A man rests alongside dogs beside a temple as Hyderabad endures the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Facing enhanced welfare spending due to the epidemic and the lockdown, the state government of Telangana has pruned the salaries of its staff this month. (AP)
Hyderabad: The Telangana state government’s decision not to pay the full salary to its employees this month is an admission that it is in dire straits. It is besieged by the Covid-19 pandemic at a time when an economic slowdown followed by the coronavirus lockdown have left it cash-starved.
The central government announced last week that the COVID-19 epidemic would be notified as a disaster on par with earthquakes and floods so that states can access the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
However, funds from that source have remained on paper. Both the Telugu states, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, are still waiting for the funds. State officials who telephone their counterparts in New Delhi are being told that if the matter is really urgent—how could it not be?—they could go in for an overdraft (OD), for which the Centre would sign the permissions. This really is code for ‘Fend for Yourself’.
OD is not really an option either of the two Telugu states is in a position to take, being deep in debt already. The look of shock on state officials’ faces is palpable. New Delhi has promised them much: it that expenses on hospitalization of the sick would be borne by the National Health Mission; the cost of setting up additional testing laboratories and the money spent on buying thermal scanners, ventilators, air purifiers and consumables for government hospitals would come from the SDRF.
At the moment it’s nothing more than talk.
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