Flagging fears that the country’s GDP growth may even touch its lowest since independence in the backdrop of coronavirus pandemic, Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy on Monday said the economy should be brought back on track and people should be prepared to live with the pathogen.
He also pitched for developing a new system that should allow every player in every sector of the country’s economy to operate at full steam with suitable precautions.
“India’s GDP is expected to shrink by at least five per cent. There is a fear that we may even reach the lowest GDP (growth) since independence, since 1947,” Murthy said.
The software icon was participating in a discussion on ‘Leading India’s Digital Revolution’ during the 16th edition of Institute of Engineering and Technology’s India Digital Conversations held virtually.
“The global GDP has gone down. Global trade has shrunk, global travel has almost disappeared. The global GDP is likely to shrink between 5 per cent and 10 per cent,” he said.
Murthy said that right from the first day of the national lockdown on March 24 his view had been that people have to be prepared to live with the virus for three reasons — there is no vaccine, no cure for coronavirus and the economy cannot be brought to a halt. The earliest possible vaccine was from Oxford University, which may be available in the country anywhere from six to nine months, he said.
“But even if we are able to vaccinate 10 million people a day, it is going to take 140 days to vaccinate all the Indians. That is a long period to prevent the spread of the disease,” Murthy said. “…we cannot make the economy come to a halt. Over all, 140 million workers have been affected by this virus. So the smartness is in defining a new normal. This normal should allow our economy to grow while moving on the earth and fighting the virus,” the tech leader said.
Stressing on developing a new system to deal with the current situation, he also laid emphasis on creating a health infrastructure for vaccinating everybody once a vaccine was available and working towards a cure for the new virus.
“India has traditionally not invested sufficiently in public health. We have severe shortage both in talent and in material for a robust public health system. The state of our Institute of Public Health is a good data point,” said Murthy.
In the given system, Murthy said, social distancing, and use of masks were the best way to combat the virus. He, however, lauded the country for having done a decent job under the present circumstances.
To bring the economy back on track, the Infosys founder suggested getting back the 140 million migrant workers who have gone back to their villages to their workplaces, mostly in urban India.
His second advice was increasing the number of hospital beds and adding equipment for testing and taking care of the projected number of COVID-19 patients for three months and six months from now.
“Even today there is a severe shortage of COVID-19 care facilities in second tier and third tier towns,” said Murthy lamenting the demise of one of his relatives due to coronavirus in Hubballi, a north Karnataka tier-2 city and district headquarters.
The 74-year-old tech leader also favoured amending laws and providing infrastructural facilities for companies which cannot use the work-from-home paradigm and increasing the public transport and public safety facilities for businesses and the public to operate 24 hours.