The covid-19 pandemic has afflicted India with its biggest economic shock since the oil crises of the 1970s. The Indian economy, among the world’s fastest-growing emerging markets four years ago, contracted by a ghastly 24% in Q2 2020 and could even end the year shrinking by 7%, among its worst performances since the Great Depression when my daddy was born in Calcutta and my friend Andy Hoptoun’s great-grandfather Lord Linlithgow was the viceroy for the King Emperor George V.
It is tragic that the pandemic hit India at a time when its financial sector faced a credit malaise, social unrest had erupted in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh and the economic reform momentum had stalled.
India’s draconian lockdown has amplified social cleavages in a vast, complex society of 1.4 billion people which had managed to raise almost 300 million human beings out of extreme poverty in the preceding decade. This economic fall from grace gives India’s pandemic experience a tragic, even Sophoclean, dimension. India’s lockdown resulted in an estimated 150 million job losses, trauma and megadeath for its untold millions of urban poor and the collapse of several hundred thousand small businesses in an economy unsettled by the NBFC/PSU banking crisis, botched rupee demonetisation programme and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax.