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Rural distress

Photo: HTPremium
Photo: HT

Vaccine intervention will take long to secure villages, so masking and social distancing are what the rural economy must rely on until then. The government must take immediate relief measures. Lives and livelihoods are at stake

The unemployment rate in India surged to a 49-week high of 14.45% in the week ended 16 May, according to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. This is almost double the 8.67% recorded in the preceding week. Though still far from the covid peak of over 21% hit in May 2020, the spike nevertheless is alarming. A particular reason for worry is that most employment losses during the week were found in the agricultural sector, which hasn’t suffered lockdowns.

But then, the link between state-imposed curbs and job distress looks weaker this year than last. This is because it is coronavirus itself that is causing most of today’s suffocation, either literally or through the fear it has instilled, as seen across vast tracts of the countryside. The risk of the pandemic going on a rural rampage is real. Sadly, not only are covid-testing and healthcare facilities scarce, so is information on the disease. Vaccine intervention will take long to secure villages, so masking and social distancing are what the rural economy must rely on until then. The government must take immediate relief measures. Lives and livelihoods are at stake. So, too, our chances of quelling the menace.

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