The lockdown imposed to check the spread of the pandemic adversely affected Karnataka’s economy. But, the state overcame the challenge by implementing a series of measures which helped revive economic activity. Moreover, there are signs giving high hopes as the New Year dawns.
Karnataka is among the states in India which have tackled the COVID-19 pandemic most effectively. Though the disease had a major impact on the economy of Karnataka as the state is a top technological and industrial region, timely interventions by the state government and effective countermeasures helped control the pandemic.
Along with the rest of the country, Karnataka also imposed a lockdown to check the spread of the disease. However, it adversely affected the state’s economy. Rising to the occasion, the state announced a series of unlock measures which helped revive economic activity.
Karnataka’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed on March 9, 2020. An employee of a multinational company who travelled from Texas via New York City and Dubai, before arriving at Bengaluru was found to be positive for the virus. Two days later, the state became the first in India to invoke the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to curb the spread of the disease. The Karnataka government subsequently closed schools and later postponed examinations. After the state reported its first death, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa issued a directive to close all public places with high footfall like malls, universities and colleges, movie theatres, night clubs, marriages and conferences. Further, Karnataka closed its borders with neighbouring states.
On May 18, 2020, the Chief Minister announced several relaxations in the lockdown after receiving the guidelines from the central Ministry of Home Affairs. During this phase of the lockdown, most of the commercial activities except shopping malls, movie theatres, hotels and restaurants were permitted. Moreover, all modes of public transport services, including buses, cabs, auto-rickshaws, and intrastate train services were allowed. The government also decided to allow people from other states in a restricted manner. During the first phase of unlocking, more relaxations were provided and opening of the religious places, hotels, malls etc. was allowed.
The policy of trace, track, test, treat and technology (5T) was pioneered by Karnataka to fight the pandemic. During an interaction through the video conferencing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated the state's efforts in combating COVID-19 and steps taken to unlock the economy with the gradual relaxation of the extended lockdown norms. Moreover, the Centre asked other states to adopt these best practices to their local context and replicate them for better management of COVID-19.
The state was among the first to adopt technology to help government officials manage the number of tasks cropping up due to the pandemic. Through a team of in-house programmers, Karnataka rolled out a series of mobile applications in the first three months of the pandemic itself.
Hopes during New Year
The adverse economic situation is giving way to hope during the New Year. Now, industries that were severely hit by the lockdown are on the road to recovery. Said Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FKCCI) president Perikal M Sundar: “Industries are increasing their capacity and the situation is improving. By March 2021, the capacity is expected to reach around 80 per cent.”
“Exports have not witnessed big growth, but domestic consumption is good. Over the next six months, it should reach regular production of pre-pandemic times,” he said.
“All consumer goods, including packaged food items, are doing well. The hospitality sector is also slowly picking up, but the COVID scare still prevails,” he explained.
Most of the migrant workers from Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and other states have returned, Sundar said. “There is definitely a lot of scope for employment generation in Karnataka,” he added.
According to official data, in Bengaluru, the nerve centre of Karnataka economy, 2.9 lakh industry units of the 3 lakh units started operations with 26 lakh of the 29 lakh employees back at work by September.
Secretary of state Industries Department Gaurav Gupta said several sectors have seen a hike in orders, primarily due to market demands. “We are seeing a boost in business in the processed food sector and the fast-moving consumer goods, especially for personal hygiene. Automobile and real estate are yet to be normal, but we are seeing resurgence in these sectors too,” he said.
“While demands in the civil aviation sector are still low, industry majors have pinned their hopes on the defence aviation sector,” said an official.