Jean Drèze, Belgian-born Indian economist and social activist, interviewed by Indivjal Dhasmana (Business Standard)

Jean Drèze, Belgian-born Indian economist and social activist, interviewed by Indivjal Dhasmana (Business Standard)

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published Published on Mar 30, 2020   modified Modified on Apr 1, 2020

-Business Standard

Dreze was part of academicians and activists who recently wrote to the Centre about the situation of the migrant workers

Jean Dreze, a renowned Belgian-born Indian economist, says migrant workers are not feeling safe and that is why they are desperate to go back home. He tells Indivjal Dhasmana the Centre’s new order that labour should stay where it is will be difficult to implement. Dreze was part of academicians and activists who recently wrote to the Centre about the situation of the migrant workers. Edited excerpts:

* Why do you say the decision to lock down the entire country was not taken with proper planning?

The term “lockdown” is misleading. It’s more like a curfew, or an attempted curfew. The prime minister said so in so many words on March 22. Few countries, if any, have such a harsh lockdown. The lack of planning has made things worse. There was no mention of any relief measures in the lockdown announcement. The crisis of migrant workers also took the government by surprise. The lack of planning, followed by ad hoc damage control, brings up memories of demonetisation. But this situation is much worse.

* Have the governments mismanaged the issue of the movement of labour and other poor people? Will the Centre’s new order that labour should stay where it is and the states must take steps to ensure their well-being there be effective?

To be fair, few people anticipated the migration crisis. Migrant workers should have been given time to reach their homes, or support to stay in place. The Centre did neither, precipitating a humanitarian and health crisis. To make things worse, many migrant workers were dealt with in an authoritarian manner, making it hard to count on their cooperation from now. The new order will be hard to implement.

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Business Standard, 30 March, 2020, https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/handling-of-lockdown-brings-back-demo-memories-economist-jean-dreze-120033001808_1.html


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