At the very outset, I am disappointed that my last letter was not even acknowledged let alone be replied to. You cannot say you did not get it as it was sent to your twitter handle. Presume you have control or at least access to your own handle or that is in the tender care of The Consultant?
My letter is in response to the comments made by you a few days back:
Centre wants to drown States
Centre has no understanding of economy – lacks education
Centre is flexing its muscle, etc.
Amit da, you have been a Minister now for nearly 10 years but that does not make you a politician. Unlike Civil Service officers who get promoted to the elite IAS/IPS service, in politics there is no such promotion. It seems you were trying your best to please the one person constituency with your comments. I do not want to remind you of the incidence when you called names to a very famous person whom you had been eulogizing in your previous avatar. As a younger brother may I request you not to change yourself – it just does not suit you.
The moment GDP numbers hit the public domain it created a lot of stir – we are the worst; we are sunk; told you so, etc. This reaction cannot be called out of place, especially since many so-called ‘economists’, like yourself joined the ranks of politicians tweeting or re-tweeting the headline without scratching the surface. You seem to have done one better by stating 23.5% decline in the gross domestic product is incorrect and it should be 32.33%. Pray where did you get this, dada?
The economy contracted 23.5% in April-June quarter is a matter of fact. India was in one of the most severe lockdown for 70 of the 90 days in April-June quarter, every activity was shut. Resultant GST collection plummeted to Rs 32,000 crs in April 2020 compared to Rs 1.14 lac crs a year ago. This rose to Rs 62,000 crs in May and touched Rs 91,000 crs in June just 9% below what was there in June, 2019.
Question is- why did we implement one of the most severe lockdowns compared to any country, even before any significant impact was felt? While we are the second most populous country and the most densely populated, the risk of a rapid spread of virus was imminent and many fold. Like the entire world was not prepared to tackle Covid-19 in the initial months, so were we. Neither there was the required hospital infrastructure nor were there medical protocols to treat this virus, which in no time became a pandemic. By the time European countries could react to the initial onslaught of the virus, they were inundated with cases, resulting in high infection and mortality rates.
This helped delay the rapid spread, giving the much needed few months to build medical infrastructure – ICU beds, ventilators, bi-pap machines, oxygen concentrator, etc. at war speed. No country has the onslaught except one who stopped reporting. This delay also resulted in we getting the ‘co-lateral’ benefit of medical protocols, which by then were set.
While the world is awaiting the arrival of a vaccine, coupled with the opening up, a rise in cases are being noticed everywhere. On a positive note we have the most favourable figures:
Recovery rate 80.1% 66.7%
Mortality rate 1.6% 3.3%
With the introduction of the Opening up phase, situation changed rapidly, manufacturing sprang back. The GST collection in the last 3 months – June to August – was Rs 2.86 lac crs only 12% below compared to the same period 2019.
Steel achieved an all time high sales of 14.34 lac tones in August, 35% higher than same month in 2019. Cement production in June 2020 reached 26.3 million tones, which is at par with the average production in July-December 2019. Automobile sector after a near zero sales in April, May, and negligible in June, bounced back in July and August. Compared to July, 2019, sales of passenger vehicles were 75%, two-wheelers 63%, and tractors 140% in July 2020. Fertilizer sales are up 40% and all plants are sold out. Green shoots are visible in the malls as footfalls are rising. On the negative side the hospitality sector continues to suffer.
Amit da, was all this not known to you or you chose not to know?
Unfortunately, what did West Bengal see during this period? Returning migrant workers’ entry was blocked, trains were called Corona Express, some workers were quarantined in public toilets, ration sent by the Central Government were looted by your party members, your Government walked out of the Aysushman Bharat MOU, even deprived the farmers of central aid by not providing their details.
Dada, I must complement you for admitting – West Bengal is heavily borrowed. The Left Front had left West Bengal with a huge debt burden of Rs 1.8 lac crs after their 34 years rule, but you as the Finance Minister have the distinction of doubling it in less than 10 years and it is still rising. In a recent meeting of Chief Ministers with the Prime Minister, our Mananiya CM said “we have no earning only burning”. As the Finance Minister, is it not obvious to you that with no industry there will be no revenue and hence no earning? If the State exchequer is dipped into for every possible vote catching programme, there will be only burning. Did it not occur to you to tell Mananiya Chief Minister that West Bengal is drowning because of her?
Dada please do reply if not publicly, at least privately, else I will not be wrong in assuming you agree with me.
(Shishir Bajoria is a West Bengal BJP leader, Core Committee Member, Videsh Vibhag BJP)