‘Northeast has done well in fighting Covid’

Ranjit Barthakur, Chairman FICCI, North East Advisory Council, and CEO of Rajasthan Royals, talks about how coronavirus has impacted India, especially the Northeast, and whether the IPL will be played this year.

Q: What is the situation in Maharashtra, and also in your home state of Assam and the Northeast?

A: The numbers which keep coming up in Maharashtra are quote distressing to see. I think the bureaucracy and the politicians here have done great job. Rate of recovery of Covid patients is commendable. Second, Maharashtra conducts the highest number of tests than in any other state and as a result, the positive cases you’re getting is much higher. Assam is doing a fantastic job. Coronavirus has been arrested there. Whole of the Northeast has done fantastically well. Arunachal, Nagaland and Manipur are Covid-free now. Mizoram has a single case. Tripura maybe has two cases. I believe the government is doing great.

Q: If we speak about Indian economy, which sectors do you think will be massively hit?

A: I think the impact on the economy is primarily because there is no revenue. Revenue can only be generated when there is production. If you look at the bottom of the pyramid, you’ve got 50–60% people dependent on agriculture. I think that they’ve opened up agriculture, and we should talk more positively than negatively. I hope we don’t miss the various crop regimes. However, we need to streamline the transportation system and the entire delivery to the warehouses. In terms of sectors being impacted, you can see airlines, railways being impacted. Transportation is badly hit; even the local rickshawpullers and taxi drivers are on a halt. Hotels and restaurants have taken the next biggest hit. In terms of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which everyone is talking about, and makes up to 40-50% of employment, these certainly have been impacted. Even tourism and infrastructure sectors are hit badly.

Q: How do you see the government’s lockdown move?

A: The government has done well. Migrant labour, I believe, is a big issue but can be handled, especially at the level of the state administration. The whole process is looking much better. In the Northeast, they’ve allowed intrastate movement in the last few days. In Assam, within the state, migrants can return to their homes. I think that is the first step before they go back to other states. So, I think effective measures have been fantastic.

Q: Which are the areas in economy that need assistance?

A: The government has already announced a Rs 170 thousand crore stimulus. The second package is coming. It’s not about the money, it’s about how the money reaches the right people and how you can drive consumer spending. None of the industries will kick-start unless you get the consumer spending up. So, I think the idea of any distributive government help should be consumers first. I think all industries will require help. Instead of subsidising losses, I think we need to help the government to find a financial methodology for them to raise the money and deliver that money to the right industry.

Q: You are also the CEO of Rajasthan Royals. What is the last communication you received from BCCI regarding IPL?

A: Right now, we need to focus on Covid-19. I don’t think there can be anything bigger than that, or more important than that. Even BCCI has made a donation of over Rs 50 crore to PMCARES. Each individual franchise has been doing something on the ground. Although, I think by the end of July, we will have a better idea regarding the dates. So far as I know, IPL will definitely happen.

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