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India to ease lockdown in rural areas to jump-start economy


India to ease lockdown in rural areas to jump-start economy

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India will begin to ease lockdown restrictions in rural areas today, allowing agricultural, manufacturing and e-commerce sectors to resume economic activity.

India’s current lockdown, which shut down the country in late March, was extended to May 3 by President Narendra Modi due to public health concerns. However, the grave economic effects of the shutdown on India’s predominantly low-income population—including millions of workers living on subsistence wages—have forced Modi’s government to devise an easing strategy.

Experts believe that the virus has yet to establish a significant presence in India’s rural areas, in which about 60% of the population resides. According to the Modi government, the new strategy of gradual easing in lower-risk rural areas will assist millions of poor workers, while presenting a comparatively low risk of the virus spreading.

This decision represents a calculated risk for Modi. While mounting discontent and economic stagnation from several weeks of shutdown will surely be eased by jump-starting core sectors of India’s developing economy, India will be one of the first highly populous countries to relax major restrictions. However, if the rural industries can strike a balance between production and public health safety, Modi’s gamble may very well pay off.

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