Chief Economic Adviser K Subramanian on Wednesday said that the economic fortune of the country is linked directly with the ongoing pandemic and it has impacted employment, like it has affected all the countries across the world.
Speaking to NDTV, Mr Subramanian said that unemployment has gone up in India as the Corona virus pandemic has had repercussions on employment prospects.
At the same time though, India had taken steps to push key activities like construction and manufacturing during the third and fourth quarters of 2020-21 when the first wave had eased, the chief economic adviser said.
Fear of the pandemic had reduced last year when the number of positive cases had come down significantly and similarly it should happen this year too as greater vaccination will help open the economy, he observed.
Mr Subramanian added that just like number of infections have declined in the past few days, the economy should start looking upwards once key economic activities resume.
Last year too, he said, when the situation had eased, the economy had recovered, so there is no reason why it shouldn’t happen this year also, the chief economic adviser reasoned.
When asked about demand for jobs under MGNREGA, considering the fact that several migrant workers have headed back to their native places in many parts of the country, Mr Subramanian said that though demand for it in May this year was not as high compared to the corresponding period of the previous year, allocation for the programme can certainly go up.
Speaking at length on the Government’s vaccination programme amid the raging Corona virus second wave, Mr Subramanian underlined the need for accelerating the pace of vaccination and said that if “we are able to vaccinate on a 24×7 basis, then we can vaccinate one crore people a day”.
This, he said, should be the target, as the benefits of vaccination are higher than the cost of vaccination. “The sooner we vaccinate, the better it is, especially in rural areas,” Mr Subramanian noted.
Referring to the status of infection in the country, the chief economic adviser said that according to an ICMR survey, 40 per cent of population may have developed anti-bodies.
Mr Subramanian informed that though Rs 35,000 crore have been provided in the Union Budget for vaccination, the Finance Minister has said that additional funds will be given for additional doses.
He urged on greater usage of double dose vaccines as “both the doses had greater impact”
At the same time, he said that “if we have a single dose vaccine, then it would be a game changer”.
On being asked about the actual cost which may be incurred on vaccinating all adults in India, the chief economic adviser did not reveal an actual figure but said that it would depend on how the vaccination programme will pan out.
As both public as well as private sectors along with the states have to participate in the vaccination programme, therefore the actual figure related to actual cost is not known as of now, Mr Subramanian informed.
On being specifically asked about the cost if only Centre’s participation in the vaccination programme is taken into account, Mr Subramanian said, “the benefits are far higher than the cost.”