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NEW DELHI : Economic activity in India seems to be gradually inching towards pre-covid-19 levels with the latest data from Google showing an uptick in mobility trends.

According to Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Report—that maps mobility trends across six location types comprising retail and recreation, grocery and pharmacy, transport hubs, parks, workplaces and residential areas—there has been a gradual improvement in activity levels from 1 June. India began unlocking its economy in phases beginning 8 June, allowing more economic activity. Barring residential areas, mobility had nosedived, when the country imposed the world’s longest, strictest lockdown from 25 March.

Mint reported on 5 June that traffic congestion, power generation, port activity, vehicle registrations and other high-frequency data point to the economy perking up as India reopened, recovering from a devastating slump when factories went idle and people were ordered to stay at home amid the pandemic.

Google’s community mobility reports was launched earlier this year to track people’s movement. Google used anonymized location data collected from phones of people who have enabled their location history to let public health officials understand how people’s movements have changed in response to policies that were implemented to combat covid-19.

The report covers more than 131 countries across the world, including India. It shows how much footfalls have changed in these six location categories against a baseline. This baseline is a “median value for the corresponding day of the week", the reference for which is between 3 January and 6 February.

The Google data set indicates that stepping out for essential services such as groceries and pharmacies have touched pre-covid-19 levels. This adds heft to the finance ministry’s view that “green shoots" of revival have emerged with the gradual opening up of the economy, with crucial parameters such as fuel and electricity consumption, mobility and retail financial transactions witnessing a comeback.

Graphlc: Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint
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Graphlc: Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint

Also, India’s petroleum product consumption has sharply recovered from the lowest slump recorded since 2007, after the end of the nationwide lockdown and reached 88% last month. Demand for bitumen used in road construction has jumped 32% in June from a year earlier due to road construction activity.

India’s power and overall energy demand, which had nosedived, is slowly returning to pre-lockdown levels. Consumption of energy—especially electricity and refinery products—is typically linked to overall demand in an economy.

This comes at a time when the manufacturing activity appears to have stabilized from historic lows and indirect tax collections perked up in June.

The Google report also showed that in states that have been the worst hit by the pandemic—Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi—visits to grocery stores and pharmacy has been substantially lower compared to the national average.

In Delhi, such visits were down 26%, while Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu witnessed a decline of 25% and 22%, respectively, as compared to the baseline. On the other hand, in states such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, such activity has surpassed pre-covid levels.

However, concerns remain. Having recovered steadily in the beginning of June, parameters such as retail and recreation, transport hubs, parks, workplaces still remained below the “baseline". Also, the movement tapered off by end-June, according to the Google report.

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