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Just how successful has the lockdown been? Just how bad would the situation have been if it wasn’t this total?

How can you take a chance in a country of 138 crore, mostly poor, people? Didn’t the prime minister say, “jaan hai toh jahan hai”? Jaan toh hai. We have the lowest per million fatality rate from coronavirus for any major country. Therefore, thank your chosen God — so far, so good. And get back indoors. Really?

We are managing to stay alive, but our livelihoods are in deep freeze. For far too many fellow Indians, these won’t return any time soon. Tens of crores who’ve been lifted out of poverty post-1991 are half-a-wheezing-breath away from slipping back there. We are alive, of course, but remember the famous words of Amitabh Bachchan in the 1979 hit Mr Natwarlal, “yeh jeena bhi koi jeena hai lallu?”

Or let me set the Hindi cinema calendar back five decades instead, and offer you a more prosaic description, if with the help of fine poetry.

Late Gopaldas Neeraj (1925-2018) is remembered mostly as a poet of deep melancholia. Never mind that he also wrote some of the most lifting romantic lines that transcend generations, including Likhe jo khat tujhe (for Shashi Kapoor, Kanyadaan, 1968) and Phoolon ke rang se (Dev Anand, Prem Pujari, 1970).

But his imprimatur for poetic immortality comes from his saddest: Karwan guzar gaya, gubar dekhte rahe… (the caravan passed me by and I was left staring at the dust-clouds in its wake). Sung by Mohammed Rafi and composed by Roshan in the 1966 Tanuja-starrer Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasal, it was the ultimate song of self-pity for the jilted, defeated lover.

It was so sad that it lent itself naturally to becoming the most parodied song of our early school years. The refrain, in the publishable parody version, changed to: Mar gaya mareez, hum bukhar dekhte rahe (all I did was keep checking the temperature, but the patient died).

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I understand the connection between fever-checking and coronavirus and the risk of being accused of trivialising a once-in-a-century tragedy. But continuing on, unthinkingly, with more or less the same lockdown amounts to exactly this. If the virus won’t kill us, joblessness, hunger, desolation, depression, and loss of self-esteem will. Quarantine shouldn’t become a death-bed.


Also read: Coronavirus has brought India’s almighty Centre back, and Modi’s unlikely to give up control


As the government’s latest decisions — two-week lockdown extension and very selective opening up in most of our colour-coded country — show, this is not about to change soon. That absolute power corrupts absolutely is old hat. Check out the history of any state or establishment. Absolute power can also intoxicate you absolutely.

That is why the central government is now micromanaging not just the affairs of all the states, but also the day-to-day lives of us individuals. Added with such total power over people, you can only expect many bureaucrats to start behaving like mini Robert Mugabes. Check out Haryana. A senior cop announced on camera the district’s borders are closed for everyone, including journalists (never mind) and doctors. Hello, the state has proudly built something called the Medicity where several large hospitals function. Hundreds of patients, doctors and paramedics commute here from Delhi.

It is one thing that a state is nutty enough to be locking up a district with pretensions to being India’s third Silicon Valley. But it is also a zone both Delhi and Rajasthan need for transit. You think this is absurd enough as an example of absolute power driving the establishment nuts? Read this story by ThePrint reporter Jyoti Yadav on how the state is digging up decent roads on the borders to keep the coronavirus in Delhi. Good idea, digging a moat, just in case it comes riding a T-72 tank.

India may not have the cash or the fiscal headroom to print money — unlike the US, blessed with the world’s reserve currency — to spend its way out of a crisis. But it has an Army, Navy and Air Force, to shore up your spirits as we will see soon. Flypasts, bands, even helicopters dropping flowers over hospitals treating coronavirus patients are cute ideas for an Akshay Kumar film. But when lakhs of workers at the lowest rung of the employment ladder would still be walking back home, this is the true 2020 equivalent of ‘let them eat cake’.

What they need, on the other hand, is a more purposeful reopening and a reassurance that their jobs are not only not going away, but resuming soon, and they are needed. Flypasts as if to celebrate this mass exodus are, I am afraid, an obscenity.


Also read: Why India may not see the kind of Covid-19 outbreak rest of the world has seen


During the Vietnam war, the press corps had given the daily US military briefings a name: Five O’Clock Follies. Such a thing happens when an establishment begins to see its people as infants. Watch the daily Ministry of Health briefings in New Delhi, supposedly giving an overview of the Covid-19 situation in the country.

These are so anodyne, so monotonous and so shy of taking any questions, that you could pretty much name these Four O’Clock Follies. Just the numbers of cases and deaths, how much better we are doing than the rest of the world, day after day after day after day. Out of sheer exasperation at the lack of information, I even landed up at one of these the other day, attending a PIB briefing after a couple of decades, if not longer.

I did ask a question too: “Of all the active cases now, how many are on ventilator?” The lone scientist/doctor there didn’t answer this, a civil servant did. Something like, the percentage of people in serious condition is routinely stated by ICMR/health authorities. Or something to that effect. No follow up, no nothing. Just a restatement of the familiar old bureaucratic tactics: “I won’t ever lie to you. But if you ask me my name, I shall give you my date of birth.”

Three months after the first Covid-19 case was reported in India, we need more than a daily scoreboard. That can be simply tweeted by someone at a fixed time in a day. Nor do we deserve daily instructions, dos and don’ts, and then clarifications. One has already landed (on liquor sale) even as this is being written, confirming the truism: Never believe anything from this government until it’s been clarified.

We need to see the road ahead, a road to some kind of normalcy. Or, we will end up a nation of beggars, waiting for sarkari orders and maaibaap handouts for survival. We are getting deluded by how inspirationally compliant Indians are with this unthinking, one-size-fits-all lockdown that would do Tughlaq proud.

The reason we are so compliant is that we are so fearful. Fear, fatalism and self-pity are all viruses more infectious than coronavirus, more destructive and also addictive. This nation of 138 crore people, hailed globally for being so aspirational and entrepreneurial, is now sitting in the trenches, grateful it is still not dead.

We know that there is a valid concept of putting a grievously ill patient under medically induced coma, to allow the body to recover. But you need to lift it as early as possible. If you let her go on in coma, and pat your own back each time you check the temperature, you risk falling into the syndrome we parodied poet Neeraj about: Kept checking for fever while the patient died.


Also readCovid hasn’t gone viral in India yet, but some in the world & at home can’t accept the truth


 

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117 Comments Share Your Views

117 COMMENTS

  1. A Rs 100 per word hack asking for a “roadmap” from the government while straying into Bollywood poetry and doing some song and dance while shedding tears for India’s poor.
    I thought all you Journos , especially you Shekhar Gupta, were the last word on everything. How come you have nothing to offer to the government in terms of a road map? Is it because you know, but refuse to admit, the situation is evolving and nobody, not even a Shekhar Gupta can peer ahead and say what must be done, apart from dispensing some anodyne?

    Or is it because there’s nothing really that you can offer, but plenty of criticism that you can fish out once the government starts in some direction? I suspect with the kind of media persons we have, it is most likely the latter course of action. The likes of you get paid per word, so you can stray into some Bollywood number, recollect who sung it under what circumstances, make it appear nattier and give it for printing. Apne baap ka kya jaat hai? Kuch chamche hain jo wah huzoor karenge aur hum apni karavaan agli article ke liye tayar karenge.

  2. Truth is start naked & bitter you have hit the nail as usual, its not a criticism but a constructive appeal asking the dispensation to dispense but the bukths will not accept be it so they never will. We have seen aircrafts flying next may be submarine submerge/diving. Im waiting to hear -because of Nehru virus corona is still active. May journalists tribe like you & the media with spine survive. For we the masses to hope against hope.

  3. Kidney has a very special place in the heart . It is an incredible thing . Donald Trump .
    Your knowledge surpasses that of Trump , Shekhar ! God be with you .

  4. There are many negative responses to this article.
    However, few really understand the cost of this action.
    Here is one example, IT workers need public transit to get to work.
    Due to lock down the cannot get to work and they are not setup to work from home.
    This means the systems they support overseas has to find alternatives to these workers.
    Now western fear porn is stating world can have second cycle in fall 2020 thru winter 2012.
    So western companies are thinking “should I on-shore some of this IT”.
    The longer the lock down the more likely this will happen.

  5. India has done amazingly well in this crisis.Be proud of your people and of your government.look at the UK deaths in excess of 26000 with a first class health service accessible to all for no costs. Imagine the effects of no lockdown and how deaths would have spread like wildfire. Be grateful you and your loved ones are alive through this crisis.India is not Sweden and Sweden did not come through unscathed. Learn gratitude.

  6. You have correctly identified issues. It is about both about capability (to generate new ideas, listen to voices of experts, plan, execute & delegate things) and willingness (desire to address people’s issues). This has been the story of India for last six years. It all goes to point out that this govt is clueless both about real issues of majority of people and economy.

    Pandemic is shining bright light on all things but this govt has already worked on transferring responsibility to landlords not to take rent, corporations to provide salary to staff, states to take care migrants without any support from center. And to top it all off PM Modi’s govt is attempting to shirk its responsibility and insulate itself by asking villages and districts to be self-sufficient during the time of pandemic instead of assuring and providing support.

  7. even for sg this is a shit article and is quite shoddily written even after giving it the benefit of the doubt and reading it as dispassionately as possible. Like most journalists – hack or otherwise – from time to time he waffles on by glibly stating the obvious without really making any compelling points with iron clad substance behind them. One suspects if the lockdown was completely lifted he would still get his knives and pitchforks out to claim that the govt was ill advised and irresponsible, much to the approval of the partisan Lelib brigade and their adherents who seem to perennially have it in for Modi regardless of what he does, when the infections inevitably end up multiplying.

  8. Ya ,my dear friend but remember this method of containing such epidemics was started and perfected by what is now called the Kerala model by the intelligent Health Minister of Kerala Mrs. Srimathi.
    This is the only way out
    Had people properly adhered to it . We would have been out of danger, but no, some wanted to go home, some were desperate to roam about, just look at the Koyembedu incident and the infection keeps rising . And then every Tom Dick and Harry for each and everything instead of self introspecting.
    India has to be responsible including the intelligensia.

  9. You’re just another pessimistic fellow who loves criticising the current government. And your article was so uninteresting and boring that I just left mid way. One of the worst articles without a proper head or tail.

  10. Our so called patrakars think they have all the knowledge. They only know to critise.If they are so talented why they do not become the Prime Minister.They are arm chair people.I challenge them to become a leader and do better than Modi.Lastly What Modi is doing is with all the states ministers conference.

    • There are many negative responses to this article.
      However, few really understand the cost of this action.
      Here is one example, IT workers need public transit to get to work.
      Due to lock down the cannot get to work and they are not setup to work from home.
      This means the systems they support overseas has to find alternatives to these workers.
      Now western fear porn is stating world can have second cycle in fall 2020 thru winter 2012.
      So western companies are thinking “should I on-shore some of this IT”.
      The longer the lock down the more likely this will happen.

  11. Mostly agree with him. We donot seem to have an exit plan, nit visible if exists. Micromanagement wont do now. Let states plan their strategies and let centre support states. There are so many chief ministers and they can learn from each other and we can move forward.

    • Isn’t that happening now? All containment zones, etc with state govts? You should read less of this pamphlet site called the Print to get all the news you can use.

  12. As I was going through the article I was wondering, who can be such insane and spew so much hatred, n then I saw the name…. No wonder, another LIBRANDU ….Shekar Gupta.

  13. Well said, Mr Sekhar Gupta. You have said what needs to be said. Lockdown must go lock, stock and barrel. It will do more harm than Corana. Life without livelihood will be an unmitigated catastrophe, which will entail untold misery on all sections of the Society except the rich -politicians, cinema actors, religious leaders, industrialists and business tycoons. Will the GoI listen? I doubt. There is lot of saddest thoughts that pervade the policy planners in the present dispensation. Unfortunate. Unlike the US, where the election is round the corner, we have four long years – and by the time most of us would have been dead – and our progeny will take the toll.
    a k pattabiraman, Chennai

  14. Mr Sekher Gupta is right in criticizing another fifteen days of lockdown of India and dividing the vast country into color coded zones. It is understood that lockdown cannot go on indefinitely and Corona will not go away after two additional weeks of lockdown. Though we have seen a reduction in number of new cases, very unlikely this number will go to single digit in next two weeks. But government has to make decisions. It has chosen life over livelihood. Given our large population, crowded cities, over crowded public transport system and poor concept of social distancing, if the number of cases shot up, it will be Mr Gupta who will write another scathing column advocating virtues of saving life over making money. It is understood Corona induced fatality is low, say 5%, and around 15% may need hospitalization. In an open unfettered situation this number could be 150million hospitalized and 50 million dead. By the way, those affected will be mostly poor people because they would not be able to afford private hospitals. Can our system cope with the avalanche? Advanced countries with stronger Healthcare infrastructure could not. It is easy to write. It is difficult to decide. Sekher Gupta has his readers to account for, government has its voters as well as critics to carry along. One must decide what one would have chosen in the identical situation.

  15. yes india should have removed the lockdown. the corona virus got so scared of the lockdown that it is now seeking shelter in either venus or jupiter.
    the metro trains, buses,taxis etc can continue and people can continue being normal. we can over crowd at malls, liquor shops, pan shops, theatres etc. we can continue our spitting habits. in short we can continue with life as if nothing has happened.
    and then you can be rest assured that this virus will come back with vengeance and it will be a real disaster.
    and the same mr.shekar gupta will write another article criticising the govt. for removing the lockdown!!!
    therefore it is better to leave the decision to the govt. at this time because this decision is not taken by mr.modi alone. all the chief ministers seem to agree with the decision.
    if we have any good suggestions let us pass it on to the govt. and leave it at that.
    in the meantime, as mr.shekar gupta suggested we can continue to be cricket experts.
    can mr.gupta in his next article discuss about whether dhoni should retire or not?

  16. No ..MODI has perfectly judged and having a vision about his problem. Which none of the leaders politicians and scribes are having….
    He is real leader with vision and like any other leaders like Abham lincoln, Lenin, all top category leaders….
    We people started to think now like elementary school children..He is at par with vivekananda swamy

  17. 40000 people die in India everyday. At present 100 odd people die of carona every day. For reducing the 100 people who die of carona we are willing to sacrifice the dignity of 80 crore people who are pushed into poverty due lockdown and cannot even beg in the street. Nobody is willing to shed a tear for 40000 people who die everyday but willing to destroy the economy completely for 100 people who die of corona everyday.

  18. In a bid to save the economy, only fear is that we don’t become a case study that is worst than the Marseilles Case Study…..
    IN A BID TO SAVE THE ECONOMY LET A SIZEABLE POPULATION PERISH

  19. The fall out of lockdown on account of Covid 19 is that the bureaucracy and the police have become all too powerful. Now they are telling us what to do and what not to do. They will also shortly tell us what eat, when to go to the loo, when to sleep. They are like beasts which have tasted blood. The power now given cannot be taken back so easily.

  20. Shekhar isn’t it time to rethink political ideology of letting INDIA being the most populated nation on EARTH. Isn’t it a FACT that congrass supported media and beauracracy wanted poverty to exist to remain in power and be CORRUPT. Why are You unable to say POPULATION must be controlled through law and strict implementation and any opposition to be treated as illegall . Ofcourse with legal safeguards . The population explosion pandemic is worst than covid19.

  21. Shekhar must stop Modi bashing – his favorite pastime to remain relevant. PUBLIC Health is State subject. So, the State governments can either follow the “Guidelines” or reject them. He is questioning the Chief Ministers of the Congress Party as to why they are not rejecting the guidelines and reviving the economy. In Karnataka, liquor shops are getting opened; but not in Punjab? Why? Shekhar may like to ask Amarinder

  22. Benjamin Franklin said “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” . Did we get “अच्छे दिन” (Acche Din) in last six years even before pandemic.? Benjamin Franklin also said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Your analysis that currently everyone is in quarantine including govt is RIGHT ON THE DOT.

  23. None are so blind ( like you ) as have eyes but don’t want to see . Our pot luck that you don’t want to declutter since your induced clutter is gargantuan !

  24. Too late, but not surprised.
    The agenda of the opposition and paid media like you was create panic in case Modi didn’t impose the lockdown.
    Your puppet masters wanted the lockdown so after the lockdown they could blame Modi for the economic crash.
    Then also create the narrative that the lockdown was no needed in India. Which i agree.
    But why did you deskhbhakths so concerned about India didn’t speak up during the lockdown 1 so that it would not have been extended.
    We all know because you would do anything to get Modi out of power even if it means destroying the nation.

  25. This article from the very beginning shows the government’s efforts in bad light….very pessimistic view. If not shutdown/lockdown, what else could have been the solution? I don’t agree with this article.

  26. Brilliant analysis ,I don’t think present leadership in India has the capacity to do anything better . They are by training best at divisive politics and generating hate ,that is done superbly even during this global public health emergency.

  27. EGO
    Is this ego, a prerogative of humans alone, or does it extend to entities, controlled or directed by humans ?
    It appears so, since many states, countries, corporations, companies, and even small businesses, reflect the ego of the CEO, make them do things, which otherwise they were not expected to .
    Take for instance the handling of the Coronavirus issue . It was handled differently by various CEOs. Some said, that it could be cured by Paracetamol, some others said that it is similar to many fevers humans are subjected to, in their life time, some others took a very serious view of the virus and tried their best to lockdown all human activity outside their homes . Which of them succeeded , and which failed is a moot point, but when a few of the states or countries took the route of lockdown, the chain of commerce inexorably broke down .
    If a gold chain worn round the neck snaps at a single point, you don’t go for total replacement . You try to make a sturdy joint at the break and prolong the life of the chain . In these well distributed lockdowns, the commercial chain was snapped at so many places, that it would take stupendous effort, time, which is money, and also cash, to bring it back to the original position .
    A country is run by a government alright, but is any government capable of sustaining economic growth ? It is individuals, that have the enterprising ability to make the economy flourish . Government policies do help but ultimately, it is the individual that makes or breaks a successful business . These individual efforts, are completely shattered by the mass lockdowns.
    Life is sacrosanct in all religions . Whatever one was, during a life time does not matter . Life should be saved at any cost . The same life, is so fragile, and also finite, that the best brains, maximum wealth, and most critical healthcare facilities cannot save a single life . Like the saying, ‘The king is dead. Long live the king’ , activity goes on continuously, despite any death . Head of a political party dies, head of a government is killed, head of a business expires, head of a family is no more, but all connected people don’t follow . The situation could improve, in some cases, status quo ante is maintained, and, of course, in a few cases, collapse . But from the wreck, something better or more activities may arise .
    Now the world, especially the developing countries have burgeoning population and the issue before these governments, is to control population . After the Covid situation, if the loss of populace is not very heavy, birth control and family planning would again come to the fore in their agendas . Is it not evident hypocrisy ?
    Governments’ ability to control natural disasters is limited . Very short time measures are good and needed too . Its role should be educative, to make known the repercussions, and tell the citizens, as to how to take care of their own skins . If, there is a law and order situation, say one person going on infecting people, let the government step in to put that person behind bars, or even shoot that person down, if warranted . Even medical care need not be offered, as if Corona is a government disease and only government is authorised to deal with it . It is seen, that a health scheme, such as ESIC, where crores of Rupees are spent , is not preferred by the so called working class, and even they would flock to corporate hospitals for any serious illness . There have been instances, when an accident occures, the workers’ union insists that the victim be taken to a corporate hospital, and not to a ESI or government hospital . Creating medical facilities at huge expence, has literally failed . Arogyasri and other schemes were designed to line the pockets of corporate hospitals, rather than to give better medical care by the government hospitals . They also helped to garner votes for the political parties .
    Governments should have their reins on law and order, immigration, and emigration, roads, water supply and nothing else . Electricity should be off their list . Even Customs is not needed, since the law of demand and supply, was not enunciated by governments . And the number of government departments should be pruned ruthlessly .
    Gadepalli Subrahmanyam, 208, SSV Nagar, P.B.Road, Vizianagaram 535002 Mobile:9652837050 email:gsmani174@gmail. com

  28. This guy is a idiot. He has no clue as to what he is talking about . Shame on the print.in for letting this guy peddle lies and distorted info. Cowards.

  29. The Holy Month of Ramazaan has begun and Muslims started fasting and also praying to One Almighty God to eradicate the Covid-19. As Ramazaan is the month of Blessings and Mercies we all hope the best to get rid of the virus soon. Observing the fasts in Ramazaan is a very unique obedience by total submission to the will of One Almighty God where all the Muslims in the world are selected and chosen to prove that they are the best creatures on this earth compare to other creatures like animals, birds and others and all those who do not observe fasts in Ramazaan from dawn to dusk. The reward for observing the Fasts is very special as Allah says“ Fasting is for me and I shall reward it” because all acts of worship can be seen when done, and they may be impure with some element of showing off, unlike Fasting. If all the people in the world start Fasting and Praying in this Ramzaan to only One God then we hope the Covid-19 can be eradicated soon by the Will of One Almighty God.

  30. So what else you expect the government to do?
    People are still very hopeful that things will come back to normalcy in near future, and I too believe so. Melancholy would rather supersede this present state of relative positivity if lockdown is lifted and the virus infection starts spreading the way it has been in US or Italy causing significant number of deaths. Imagine such a scenario happening in India, it will be total chaos everywhere, people will come out on streets and things will start spiralling out of control, which might lead to a national emergency like situation. In my opinion, we are still better off and things are pretty much under control. Sadly, there’s no other way out. Number of cases will definitely rise but hopefully we won’t see an exponential increase in active cases and deaths unlike other countries.
    Remember “slow and steady wins the race.”

  31. Please don’t give crap opinion. If the govt does not do this now most elderly will die. Your commentary then will be the opposite.. no wonder no one respects the press…

  32. So, wise guy — any ideas out of this crisis than doing a phased lifting of the lockdown as the govt has very wisely done.

    Glad hacks don’t make policy (Guptaji, must be really hurting that so many of his pals in media are going bust. Hope the lockdown on newspapers goes on forever!!).

    And slimy hacks like SG have the gall to ridicule Trump — isn’t Trump saying the same thing you are saying on opening the economy?

  33. Shekhar, must read what most educated think about lock down continuing. The truth is what Governor of Texas had to say there so much to life than just being alive.

  34. Tomorrow if the fierceness lifts all bars and throws open the field, and the virus spreads like wild fire beyond what we can handle, you will be the first to rise and criticise the govt for its haste. Won’t you?

    • Making a postmortem is the easiest action. It appears SG has not realized that we are facing a dynamic situation and we are not even been able to predict a likely outcome because of high volatility. Govt is trying to strike a balance between life and livelihood. Critics are just waiting for anything to go wrong so that they can comment.

  35. We have had great leaders for country but never great economist.We want to eradicate poverty but always maintain a class called poor.Every year buying power of money decreases thereby any increase in per capita income is eaten up by inflation.The reason we are behind developed countries is high public expenditure and the current public distribution system which doesn’t create a economic cycle.Govt procures food grains and distributes it for free or price lower than market rate.Think if it paid cash.This would have helped increase volume of transactions.The farmers would have got actual market price.The expenditure and responsibility of storage of grains would have got shifted.The amt spent in administration of pds would have been saved.Even today the govt is not able to provide economic confidence to poor,labour class, sme and even large scale industry.The economy is on the verge of getting collapse.We are into a new world and the more delayed the govt understand this the more damage will be done.I think I can provide a probable solution.

  36. Not sure what the plan is, or if there even is a plan. But, if it’s to lift the lockdown after the virus has been eliminated, we’ll be stuck at home forever. Or, maybe at least a year, at the end of which a lot more of us would be in our graves due to hunger than the virus.

    The lockdown could only have been a pause to build infrastructure and systems to tackle any surge that comes after the lockdown. The continuing lockdown can only mean that we’re still not ready. No effective relief package for the poor or small farmers and businesses is ready. No ‘pulse package’ has materialized as promised. So what has Modi & Co been busy with? Politics as usual. Demonising Muslims. Arresting pregnant, non violent activists under UAPA, while the people who shot at peaceful protesters are roaming free on bail, and those with rabid hate foaming at the mouths keep their feet up at home.

    Even the Supreme Court which twiddles thumbs saying ‘Modi aap kuch bhi karo, bas hame ‘Loya (RIP)’ mat banao’, protects the PM’s lapdog in uncharacteristic hurry. The RBI announces relief for mutual funds. And of course ‘PM ka naya ghar’ is getting clearances left, right and centre.

    The man reluctant to arrange trains for migrant workers travelling thousands of kilometers has now arranged a light and sound show across the nation to give the andh bhakts something to clap about.

    If the initial response to the virus was Modi’s Pappu moment, then extending the lockdown forever will be his Tughlaq moment!!

  37. Sorry Sir, your anger against Modi is unwarranted.
    Decisions being taken are with consultations of states and their demands.
    Now, if it is unilateral decisions of Modi, you will cry, where is Federalism.
    If he yields to the suggestions of states, you will come on him like a wall.
    I have not heard anything from you regarding Bengal, but Haryana is Kosher for criticism
    Your article has nothing constructive and the old passion for criticism of Modi is obvious.
    Chit bhi meri, put bhi meri, aur khada…….

  38. Brilliant.I have been always maintaining Modi is the happiest man today his friend Xi gifted him something to enable Modi too become like him.Indians have lost their souls and character.Every one of us will now get used to do ‘uthak- baithak’ as directed by Modi’s babus.

    • Health is a state subject
      So is law n order
      Is this federalism
      Is centre going to give all money to states ?

  39. The medically induced coma analogy is from Paul Krugman of NYTimes. This is the journalistic equivalent of Bollywood lifting Hollywood scripts. Won’t work in 2020.

  40. USA is most developed country in world and just look at the situation there, as much as i know govt there focused on saving economy first not the people, the reason for more then 1M covid cases and over 65k deaths in 2-3 months is majorly bcz of late waking up of Trump govt. They will save there economy but they will lost nearly 100k lives after being most developed country.
    Now after reading ur thoughts it seems u want Indian govt to save it’s economy first but let me remind u just America’s health expenditure is more then total Indian GDP and with present hospital and imp. equipment’s condition in INDIA what u r asking is just deaths in million

    • Don’t just look at number look at how many die of flu every year in usa. 2018-19 65k people died of flu in 4 weeks 4000 deaths per day.
      Have you heard of anyone dying of flu in India.
      So going by USA numbers were most people after 30 years are taking 5 to 15 pills and have multiple diseases. Still eat a very unhealthy diet.
      They eat ham and eggs for breakfast their only source of fiber is lettuce, white bread and potatoes. They have steaks for dinner and drink a lot more alcohol than Indians.
      While India eats non veg too but even the most hard core non vegetarian will not just eat meat alone with a potatoes for a meal.
      It will be rice dal even vegetables and meat is the side dish.
      Then temperature they have 7 to 13 c if Indians go there they will also have to be admitted in hospital if they get a severe cold.
      No research has said that coronavirus spreads in hot region. It is just pseudo logic since tropical countries also have infections so they say heat won’t save you.
      But they ignore that hotter countries have had far less infections and deaths even though the quality of their health care is very poor in comparison to cold countries.
      Not to mention if you get the virus from Italy to India in an air conditioned plane land in air conditioned airports go to your air conditioned house in an air conditioned car and then go to your ari conditioned office in the same air conditioned car then obviously it will spread.
      But it won’t spread when someone sneezes in public in 40 degree heat the droplet will die.
      Your bike seat will burn your ass and you are saying virus won’t die

  41. Excellent write up reflecting true situation. We need to prepare our country men to face the difficult situation than to create fear psychosis . Only tough people will sail through.

  42. The glaring difference between India and the US in Covid 19 numbers

    An introspection into the “why”.

    US and India started the journey of covid 19 almost together with cases in single digits in mid of February to beginning March. US showed an exponential rise right for the beginning with numbers nearly 40 times that of India at any time period in absolute and atleast 120 times going by per million populations. This difference is so blatant and glaring that it cannot be passed away without some rational thought and explanation.

    The rise in India was slower right from the beginning with an average of 10-12 % increase per day with a linear acceleration seen in this rate of increase which off late seems to have reduced to about 5-6 percent per day. The explanations offered for this huge difference in numbers from different sources include (1)- May be a low testing rate in India so that the true numbers are larger, (2)- The stringent lockdown in India brought numbers as low and (3)- some other unexplained reason not so obvious.

    The testing rates in India are certainly much lesser than that in several other countries of the western world to the tune of atleast 50-80 times. However a deeper analysis with extrapolation of mortality data to this hypothesis does not stand to scrutiny. The deaths being a near fixed proportion of the total number of cases (nearly about 3-5% across the world) would then have to be much much larger for India, than the reported figures, irrespective of low testing rates. Given the huge population numbers of India, the hospitals would have had reported higher admission and mortality figures. As a counter-argument, even if these so called un-diagnosed but possible suspect cases did not reach the hospitals and succumbed at home, data from crematoria would have corroborated the mortality figures. Hence perhaps the bottom line is that the deaths are truly not as large in India and therefore it stands to reason, that indirectly the case loads projected are probably closer to reality.

    Considering the next reason, the timely and stringent lockdown exercised by our administration as an explanation for the low number of cases seen in India. May be the strict lockdown and social distancing both “staying at home” policy are valid reasons. However studying population density analysis with India’s current population being nearly 17.7% of the total word population, while its land area being a mere 2.0 % of the total world landmass, it becomes one of the highest ranking nations in terms of population density viz 464 per Km2 or 1,202 people per mi2. On the other hand, USA with an overall population of 4.25% and land area of 6.1% of the total world respectively, ranks much lower on the population density index viz. 36 per Km2 or 94 people per mi2. This then also suggests that the space available for an individual, or indirectly the social distancing average possible with with lockdown in India could still be far less than the space available to an individual or social distancing prevalent in USA without lockdown. More so these explanations do not take into account the massive congregations of individuals during lockdown period in India including the massive collection of migrant labourers at Anand Vihar Bus Terminus in Delhi producing nearly a sea of humanity at one place during early periods of lockdown, the labour movement on foot and their holding in rescue campus with near no possibility of social distancing in these camps. The sheer numbers in areas like Dharavi where a 8×10 ft space accomodates anything from 6-8 individuals making it next to impossible to maintain social distancing by any means. If the exponential rise as seen in US would have happened in these zones, the numbers in India would have been already mind-blowing.

    So where does this all lead us to?. The only possible answer lies in the innate immunity inherent in people of Indian ethnic origin including also some other parts of developing world where numbers are not different from that in India. These ethnic populations have been probably exposed to different types of infection both viral and bacterial during their lifetime, beginning right from childhood and continuing through to adulthood. It it is quite possible that one or more of the immune mechanisms that these populations have so developed could be offering some sort of hitherto unexplained resistance or protection from COVID-19, a mechanism which merits more thought and research. . The BCG vaccination given to most people in the developing world could be an additional support to this concept of innate immunity. Americans, or for that matter most western ethnic origin people have on the contrary been brought up in one of the most clean and pristine environments with very little exposure to infections during their lifetime and thus have a possible weak innate immunity, possibly explaining the large numbers of cases and bigger exponential rise in the same time period in these nations. This logic is also supported by the observation that other nations within the Indian subcontinent like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Srilanka which also have a high cluster population density, also have had similar lower number of COVID 19 cases inspite of no stringent lockdown.

    • Excellent article, lucidly written. If the innate immunity is strong with Indians, in contradistinction with the Westerners, why such a fierce lock down? As Sekhar Gupta writes, life without livelihood will be more disastrous. We need to open the economy to ensure livelihood..
      Regards,
      akp

  43. Well argued, well stated. Power corrupts, absolute power does so absolutely and here is one dispensation which enjoys absolute power thoroughly. I don’t know how many such writings and statements it takes this government to relent on lockdown now.

  44. Handling of the situation arising out of the covid19 virus by the central government leaves much to be desired. It is at best inept. The lower strata of the society has suffered the most and the help by the government is hard to come by.

  45. Let me educate you regarding your acts of omission and commission whilst writing this article ! The black swan alarmist scenario you present will NOT happen. The Integrity and Trust the Modi Govt commands is the biggest difference between now and then ! Trust manifests itself in right actions by the people for the people and of the people. Consider this – Direct cash transfer from the Govt Of India to hundreds of millions of Jan dhan account holders – all people at the margins of society. Ditto for food grains via Public distribution system. Ditto is the approach to get agriculture back to work and Ditto will be the approach to get global supply chains into India after this crisis blows over.

    Bottom line : An honest clean Govt that inspires Trust will not only sort out the crisis but also convert this into a HUGE opportunity !

  46. Thanks for making me realize that I should never get back to see this site again. What a article. I’m sure the author must be out of his mind while writing this or maybe he is too frustrated. This site has been added to Feed auto hide feeds on my devices as I feel like I wasted my time and also someone should review these articles before publishing. Thank you and no thanks. For people coming from Google Feed, you know you have a toggle.

  47. 2020 will be remembered in the history of India. God’s blessings bestow on us! Definitely, the leader will be remembered and would be in the mind of crores of true Indians! India will arise. The only thing we need to see is, how our PM will channelize the entire world to India

  48. Shekhar Gupta says Modi’s decisions are autocratic. Does he not know lockdowns, their scope in red, orange and green districts, duration, what activities are exempted and process of review were announced by Modi only after extensive discussions with Chief Ministers of all State Governments, notably those run by non BJP political parties ? In fact extension of the lockdowns were at the instance of the States !! By now everyone in India must have realized Modi is no fan of a “big bang” approach to any thing, be it economic reforms, policy decisions or as in this instance where he prefers a gradual return to normalcy while being aware of a possible remission of Covid19 with even more devastating consequences, after India is declared “free” of this pandemic.

  49. Water over duck’s back…there is nothing anyone can do but gnash our teeth in despair and pray this government is thrown out soon.

  50. I like morons like you,if millions have died because of ifs and buts you are talking about country will be in a uproar but beside sprouting crap like this what else are your so called experts good at?

  51. Mr. Gupta, it is so puzzling. When credit for managing the numbers come we remember all state governments be it Kerela or Rajasthan, but when we want to critisize the lockdown – it is Federal Modi Governemt. Whereas it is clearly in public domain that State Governments at time of both extensions were unambigiously clear to extend it and many had even issues state orders extending before Center.
    Same thing you did with the so called Income tax suggestions – critized to the zilt the proposals and when Governemt took action against the illegitimate report / leakage, you guys did a program critizising action As if it was for some unknow reasons your moral responsibility to defend those shady characters.

  52. Yes. That is the need today. But we are able to talk like this because of such actions. I am seeing it first hand in New York, where the lock down was affected late. The economy here in USA is bad here too; in someways worse. To say what was done in India so far is not good is NOT correct.

    Pray tell me how do you measure optimum leadership?

    I do not see any threat to the federalism in India than it was at any time during the past seven decades. Let us not be dramatic in informing which is the primary duty of the Media

  53. Now it is 40 Days+Two weeks!

    There is a Question!

    What happens if there is a voluminous surge of cases amongst the local residents in the Six metros, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkota, Bangalore and Hyderabad?

    Should or would the Nation and the citizens expect or made to go through another extension of two weeks?

    What’s the game plan of the Govt? Plan B if the cases keep going up while it has the lockdown! Does it want to go Europe ways of continuing with the long lockdown where the citizens aren’t complaining much because of social security in those countries?

    Or does it wish to go the US way, in a reverse manner where the President doesn’t favour the idea of an extension of lockdown but many Governors are going ahead with it?

    Mind you, the lockdown isn’t like what one sees in Philipines, India or Brazil because of respectively Rodrigo Duterte, Narendra Modi, and Jair Bolsonaro at the helm.

  54. Ironically, at one hand author questions the authenticity of numbers and in the opening statement he advocates for opening the economy as India has lowest fatality rates. Sounds interesting.

  55. India like all the other countries is walking on a thin line between the health of the citizens and the health of the economy. Economy might recover after a few years if not today. But if the lockdowns are removed about too early the fatalities can be extrapolated from other countries to calculate the no. of deaths for our country of 130 crore. I know that we all want to go out back to our normal lives, but at what cost? Our health system isn’t that strong to support such a huge burden and will collapse in a split second. Much more spending on health care will be required and the economy will still crash. So to save one hand, we’ll lose both. I know we tend to hate our leaders, but there are a lot of civil servants, scientists, doctors advising the government and making policies for what’ll be the best for the country. They are educated people and experts of their respective fields. We should have faith in them. It’s easier for the rich to risk their lives for “saving” the economy, because they have the resources to get the treatment easily. But the poor are the ones who can’t really afford getting sick. After all “Ye jeena bhi kya jeena hai”

  56. Fully agree with the views of Sekar Gupta! Indded he’s spot on – as an article I was reading earlier by professors of the reputed ISB said, there’s a string correlation between GDP growth and death rates. So if the economy shrinks as it is bound to now, many more non-Covid people are going to die. And hordes of us are going to be pushed into poverty… too horrendous a scenario to even imagine! IMO, the lockdown is just a manifestation of the incompetence in the govt machinery and thebitch to exercise unbridled authority. Sad situation.

  57. A hard-hitting criticism, not only of the policy of dealing with COVID 19, but also the dangers of being conceited and autocratic. Well timed. But will someone listen?

  58. I am no wiser after reading this article. It doesn’t logically establish or justify the opinions expressed , beyond just expressing them.

  59. Mr. Shekhar Gupta, stop using ‘infantalising’ everytime like Pappu’s newly learnt ‘strategic’. You are provoking people by burdening them with your nefarious agenda.
    I have been watching Indian journalistic scene from a long time. Mark my words.. Revolution has begun. Your attempts to protect ‘Gumbaz’ of ‘Editors Guild’ are failing. Jai Hind.

  60. The choice between life and livelihood is a very difficult one.It is facile and easy for journalists to make prescriptive recommendations.The Government has at its disposal competent and intelligent human resources to facilitate the best possible solution>Ofcourse it is the business of the journalist to make critical assessments.But it is the Government that will be accountable for any wrong decision and its fatal consequences.A calibrated approach to decision-making is essential under the given circumstances.Hence the decision to open up areas with no or few corona incidence.appears sensible.The major manufacturing hubs of metropolitan cities are unfortunately suffering from high rates of Corona incidence.These centres can be opened only after the situation is within reasonable control.In any case the States have the freedom to resume economic activities in their safe regions in consultation with the Centre.I agree that the putting uo of physical barriers to the free movement of people and goods across the Country is unwarranted.

  61. Good journalistic background and flowery language, Shakharji, does not excuse the irresponsible tone and content of this message. Will you or Modi be hanged if there is another surge in the viral menace in this ill-disciplined country on relaxing everything and all in the whole countryat this stage? Economy suffers, yes, but if you were in support of the initial lockdown, you cannot now be this irresonsible!

  62. What the pandemic has done is to remind all of us, including the rest of the world, of the extent and depth of poverty in India. The real reason migrants were detained midway was because those haunting images diminished us globally. Sustaining one hundred million families for a few months with just rations and a little money is beyond the capacity of public finances. No question of the sort of stimulus packages America and Germany, among others, have announced. When one reads of choppers showering rose petals, ships at sea being lit up, wonder if we are even cognisant of India’s economic challenges, the scale of deprivation which has now turned to desperation.

  63. This is a very nuanced & an eye opener for the those in the establishment. Hats off to you Shekhar Saheb. Only you could muster up the courage to write such a critical article in an otherwise compliant media. This authoritarian regime doesn’t listen to any sane advice. We really have no idea where are we headed to. Once again you have boldly exposed the all pervading fault lines. After reading this article I less anxious and less scared because if Shekar Gupta can express his views candidly so can I.

  64. Great Sir ! This is what everyone feeling ..even Medics …..This is the result of chronic underfunding of health and let it slip in for Private ..it is too costly area to be overtly dependent on private expenditure just like defence forces ….Look at Germany Chronic Overfunding has helped them a lot …Govt provides compulsory insurance to one who is not able to Afford ….

  65. Looks like SG not happy with lockdown because deaths sland infections have got controlled. So as a journalist he has nothing to berate the government about. If the lockdown is eased and deaths due to Covid 19 increase then he has plenty to crib about. The other reason is probably because his income has reduced and also the realisation of one’s own limitation.

  66. Shekar Gupta should be made the CEO of the country who could have handled all the problems in the country like a super magician with a magic wand who can keep all problems at bay with a swish !!!

    He thinks that governing a country is like the capability of using flowery language to impress people about what should be done in any circumstance.

    Then Shashi Tharoor would beat him to it !!!

    Has he provided any one workable suggestion leave alone a solution !!!

    It does require the genius mind of Shekhar to identify problems and say how the problem affects a living being. Any person who is half articulate as Shekar is could also write all this.

    This is not an English language essay competition …..it is governance of a country of 1.3 billion diverse socio-economic millieu which is in a total turmoil.

    Help if you can don’t give discouraging gyan to pull governments leg.

    It is said that you are able to only reach that level of a successful person and not anything higher.

  67. I can suggest an even more apt situational song – Abhimanyu, chakravyuh mein fans gaya hai tu (Kishore Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Inquilab). The govt has entered this chakravyuh of lockdown and now they have no clue of how to exit. By the time we manage to bumble our way out, our economic health would have been ruined for many many years with the brunt of the sickness to be borne by the poor and the salaried class.
    The problem with Modi’s governance style is that he expects bureaucrats and police officials to manage complex issues like economy, healthcare, livelihoods. Govt babus understand only orders- they do not understand nuances, hence results are uniformly bad. Few years back an initiative called lateral entry for domain experts was started. If there is an appropriate time for lateral entry, there can be none like the present. Let domain experts handle the twin issues of healthcare and economic challenges. But PM Modi cannot and will not do that- he risks ceding too much control. And Indian public will not look at alternatives to PM Modi. Therein lies our chakravyuh – one we cannot seem to exit.

  68. Sorry Shekhar Sir,
    But You just seem to have grievances- most of which are because of your personal hatred

    I agree we should Open up – but pray tell me which country has got it right?

    What previous experience do we follow?

    If you look at Spanish flu- we get things wrong and more people will be affected

  69. It is encouraging to see Shekhar Gupta back to his reasoning self after a brief hangover post the marketing cocktail served to him by rulers who are busy baking their breads over the fire of helplessness with which the nation is burning..

  70. Adding a few lines from Gulzar “Ab o hava; Ab o hava desh ki bahut saaph hai; Kayada hai kanun hai inasaaph hai; Allah miyan jaane koi jiye ya mare; Adami ko khun vun sab maaf hai; Saab theek thak hain” (Kishore/Salil Chaudhury/Mere Apne)

  71. A good leader like Modi has to balance the conflicting interest of capitalists and the poor. Lifting lockdown is not a black and white decision. Modi haters would want to lift the lockdown so that they use increased death rate to accuse Modi. As usual Modi haters now have nothing else to accuse except people’s increased hardships. Soon we’ll hear librandus drumming that people are dying from hunger rather than Corona.

    • And blind bhakts will deny all evidence that people actually are. Walk for a few hundred kilometers in the sun without money or food like the poor labourers and then we shall see where your bhakti goes.

  72. Having tasted power – absolute power – to dictate millions of lives, the politicos and bureaucrats are not going to give up on the heady feeling anytime soon. Fear is the key to keep our citizens compliant. We have allowed the government officials to reassert their power over us and micromanage us as if we are a nation of infants. The powers-that-be wants nothing less than the entire nations’s gratitude paid with absolute obeisance..

    We may save thousands from the dreadful clutches of the corona virus and get lauded for it, never mind many thousands may slip into abject poverty and stave, as collateral damage to greater glory of statistics!

    Instead of colouring the map, one would have imagined the government to come up with a road map to kick start the economic engine which has spluttered to a halt. What we get instead is more anodyne platitudes and vacuous statements. We’re seized in a grip of inaction.

  73. Imran khan has been crying hoarse about the effects of prolonged lockdown on his poor people and some dickheafs make fun of him. But the fact remains we are not europe or America or even china that we start emulating them.
    Poverty, acute poverty is a fact of life in southasia and our efforts should be in consonance with alleviating it not aggravating it.

  74. I am in complete agreement with Shekhar Gupta , there are so many things we do not know and we cannot be in a state of lock down , til knowledge dawns. We must start living and working normally even at the risk of death (all of us are going to go ) , and hope that things will work out OK in the long term and we survive or die with a modicum of dignity .

  75. The subject is too serious to lift examples from make believe film world. The article on hugely serious and devastating Corona pandemic todate cannot be discussed in such frivolous/ light manner. I don’t have high hopes from Shekhu.

  76. As usual Sir Spot on

    Please keep this up

    You were to start a pay button for your print edition

    Please keep me posted

  77. An excellent article again by Shekharji. I would like to provide an unthinkable analogy. The story dates back to the month of October 1760. The Maratha army led by Bhausaheb Peshwa was on the west bank of flooded Yamuna while the aggressor Abdali’s army was on the east. Bhausaheb ventured to take his army along with thousands of non-combatant pilgrims to Kunjpura, about 75 miles north of Delhi. With help of his vast army, Bhausaheb easily captured the small Kunjapura fort but overstayed there with the intention to have a holy bath in nearby Kurukshetra. In the meanwhile , Abdali gathered courage and crossed the Yamuna near Bagpat. This was a master stroke by Abdali due to which he effectively blocked Maratha Army’s return to Delhi. Bhausaheb scrambled back till Panipat and settled there by digging drenches and put his French guns therein. The firepower of the Maratha artillery led by Ibrahim Khan Gardi was so ferocious and the arrangement was so tight and seemingly perfect that it provided a false sense of security. However, Abdali was too shrewd to walk into this trap. He never attacked. All he did was to cut Maratha supply lines and sieged Panipat encampment from all sides. According to the historian T.S. Shejwalkar, a far better option for the Peshwa was to attack immediately after arrival at Panipat. The chances of victory were far better when the moral of the Maratha army was high and Abdali’s army was yet to settle on the western bank. But Bhausaheb dared not think of this option as it endangered lives of thousands of non-combatant pilgrims. Two months passed and the Maratha army was trapped inactive in its own castle. The hungry army cried for food but none was available. Finally, Bhausaheb was forced to fight a losing battle on 14th January, 1761, known as the Third Battle of Panipat in which the army, the non-combatants, all perished.
    The moral of the story is self-explicit and doesn’t need any elaboration.

  78. Lots of words in the article and plenty of criticism of PM Modi & the Govt – but what alternate solutions and policies are proposed? It’s so easy to to criticize without proposing alternatives.
    Hired guns like you speak on behalf of the Congress – but this just shows up the great Sonia Ji & the perennial come-back kid Rahul Ji as bereft of ideas! They have nothing to offer other than renting mouthpieces like The Print to criticize on their behalf.

  79. There is a saying in India. Do not fight, just go with the flow of life. Modi is .floating in the flow.

  80. “Using a cannon to kill a mosquito.” This sums up the govt decision on extending the lockdown.

    The Power to stop should change to power to help.

  81. You have literally spoke my mind… Infact modi need an adviser who is an epidemiologist who is has good understanding of economics and social justice or an economist who understands epidemiology… that too if at all he cares to take advice or someone dares to give advice. He approach is only aimed at taking credit of saving lives of fictious numbers… As financial loss can be blamed on many factors such as global recession etc… By the way the poor voting class is already habituated with living as poor or had experienced in the past of living poor can be made happy for making them keep alive from dreaded COVID-19 infection though death rate is just 4%…thanks to media…

  82. Modi now in quarantine?
    He did not come on air to declare lockdown 3.0
    There seems no vision of how to bring the country back on track.

    Government is paralyzed.

  83. Extremely well writtten and coherent .The economy was anyways in ICU the lockdown has ensured coma stage not even 0.001 % of Indian population has been affected but the umemployment rate has soared to above 20 % effecting the marganalised section of the soceity .The first lockdown was essential and necessary but the exit plan has had no creative solution

  84. As if only SG is the one who knows all these and people in the government are all dumb .just get lost with your advice and go and have a video chat on this RG

  85. 500,000 people die of road accidents in India every year. If you stop traffic on roads forever, these lives can be saved.

    • This is what Brazil president said. And know on his knees. In Delhi you don’t have empty beds in hospitals

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