The World Health Organization estimates that India had 4.730 million COVID19-related deaths in 2020-21, nearly a third of 15 million global excess deaths attributed to the pandemic. India is followed by Russia with 1.073 million deaths and Indonesia with 1.03 million deaths. The United States with 933,795 deaths and Brazil with 681,219 deaths round out the top 5 countries that suffered the heaviest losses of life believed to be related to the pandemic. Mexico (625,923 deaths), Peru (289,654 deaths), Turkey (264,279 deaths) Egypt (251,635 deaths) and South Africa (238,893 deaths) are ranked number 6 through 10 in the world for excess deaths in 2020-21 period. Although Pakistan too had 8 times the official figure, it still does not figure in WHO's top 10 list for total number of COVID deaths.
|Total Excess Deaths Recorded During the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020-21. Source: WHO|
Excess deaths measure how many more people died than expected compared with previous years. Although it is difficult to say with certainty how many of these deaths were due to Covid, they can be considered a measure of the scale and toll of the pandemic, according to the BBC.
Although the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi disputes the WHO estimates, the scenes of desperation and death all over India, including the streets of major cities during the pandemic, offer significant anecdotal evidence to support the WHO claim. Although Pakistan too had 8 times the official figure, it still does not figure in WHO's top 10 list for total number of COVID deaths.
|List of Countries with excess deaths during COVID19 pandemic. Source: WHO|
Prime Minister Modi's mishandling of the COVID19 pandemic has left a lasting effect on India's economy. Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), the top decision-making body of India's Hindu right-wing RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), says that “the young generation is suffering from unemployment and the pandemic has made things even grim... We cannot turn a blind eye to unemployment. It is a crisis and it needs to be addressed.” The RSS was apparently reacting to the falling labor participation rate in India relative to Pakistan and the global averages. The RSS leadership wants the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to focus on helping small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to create jobs. RSS likes Modi government's ‘Make in India’ initiative “but it needs to be sharpened even more and get more investment.” The resolution is titled, ‘The need to promote work opportunities to make Bharat self-reliant’. The solution offered by ABPS resolution: Take agro-based local initiatives to promote rural areas and create jobs, according to Ram Madhav, a member of the RSS executive committee.
|Falling Employment in India. Source: CMIE|
India's labor participation rate (LPR) fell to 39.5% in March 2022, as reported by the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). It dropped below the 39.9% participation rate recorded in February. It is also lower than during the second wave of Covid-19 in April-June 2021. The lowest the labor participation rate had fallen to in the second wave was in June 2021 when it fell to 39.6%. The average LPR during April-June 2021 was 40%. March 2022, with no Covid-19 wave and with much lesser restrictions on mobility, has reported a worse LPR of 39.5%.
|Labor Participation Rates in India and Pakistan. Source: ILO/World Bank|
In spite of the headline GDP growth figures highlighted by the Indian and world media, the fact is that it has been jobless growth. The labor participation rate (LPR) in India has been falling for more than a decade. The LPR in India has been below Pakistan's for several years, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).
|Indian Employment Trends By Sector. Source: CMIE Via Business Standard|
Construction and manufacturing sectors in India have been shedding jobs while the number of people working in agriculture has been rising, according to CMIE. Job losses have caused a hunger crisis in India which now ranks 94th among 107 nations ranked by World Hunger Index in 2020. Other South Asians have fared better: Pakistan (88), Nepal (73), Bangladesh (75), Sri Lanka (64) and Myanmar (78) – and only Afghanistan has fared worse at 99th place. The COVID19 pandemic has worsened India's hunger and malnutrition. Tens of thousands of Indian children were forced to go to sleep on an empty stomach as the daily wage workers lost their livelihood and Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the South Asian nation. Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan opted for "smart lockdown" that reduced the impact on daily wage earners. China, the place where COVID19 virus first emerged, is among 17 countries with the lowest level of hunger.
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