The Moving Curve: Episode 23

Hello and welcome to The Moving Curve. I’m Rukmini, a data journalist in Chennai. Every night on this mini-cast, I consider one question around the novel coronavirus epidemic in India. Tonight I’m asking this question: what are just two things the government should do to help people through a pandemic and a slowdown?

One-third of households in Delhi alone reported food shortages in a rapid survey conducted by the NCAER, and I’ve linked to some stories that detail how hunger is stalking the poor.

The then chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian had for the 2018 budget worked out the cost to the government of a universal basic income transfer, meaning to all people. Even if we gave every man, woman and child in the country Rs 500 per month for a whole year, it would just work out to 7% of the GDP.

https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/budget2017-2018/es2016-17/echap09.pdf

Universal dry rations, public feeding and an income transfer — these are also broadly the suggestions made by Amartya Sen, Raghuram Rajan and Abhijit Banerjee in an op-ed they wrote in the Indian Express today that I’ve linked to.

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/coronavirus-india-lockdown-economy-amartya-sen-raghuram-rajan-abhijit-banerjee-6364521/

The cost is not prohibitive, as I’ve shown. These measures need not become hostage to partisan bickering — let’s hope the government sees the same evidence and does the right thing.

Thank you for listening. This episode was edited by Anand Krishnamoorthi. Tomorrow — a new question.

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