Social and Impact
Government measures for COVID-19 led crisis recovery
26 Oct 2021

The resurgence of COVID-19 has adversely impacted the country with protracted development activities, dampening the sentiments in small and medium businesses. It has implications on employment and jobs, economic activities in some sectors, serious mental health issues for citizens, leading to an overall slower momentum in growth and development of the country. COVID-19 has impacted all sectors majorly. Although few key sectors have taken steps to ensure continuity in activities to secure better prospects of recovery post-COVID-19 and during vaccination of 1.39 billion Indians.

Here’s our analysis of the various Government initiatives in sectors such as Education, Healthcare, Tourism & Hospitality, Social Welfare, and others to rebound from the COVID-19 crisis.

Education Sector
All educational endeavors and learning were ceased across the country. According to Government sources, more than 35 crore students and 1.08 crore teachers across 15 lakh schools, 1,028 universities, 41,901 colleges, and 10,726 standalone institutes were affected due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Online learning emerged as the victor ludorum amidst the crisis for efficiently enhancing professional skills and knowledge. Numerous arrangements, including online portals and educational channels, were made by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) for supporting the continuation of teaching and learning. During the lockdown, online platforms like WhatsApp, Zoom, Google Meet, Telegram, and YouTube gained traction among students for online learning. Some of the key initiatives undertaken by the Indian Government to keep the momentum in the education sector are highlighted below:
  • DIKSHA portal: This is an online platform for school education. It offers content for students, teachers, and parents aligned to the curriculum, including video lessons, worksheets, textbooks, and assessments. It has more than 80,000 e-Books for classes 1 to 12 created by CBSE, NCERT. 250 teachers who teach in multiple languages. During the lockdown period, these contents have been accessed nearly 215 million times.
  • e-Pathshala: A web portal and mobile app designed and deployed by NCERT that houses books, videos, audio, etc. aimed at students, educators, and parents in multiple languages. It has 1,886 audios, 2,000 videos, 696 e-Books, and 504 Flip Books for classes 1 to 12.
  • National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER): Host of resources for students and teachers including books, interactive modules, and videos including a host of STEM-based games. It has a total of 14,527 files including 401 collections, 2,779 documents, 1,345 interactive, 1,664 audios, 2,586 images and 6,153 videos in different languages
  • SWAYAM: National online education platform hosting around 2,000 courses for both school (classes 9 to 12) and higher education (undergraduate, postgraduate programs) in all subjects. A three-fold increase in access to the platform was witnessed during the lockdown period.
  • e-PG Pathshala: The platform launched by MHRD offers curriculum-based, interactive e-content to postgraduate students in 70 subjects across all disciplines of social sciences, arts, fine arts and humanities, natural & mathematical sciences, linguistics, and languages.
Hybrid models in education are emerging too that can be efficient for e-learning.

During uncertain and complex times, e-learning could be a challenge. With the right collaboration tools like high-quality audio & video conferencing solutions, educational institutions can ensure that new hybrid experiences are engaging and informative for all students. The hybrid model of education and training lifts self-confidence and imbibes self-discipline and independent behavior qualities that have real-world applications and aid better prospects for professional growth for the youth.

Smart Cities Sector 
In the Smart City Mission, the Government’s bold leading program was to develop 100 smart cities in India, which has a sudden boost with utilization doubling in post lockdown months.COVID-19 crisis has majorly impacted six key industries:
  • Government Institution Schemes
  • Infrastructure
  • Telecom
  • Energy Grids
  • Data Management
  • Mobility & Logistics
  • Services & Technology

Demand for command-and-control centers in various smart cities increased due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Smart cities rapidly established pending ICCCs (Integrated Command and Control Centers) as new WAR rooms to monitor and mitigate the COVID-19 evolving situations. One such war room was established in Bengaluru that helped in coordinating all COVID-19 related operations from contact tracing to ambulance movement and distributing groceries to people and organizing food packets through NGOs. While 51 command and control centers were established, the mission aims to complete all 100 centers by August 2022.

Similarly, Karnataka had set up a dedicated call center for monitoring and advising the citizens under self-quarantine as a telemedicine facility. Bhopal Smart City project is actively using ICCC as the ‘State Resource Center’ to address citizen concerns and act as a tele-counseling center for the state.

Under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Andhra Pradesh has taken up 226 projects worth INR 3,334 crore of which 77 projects worth INR 519 crore have been completed while 149 projects worth INR 2,815 crore are at various stages of completion.22 projects worth INR 594 crore are more than 75 percent complete while the rest are between 50 to 75 percent complete.

Government Institution Schemes

During COVID-19 outbreak Government organizations came up with various schemes for funding and providing relief for the affected citizens across the country.

BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation)

  • BMC was able to effectively dispense medical aid to homes in approximately 2,300 containment zones across the city, with about 150,000 at-risk people isolated in hotels and COVID care centers.
  • Effective oxygen management is one of the key initiatives the civic body had implemented to beef up the city’s medical infrastructure and systems. Oxygen consumption by COVID-19
  • Sped up Government policies such as Ayushman Bharat and National Digital Health Mission
  • Use of technology for online doctor consultations

COVID-19 has resulted in significant operational disruption for many companies including those in the Indian healthcare industry. Private Indian healthcare players rose to the occasion and have been providing all the support that the Government needs, such as testing, isolation beds for treatment, medical staff, and equipment at Government COVID-19 hospitals and home healthcare. The Healthcare industry had a lot of key pain areas during the second wave and had an unfavorable effect, especially on the infrastructure. The need for oxygen, hospital beds, ventilators, remdesivir injections, etc. caught the industry by surprise during the second wave.

The vaccination phase faced production and planning challenges which led to uneven vaccine availability among citizens. There were also demand-side barriers like vaccine hesitancy fueled by lack of trust, fear of side effects, and concerns regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

Investment in India’s healthcare sector helped in effectively boosting the industry performance by:

  • Building medical infrastructure in Tier II and III cities
  • Increased awareness and investment in health insurance
  • Sped up Government policies such as Ayushman Bharat and National Digital Health Mission
  • Use of technology for online doctor consultations

Social Welfare
The wide-ranging vulnerabilities induced during the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the need for making social protection for the affected grey and blue-collar, gig workers.
Many companies like Ecommerce, online food delivery helped their partners with empathy and employee care initiatives for their safety and mental well-being during the COVID-19 crisis.
A few companies also set up a pandemic support mechanism and an emergency support team to assist employees during this crisis. The employees could access information related to hospital beds, ICUs, plasma and oxygen cylinders, ambulance support, and other emergency services through their network of partners, volunteers, and healthcare providers.
Granting advance salaries and vaccination cover were some of the other initiatives taken by the companies.
Rural Livelihood 
National lockdown due to COVID-19 severely impacted the lives and livelihoods across rural India. Various interventions by the Government were taken to ease the economic burden of existing employment patterns during the pandemic. While the effects of the pandemic are still unfolding, the true effectiveness of these welfare schemes is yet to be seen.
Significant providers of employment like manufacturing, tourism & hospitality, travel, services, and the retail industries, along with small and medium enterprises, have been significantly hit.
Key interventions by the Government during the COVID-19 crisis are:
  1. Special insurance scheme amounting to INR 50 lakh for health workers for fighting COVID-19 in Government hospitals, wellness, and healthcare centers. Under this scheme, 22 lakh health workers would be insured to fight this pandemic
  2. Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKY): An additional 5kg of rice or wheat to be given to 80 crore poverty-stricken people, above the existing 5kg they receive, along with 1kg pulses according to regional preferences per household free of any charge, for a period of three months.
  3. Collateral-free loans for 63 lakh women organized through the self-help groups were doubled from INR 10 lakh to INR 20 lakh under the Aajeevika Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana or National Rural Livelihoods Mission. For 630,000 Self-help Groups (SHGs), which help 70 million households, the Government is doubling collateral-free loans to INR 200,000.
  4. MNREGA workers: Wage increase from INR 182/- to INR 202/-. Such an increase could benefit 50 million families. The wage increase amounts to an additional income of INR 2,000/- per worker.
  5. Other components of PMGKY:
  • Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) regulations will be amended to include the pandemic as the reason to allow the non-refundable advance of 75 percent of the amount or three months of the wages, whichever is lower, from their accounts. Families of 4 crore workers registered under EPF can take benefit of this window
  • State Governments have been directed to utilize the welfare fund for INR 3.5 crore building and other construction workers created under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 to protect them against economic disruptions.
  • The State Governments will be asked to utilize the funds available under the District Mineral (DMF) fund for supplementing and augmenting facilities of medical testing, screening, and other requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and for the treatment of the patients affected by this pandemic. State Governments have been directed to use the welfare fund for building and construction workers. The District Mineral Fund, worth about INR 310 billion, will be used to help those who are facing economic disruption because of the lockdown
Tourism and Hospitality
Travel and tourism are among the most affected sectors with a decline of inbound and outbound amid global travel restrictions. For a long period, the Indian hospitality sector also faced the brunt of the pandemic as bookings slowed to a trickle.
Increased use of technology and video conferencing apps replaced the previously strong and growing business travel. COVID-19 has had a debilitating impact on the MICE tourism market that witnessed a complete halt which is expected to continue for some time.
To help survive and recover from the impact of COVID-19, a slew of initiatives were taken by the Government and Associations.
  • The Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) recommended strong support funds be made available to the affected tourism players to stay afloat and avoid job losses.
  • The central and state Government announced separate tourism plans to boost job potential and development within the hospitality and tourism sectors.
  • Measures were taken by the Ministry of Tourism to help the economy: (1) increase tourism infrastructure, (2) easing of entry permits system, and (3) promote medical tourism.
  • The Government authorities are also working on the crisis management action plan and building trust factors with the tour operators.
  • Indian chambers committee of representatives has proposed a complete GST holiday or offering destination vouchers for tourism, travel, and hospitality industry for the next 12 months till the time of the recovery healing happens and urge to ministry to provide funds from the MGNREGA scheme to support the salaries of employees and other workers.
Ease of doing business
  • As Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) struggled to keep up float their businesses due to COVID-19 lockdown, enterprises look at a long road to recovery.
  • The country’s economic powerhouse Maharashtra, which has the fourth-highest concentration of small businesses in the country with an 8 percent share of India’s 6.3 crore MSME base, is yet to see a complete turnaround of small businesses that have been falling short of their production targets due to shortage of workforce, capital, and broken supply chain and more.
  • According to the Economic Survey of Maharashtra, out of INR 2.48 lakh crore targeted credit disbursement to small businesses in FY21, INR 90,000 crore was disbursed to 8.85 lakh businesses up to September 2020. Under the Package Scheme of Incentives by the state Government to encourage the setting up of new industries in the industrially less developed areas, INR 473 crore was disbursed to MSMEs up to November last year. In addition, under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, INR 27,398 crore loan was disbursed to 47.7 lakh accounts in FY20.
  • Due to COVID-19 induced restrictions, product industries in the manufacturing sector and trading businesses recorded significant contraction. There is still a significant impact seen on production as many migrant workers have not returned.
Some of these proactive counter steps may stimulate the path towards recovery. The synergetic consultation, focused methodologies in innovation and implementation will provide a yardstick to measure the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ vision of India and the full impact of these approaches remains to be seen.
Both the Federal and State Governments put in robust governance steps, through technology enablement, swift integrations of information systems with availability of data across levels, use of human support system, enhancing the capacities and leveraging support ecosystem through public-private partnerships, and thus, a better decision support system to handle the evolving situations during COVID-19 emergencies. The assessment of the next quarter would continue to show how much of these interventions are supporting to keep the health, economy, and livelihood on the recovery path.
Authored by:
Lokesh Bohra, Senior Vice President, Social and Impact Advisory, Praxis Global Alliance

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