is a matter of concern but the solution is not to shut down. While we have to be careful, economic activities must go on.”

Mitra argued that it is time for profound thinking about initiating policies rather than closing down everything and inflicting suffering on oneself.

Pretika Khanna contributed to this story.

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