New Delhi: The lockdown has had a grave impact on businesses as well the emotional well-being of people, Bajaj Auto managing director Rajiv Bajaj told Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a virtual interaction, a video of which was released Thursday.
“The lockdown flatted the wrong curve — not the infection curve, but the GDP curve,” Bajaj said. The managing director of Bajaj Auto is considered one of the most influential people in the country’s business sector.
He also described India’s lockdown as “draconian”, “impervious and airtight”.
“All my friends and family from across the world have always been free to step out, to take a walk, to go and buy something they require, to go and visit someone. So in terms of the social and emotional aspects of this lockdown, they seem to have been in a much better place,” he said.
The interaction is part of a series of interviews that the Congress leader has been conducting with experts regarding the government’s handling of the pandemic.
‘We looked West instead of East for lockdown model’
Calling the lockdown “draconian”, Bajaj said India looked at the West as a model, instead of the East.
“We don’t care as much for TB, or pneumonia or diarrhoea that kill so many in India,” he said. “But the coronavirus struck at the heart of the developed world. When the rich and famous get affected, it always makes a bigger headline.”
Bajaj added that being an Asian country, he would have expected India to look at other Eastern nations than at Italy, France or Spain, which aren’t the “right benchmarks”.
“Whether it is in terms of inherent immunity, temperature, demography, predisposition to thrombosis. Everything that the scientists and doctors have spoken of, we should never have been looking there (East),” he said.
Bajaj also criticised the police reaction to those seen as violating the guidelines. He said if people aren’t wearing helmets, there is hardly any action against them.
“On the other hand, if someone steps out for a morning walk without wearing a mask, you are caning them, making them do exercises in the middle of the road to humiliate them,” Bajaj said. “Where is proportion in the way we are treating our own people, where is the compassion?”
‘Economy needs a mood elevator’
Speaking about the economy, Rahul Gandhi said he sent out a couple of feelers to people in the government to understand why businesses aren’t being given a stimulus.
“Most responses said that If we give a handout to our labour now, bigad jayenge. They will get spoilt and they will not come back from their villages,” Gandhi said. “The other was that we might send a wrong message to the international community who we will need to invest in us.”
In reaction, Bajaj said Indian economy needs a ‘mood elevator’.
“India cannot save itself, it has to sell itself out of trouble. We have to get demand going again, we have to provide something that lifts the mood of the people,” he said.
On the question of India being traditionally a tolerant and open country, Bajaj said it needs to mend how things have become recently. “I think yes, in terms of being tolerant, in terms of being sensitive, I think, India needs to mend a couple of things,” he said.