Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, and Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu, on Thursday discussed the feasibility of the meetings of Parliamentary Committees during the corona lockdown. As there are restrictions on travel, they have directed the Secretaries General of both the Houses to examine pros and cons of holding meetings through video conferencing.


The harsh corona lockdown has made our world less sweet. Laughing, Chaudhary Pushpendra Singh, a vocal farmers’ leader from western Uttar Pradesh, said, “Because people are consuming less sugar!” Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Chaudhary Pushpendra Singh, President, Kisan Shakti Sangh, said that sugar demand has dropped sharply all over the world. The commercial and institutional sale of sugar has fallen sharply. Singh says that around 75% of sugar is consumed in the commercial products—sweets, chocolates, ice cream, sweetened cold drinks etc., or in social activities like marriages and the rest is consumed in the households. “The opening stock of sugar this year was 143 lakh MT. During the ‘sugar year’ 2019-2020 that starts from October and lasts till next September the production of sugar is expected to be around 270 lakh MT which is about our yearly consumption. Sugar availability is expected to be around 413 lakh MT this year,” said Singh. “India may end up exporting only about 40 lakh MT of sugar against a target of 60 lakh MT.” The fall in demand between March and September this year, according to him, is expected to be around 50 lakh MT. The next sugar season would start with over 150 lakh MT of opening stock, which is about seven months of our normal yearly consumption. “A glut situation in sugar is forming fast, leading to non-payment of sugarcane dues of the farmers. In Uttar Pradesh by April-end around Rs 16,000 crore sugarcane dues were pending,” he said, warning that the situation may get out of control when the next crushing season starts in October. Singh has been advising farmers to reduce sugarcane acreage to avoid the glut situation as the sugar mills may be reluctant to purchase large quantities of sugarcane in the next season. “Otherwise, it will lead to unsold sugarcane crop in the fields.”


Social media had a field day commenting on the long queues in front of liquor shops this week, as lockdown was eased. Some called it an economic booster dose, and others a spirited reply to corona’s oppression. The queue in Delhi’s Daryaganj apparently extended into Nepal. Someone else joked that the queues were visible from NASA satellites. Another one said: “Only 20 people are allowed to gather for a funeral because the ‘spirit’ has already left the body; for weddings the limit is 50 people but for buying liquor all are welcome, because all the bottles have spirit in them.”


A sense of insecurity and anxiety among people locked down is bringing about surprising psychological changes. The fear of being forced into self-quarantine has made some people give their neighbour’s address 50-70 metres away whenever they order doorstep delivery of food and essentials—a distance safe to avoid forced sealing of a house and adjacent buildings by the authorities in case the delivery boy tests coronavirus positive later. This practice has caught up after a pizza delivery boy in South Delhi’s Malviya Nagar tested positive and the authorities put nearly 72 homes, where he and his colleagues had made deliveries, under quarantine. After the neighbour refuses to take an “unknown” packet the delivery boy calls up the person who placed the order and then the resident comes rushing to collect the packet on the road, leaving no evidence behind for the local authorities to narrow down upon his or her identity.


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