News Update

COVID-19 - Italy reports 3600 new cases with 636 fresh deaths + UK reports 439 deaths with 3800 cases + Spain reports 528 deaths with 3400 cases + Sweden reports 76 deaths with 376 new casesIndia reports 467 new cases today; total tally goes up to 4756 with 132 deathsCOVID-19 - American tally of cases jumps close to 3.5 lakh; reports 696 more deaths - death toll goes up to 10312Global tally of confirmed COVID19 cases leapfrog by 38K to 13.11 lakhs with 73000 deathsIndia initiates anti-dumping probe into import of Mono Ethylene Glycol from UAE, Singapore, Oman, Saudi Arabia and KuwaitA dead claim of interest, coming alive? - 2.0Cabinet suspends MPLADS for two yearsStartup developing rapid test for detection of COVID-19COVID19 - Global tally rushing to cross 13 lakh mark in few hours with 71000 deathsWest Bengal to set up COVID19 policy-making panel; Mamta to involve Nobel laureate Abhijit BanerjeeAnti-COVID19 Fund - Union Cabinet decides to promulgate Ordinance to suspend MPLAD fund for two years and also to reduce MPs’ salary by 30%; President, VP & Governors also write to Govt for 30% reduction in pay packetWockhardt Hospital sealed after 29 of its personnel test positive for COVID19Japan finally decides to go for state of emergency up to six months; braces up for stimulus packagePredictably, India’s services PMI goes down to 49.3 in March month from 57.5 in Feb monthLockdown causing sharp rise in domestic violence casesIndia's scientific agencies burning midnight oil in war against COVID-19Supply of Services by DTA to their SEZ unit - Export benefits need to be extendedRoSCTL Scheme - Is it serving its purpose?CBIC Member figures in Empowered Group; Startups engaged to find tracking solutionsEPFO to accept Aadhaar-printed date of birth as valid proofCOVID19 - Diya Lighting - Power demand nosedived by 32000 MW, says Power Minister
COVID-19 Fall-out - Is PM losing time to 'Flatten The Curve' of mounting economic miseries!


TIOL - COB( WEB) - 704
MARCH 26, 2020

By Shailendra Kumar, Founder Editor

THE history of pandemics, none knew it earlier, has shown a nasty proclivity to repeat itself at such an accelerated pace! Exactly 100 years ago, Spanish Influenza had threatened mankind with its vengeful spread across many continents. In short span of time, it had leapt from a few countries to several dozens, including the USA. Having already suffered the war fatigue of the First World War which had just ended in 1918, mankind was seemingly not prepared to confront a 'Malthusian' revengeful virus. And the count of victims simply soared from a dozen to three digits to four and finally in millions! Most studies indicate that as many as 40 million people had perished or paid the price with their lives for the wrong doings of the politicians, dictators, royals, amirs and maharajas of that time!

Coronavirus (COVID-19), going by its pace of proliferation and the extraordinarily accelerated killing rate, has come to be construed as a virus family, having more dastardly instinct to hurt mankind than the member of its 1918-clan! Initially, it was also viewed as 'a little flu' to a 'fantasy' by some of the global leaders but later they have realised its power to cripple any machinery supported by the best of the medical infrastructure and the most efficient group of health scientists. Its pulverising journey looks unstoppable even if all the powerful economies in the world join together their medical, scientific, economic and political fortitude. Mankind can show its strength only in enduring this scourge! Till today, it has gobbled up 21,200 human lives with 4.7 lakh confirmed cases. Fortunately, over 1.14 lakh people, initially infected, have recovered because of much advanced medical healthcare as compared to 1918.

Back home, how is India doing on this front? Thankfully, the Indian political leadership and the medical bureaucracy is acutely aware of their stark limitations. The decision-makers knew from the word go that if COVID-19 is given the window to do what it has done to Europe, the USA and some parts of Asia, leave aside the medical infrastructure - the number of hospitals, clinics, polyclinics and R&D labs, the entire administrative apparatus would crumble. Since suppression of its violent spread, medically, was not a choice available, the Prime Minister opted for mitigation by resorting to lockdown method. Thanks to his popularity, his grim words of caution were taken seriously and the common man delightfully embraced 'Janta Curfew' for a day - to be precise, on a Sunday! Meanwhile, the Central Government managed to sensitise its state counterparts ruled by different political parties and a hurriedly-tailored time-schedule to impose curfew under IPC and statewide shutdown was rolled out. As soon as a couple of States managed to do it almost successfully, the Prime Minister foresightedly did not lose time to address the nation for the second time and appeal for state-enforced nationwide lockdown for three complete weeks.

Panic among the urbane urban populace was quite predictable - a telltale indicator of the persistent trust-deficit in state machineries! A major swathe rushed into hoarding and panic buying. Shopkeepers and sellers also made some quick bucks as this is what they are trained to do! Although the Central Government had asked the states not to loosen their grip over timely supplies of essential items, since it is an unprecedented emergency situation, they tried but could not mitigate the violent rush in procurement by the masses! If we leave aside these aberrations or lapses, India has indeed backstopped its defence frontiers between stage 2 and stage 3 of the pandemic. Although our tally of confirmed cases has also gone beyond 650 but given the humongous size of the population, it is too paltry a number to be reckoned. The real and the grimmest challenge before the country is to ensure that the family of Corona virus does not sneak through the defence walls created by us so far. The success of our defence would largely hinge on collective will of the people to follow the lockdown in true spirit! And the second uphill task before the state machineries is to mobilise all resources to provide basic public services and essential goods for three weeks or, even two more if needed! The success of lockdown would also depend on the efficiency of our state machineries to smoothen the supply of essential food items. Default on part of any of the two parties would certainly result in mayhem of unprecedented nature - never seen before!

Even as national mitigation strategy crescendoes to an All-India lockdown, its undesirable fall-out is the cessation of all economic activities. A huge price is to be paid to halt the spread of COVID-19. Worldwide, an economic mitigation package is being unfolded by rich as well as not-so-rich economies. The USA has announced a package worth USD two trillion. The UK and many European leaders have unveiled economic stimulus packages ranging between USD 20 bn to USD 99 bn. India is also stitching together an economic package in the range of USD 20 bn. It is toughest time in the living memory of most global leaders and the Indian leadership is expected to match the scale of setback with the size of the package to be unveiled, probably soon! The present time is so cruel that the Prime Minister needs to rise above the fiscal jargons like revenue or fiscal deficits and must cushion the wounds which would get hugely aggravated in the next one month. The focus of the economic package must be kept on providing much-needed survival kits by the MSMEs and even trading communities. If they perish, so would melt the chances of employment for the millions in the coming months! Though some bureaucrats may brag on the successful conduit of DBT but such doles are neither sustainable nor add even a bit to the GDP. All such businesses and sectors which promise multiplier effect for the economy, must be financially and fiscally cushioned for long-term survival - a deflating reality in the inevitable recessionary future!

Meanwhile, the Union Finance Minister unfolded some cosmetic relief in terms of deferment of some of statutory compliance obligations. These extensions may help a bit in the continuing period of lockdown. The most significant relief of a substantive nature is the option to pay GST for the months of March, April and May by June 30. Though GSTR-3B option was given, but for strange reasons, GSTR-1 was excluded. If a business entity is going to file GSTR-1 every month and also load it with all the invoices, the entire homework and book-keeping is to be updated during this lockdown period. When the rationale of allowing such relief is based on the continuing lockdown which may further be stretched, the same rationale should have permitted the option to defer filing of GSTR-1. Besides, the Finance Minister should not have been guided by the scale of turnover. These benefits have been extended only to business entities having less than Rs 5 crore turnover. What about those having above Rs 5 Crore turnover? Are their offices not closed? Are they not adversely affected? During abnormal times, all business-doing entities should be treated equally rather than using artificial parameters to make an avoidable distinction.

Anyway, whatever relief has come, needs to be welcomed! But what puzzles me is that the exporting community has been left in the lurch. If the Govt has not locked down exports and commercial flights and ports and also made Customs 24 x 7 services as part of the Essential Services, was it not incumbent on the Finance Ministry to talk about speedy refund of IGST to exporters. Given the fact that the grimmest squeeze is on the working capital for all, a special drive should have been announced for exporters so that when their factories reopen after lockdown, they could quickly brace for meeting the timelines of their foreign buyers. Secondly, the due date for LUT RFD-11 should also have been extended till April-end.

Though the Finance Minister did announce that due date for issue of notice, notification, approval order, sanction order, filing of appeal, furnishing of return, statements, applications, reports, any other documents, time limit for any compliance under the GST laws where the time limit is expiring between 20 th March 2020 to 29th June 2020 shall be extended to 30th June 2020 but it is not very clear whether summons and time limit to file reply to notices are also covered. What about audit and recovery proceedings? When the Allahabad and Kerala High Courts granted a stay on all coercive methods used for recovery, the Government strangely found time from COVID-19 battle to brief a senior law officer to assure the Apex Court that the Government is seized of the issue and steps would be taken soon! I wish that the Finance Minister could have touched this issue in her address to the nation and assure all taxpayers that no steps would be taken to harass any taxpayer during the neuron-gobbling COVID-19 time. This is a case of opportunity lost for any Finance Minister to earn back a shard of trust from taxpayers!

I sincerely hope that no such cardinal errors would be afforded at the time of unfolding the National Economic Revival Package which would truly aim at empowering the economy to battle the tsunami-in-the-making. To wade through this crisis, the nation clearly entails a two-pronged strategy - one for the poor and workers of the unorganised sectors where DBT conduit may be opted for and, the other for the organised sector which would need to flatten the curve of misery for the millions of the ever-burgeoning middle class!

Sub: COVID-19 Fall-out - Is PM


Posted by Vijay Jangam