The deadly coronavirus that originated in Wuhan would probably become less virulent in another two to three weeks when the lockdown comes to an end on 3 May, according to experts. But this good news comes with a caveat that any slackness in dealing with the novel coronavirus and abandoning social distancing norms immediately will prove to be fatal.
In India, there is a dearth of medical facilities, testing kits and preventive techniques as far as this virus is concerned. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called upon the youth and scientists to come forward and take up research to find a lasting solution like a vaccine for Covid-19.
In keeping with the prime minister’s appeal the government should formulate a plan to facilitate research, encourage startups, revamp manufacturing, especially in the small and medium scale sector and free the enterprising minds from the labyrinth of administrative procedures and bureaucratic inertia.
Also read: Only 1 in 24 Indians testing positive for Covid, ICMR says this shows our strategy’s working
Lockdown has worked
The Covid-19 cases went up to a little over 10,000 in the first phase of the lockdown and forced social distancing even further. The prime minister in his address to the nation on Tuesday made a special mention of the extreme hardships that people had to undergo.
Many experts have concurred with the views of the governments at the centre and the states that the number of coronavirus cases would have gone to uncontrollable proportions had the lockdown not been announced early. In many of the badly-hit countries the increase in cases is directly attributed to human-to-human contact despite the best medical facilities and health schemes available.
The prime minister in his address also took notice of the sufferings of the poor and the migrant labourers.
It is true that the 21-day lockdown came as a surprise to many. Industries had to grind to a sudden halt and neither the management nor the workers were prepared for the consequences. But the epidemic itself is of an unprecedented nature and governments all over the world were caught unawares.
Also read: Bring governance back on track within 100 days of resuming work, PMO tells ministries
Migrant pain could have been eased
Yet, after the initial reaction of shock and dismay the migrant labourers more or less remained in the places of their work. It is here that the state governments and the central government should have coordinated to the best possible extent and provided better facilities and assurance of basic necessities.
Considering the numbers of these labourers, the enormity of the woes they are facing and the uncertainty they are visualising, it goes to their credit that an overwhelming majority of them have adhered to the lockdown guidelines.
Besides providing free ration out of the existing food grain stock which the prime minister has claimed is sufficient to deal with the crisis, the government can consider running point-to-point trains to ferry the stranded people back home. But considering the potential risks of contamination, even this may have to wait for another two weeks at least.
Two recent incidents where the migrant workers have defied the lockdown (in Mumbai and Surat) seem to have a different orientation.
The huge crowd that gathered near Mumbai’s Bandra railway station was supposed to board trains back home. But strangely, none of them had their luggage with them. Again, they had gathered at a spot from where no outstation train departs. It is, therefore likely that it was a misinformed crowd brought together by spread of misleading information, through oversight or deliberately disseminated.
Surat has a large presence of workers from Orissa (Ganjam) and adjoining districts of Andhra Pradesh. Most of them (estimated to be about 12 to 15 lakhs are engaged in textile units, which are now shut indefinitely. Here again the reason for restlessness seems to be bad planning and insensitivity of the employers. The local municipal corporation should take extra care not only to feed them but also handle the situation with a human face.
Cities like Mumbai have a huge number of daily-wage earners and temporary staff, who mostly eke out a meagre living and stay in slums and shanty colonies. It is impossible to keep such a large number of people strictly confined in a densely populated area. Some of these areas have been notified as hotspots.
The local and state authorities would be well advised to assess the situation in such hotspots and prepare to tackle before it turns ugly and detrimental to the health of others. A mix of human approach and strict compliance would help.
The authorities at the centre and the states should have anticipated the simmering discontent and anxiety among the migrants and the jobless labourers in the initial days of the lockdown.
Also read: Home ministry to act against officials who fail to check lockdown violations in their areas
Economy can wait
Some out-of-the-box thinking to help keep the migrants engaged may go a long way in ensuring that the lockdown is not violated. For starters: the skill development ministry could have used this window to engage the migrants and train them in alternate skills. Needless to say, all due precaution must be taken to keep the training programme within the limits of lockdown rules.
At a time when governments are grappling with serious issues like shortage of testing kits, hospital beds, isolation centres and defaulters of social distancing, it would be unwise of a section of the opposition to gainsay government’s efforts to save lives at the cost of the economy. Economic losses can be regained if lives are protected.
The author is a member of the National Executive Committee of the BJP and former editor of Organiser. Views are personal.
Well written but without any substance,this subject has been thrashed by every and sundry that there is nothing new to be said. Let us not sit on judgement without waiting for the end results. It’s not an easy job to walk the tight rope of economics vs human life and yes here I concur with the writer that economy can wait but not death.
Excellent write up . I agree. Thanks
More than Modi and the lockdown what has saved India is the hot and humid climate of our country. I have read an article that areas in which the temperature is less than 17 degrees have more than 96 percent infectiions and countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have more or less escaped mass infections/death. Here infections are mostly imported from foreign returnees I sincerely believe that lockdown was an overkill and has adversely affected indian economy
“.. encourage startups and free up enterprising minds from administrative work and bureaucratic inertia so that they can help find the corona cure…”
I haven’t read more meaningless words than the above in a very long time, and coming from Seshadri Chari whom I consider one of the few sensible RSS guys, they are really disappointing. Corona cure is not a cricket ball lost in the bushes that unencumbered minds can search and succeed in finding, or it’s not a kabaddi match that sprightly legs can jump around and win. Corona cure will be found only through a very beautiful subject called Organic Chemistry which one Professor M. V. George was a master of. I am fondly reminded of my teacher of many decades ago from whom I could learn no Organic Chemistry, due to my special ability to not learn anything, but only how to marvel at this beautiful subject. I think MVG has left us long ago. May God have given him a very happy and rewarding new life.
Comments are closed.