Among the several deleterious and long lasting consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is the battering countries' economies will take. And no country, big or small, will be unaffected by it. For a country like ours, the informal economy would be the most vulnerable, on which a good part of our middle and low income groups survive and derive sustenance from. Thousands have lost their sources of income; some have been forced to switch to lower paid employment. Many have been left with no options, with only government support to survive on. The problems have been severely exacerbated by a large number of migrant workers returning home with no ostensible source of income.
The pandemic has caused a serious disruption in the entire system and dealt a severe blow to economic life, not without the associated consequences. It is no accident that after a period of lull and fall in crime rates at the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, we notice a spike in petty crimes like theft, robbery and mugging, as reported in this paper yesterday. Police put it down to job losses and the decline in earnings of low-income people during the outbreak.
Indeed, rising crimes is one of the indices of the adverse effects of the pandemic on the economy. It is an inevitability and unless a well thought out, efficient programme is undertaken to provide monetary help to these people, as well as help the informal economy to revive, serious economic and social disorder is a real possibility. Without the government widening its social safety nets and providing monetary help, such as a one-time grant or loans on very easy terms, there will be more and more people becoming desperate and resorting to crime. Thus we are likely to see more of the likes of people like the street hawker of clothes and seasonal fruits, who, having lost his only source of income during this pandemic, resorted to extortion and murder; or the simple three-wheeler driver who started waylaying buses to make up for his loss of income. While criminals must be apprehended and justice must be meted out, it is crucial to alleviate the financial hardships many individuals are facing because of income loss, compelling them to take the wrong path to make ends meet.