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  • How you cope with sudden unemploymentPranav S.
    How you cope with sudden unemploymentDay after day passes, the world and the country caring about little other than the coronavirus numbers. You tire of sitting in your shorts and imbibing a jumble of news, work emails, Zoom calls and social media, even as conversations in the company, the industry and the economy at large turn increasingly worried. The MakeMyTrip group of travel websites announces pay cuts, with the management giving up their salaries entirely; many contractors and third-party staff may be let go of, the reports say. Loss-making hotel aggregator OYO furloughs or lays off thousands of staff across markets and cuts salaries. Companies freeze operations around the world. One by one, consumer internet startups with little income but a lot of supposed scale see funding drying up. Retrenchments, furloughs and pay cuts across the board. Airlines, media companies, automakers and more follow suit. You carry on with work, but dread starts to grow. You try to make sense of revenue projections maybe, or sales plans for an always vaguely distant yet hopefully close “post-COVID” world. The numbers don’t really make any sense; every day, you overhaul them. The management opens up, at the very least, there won’t be any annual increments, and everyone can forget about bonuses. Everybody is scared. Friends, friends of friends, acquaintances, neighbours, it’s likely that someone you know has been fired, furloughed or faces the immediate threat of the axe—maybe even you. Sign in to read more.
  • COVID-19 and the crippling of Indian manufacturingSaif Iqbal
    COVID-19 and the crippling of Indian manufacturingThe Haryana industrial belt starts as soon as you come in from Delhi, crossing the now-defunct toll booths on NH-48, passing Airtel’s gaudily coloured headquarters on the right, breezing past the non-sequitur Cyber Hub on your left, until 80 km later you hit the state border with Rajasthan. While there are no official estimates, this industrial belt around Gurugram houses more than 10,000 small and medium enterprises in manufacturing alone, where until a month ago over 1 million workers were employed. Only a few thousand have a permanent home in Gurugram. The Gurugram to Manesar industrial area in the state of Haryana caters to a variety of industries—auto and auto components, garments, leather goods, rubber products, etc. To understand the havoc that the coronavirus outbreak and India’s lockdown have wrought on small businesses and workers across the country, there’s no better example to take. Read on.
  • What comes after you kill the NSO?Pradip K. Saha
    What comes after you kill the NSO?P.C. Mohanan wasn’t surprised at all with the news on 15 November. A career statistician for over 30 years and a former acting chairman of the National Statistical Commission, Mohanan had learnt to read between the lines. And interpret silences. Especially that of governments about economic data during a downturn. Particularly when a council of ministers goes overboard insisting that all is well with the economy. Mohanan has been through it all. The last time such a situation arose and the government kept delaying the release of a periodic jobs survey by the National Sample Survey Office, or NSSO, he resigned in protest, in January this year. So, he suspected all along that something wasn’t right with the 2017-18 consumer expenditure survey, which the government hadn’t released yet. Then the findings of the survey made their way to a news report. India woke up that Friday morning to yet another set of dismal consumer spending numbers in its long list of economic woes, pointing at a deepening slowdown. The Business Standard report said that consumer expenditure in India declined in 2017-18 for the first time since 1972-73, pulled down by a slackening demand in rural areas, citing the unreleased survey. The survey, which is carried out every five years—Key Indicators: Household Consumer Expenditure in India—was approved by a committee on 19 June but was withheld due to “adverse findings”, said the report. Data for the survey was collected between July 2017 and June 2018, in the wake of demonetization and the implementation of the goods and services tax. That evening, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, or MoSPI, issued a statement saying it has decided “not to release the Consumer Expenditure Survey results of 2017-2018” because of “data quality issues”. This is the first time the government has junked such a survey since NSSO was created in 1950. The government’s move is the latest in a series of blows to the credibility of the National Statistical Office, or NSO, a body created earlier this year from the merger of the mostly independent NSSO and the Central Statistics Office, a body under the central government. It also raises two critical questions: 1. Where does NSO go from here? What is the future of the institution? 2. Where does the government go for credible data now that it has cast a shadow over data generated by a government agency?
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