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Protests – Hong Kong and Shaheen Bagh…

The Janata curfew and the quick follow-up action of locking down 75 districts, including Chennai and Delhi, seem to have helped.

For over eight months from June 2019 Hong Kong was on the boil. Citizens assembled in the thousands protesting the Fugitive Offenders Amendment Bill (which, among other things, provided for transferring court cases to mainland China, with its different, less liberal laws).

It was peaceful and disciplined, barring a few attempts to indulge in violence. A stubborn pro-China administration under Chief Executive Carrie Lam attempted to thwart the effort but failed. Ultimately, the disciplined protesters succeeded in forcing the Hong Kong administration to withdraw the bill. But having tasted success, the protests still continued demanding a commitment by the government to continue with the extent and quality of civil liberties promised under the agreement of transfer with the British.

But once the coronavirus threatened to spread, the protesters withdrew and instantly contributed to life returning to normalcy.

Two factors of this experience stood out: one, the familiarity of the citizens of Hong Kong with the extensive damage caused by the earlier Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic. The second and more important, is the discipline and civic sense of the citizens which helped a quick return to normalcy. Significantly, despite the proximity to mainland China, Hong Kong, and neighbouring Macau appear to be the safest places with the least incidence of COVID-19!

The Indian government has been quick in introducing a series of measures to tackle the COVID-19. The country, with the second-largest population, has to worry a lot more than smaller countries. The measures taken like the ban on visitors from several countries, cancellation of visas, extensive campaigns to educate the public, closure of schools, colleges, cinema halls, malls, conferences and public meetings by different state governments are all welcome.

However, a matter for concern is the insistence of sections of protesters against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), NRC, to continue with their protests at Shaheen Bagh, Delhi and Washermenpet in Chennai. A serious risk of a quick spread of the virus is involved. As in Hong Kong, the protesters should understand the logic and gravity not to congregate in numbers. It is not just their safety but of spreading the virus to the larger community around. The Janata curfew and the quick follow-up action of locking down 75 districts, including Chennai and Delhi, seem to have helped.

Blood bath in the bourses

It is widely known that the Indian stock market indices did not reflect correctly the true state of the economic health of the country. For years, the Sensex was believed to have been manipulated by a few powerful players in the stock market. Thus, one witnessed the spiralling of the Sensex not related to corporate performance. Even when economic growth was sliding, Sensex was shooting up and the BSE index crossed 42,000 points. This was the time when major sectors, which have been prime movers of the economy like the automobile, telecom, IT, banking, etc. were passing through extremely difficult phases.

With the economies of several countries sliding to negative growth, accentuated by the bitter trade war between China and the USA and the spread of the coronavirus, the balloon has burst. In just ten days in March, the Sensex lost more than 30 per cent to around 28,000 points. Of course, this is part of the crash of share prices across the globe. This has meant the loss of several lakh crores of investors’ money. This correction is overdue the index is still higher than the peak reached in the previous global meltdown of 2008. But there is still no sure sign of the downfall getting bottomed out.

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