Wednesday, March 22, 2023
HomeOpinionLockdown to unlocking — Narendra Modi failed every step of the way

Lockdown to unlocking — Narendra Modi failed every step of the way

Modi’s lockdown was one of the strongest shutdowns in the world, yet Covid cases have crossed 3 lakh-mark. The government clearly made a lot of mistakes.

Text Size:

India is now the 4th worst-hit country in terms of the number of coronavirus infections after the US, Brazil and Russia. Supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government can always argue that when two of the world’s super powers—with arguably the best available medical infrastructure and research—couldn’t escape the wrath of the pandemic, Modi too can’t be expected to do much.

However, Modi’s lockdown—government’s central response to check the virus spread in India—was one of the most strongest shutdowns in the world with a stringency score of 100, the highest possible. And yet, the country is reeling under the pressure of rising coronavirus cases that have now crossed the 3 lakh-mark. The Modi government, obviously, made a lot of mistakes since hastily announcing the lockdown.

Also read: PM Modi reviews India’s Covid situation ahead of virtual meet with chief ministers

Spreading disinformation

Vinod Paul, member, NITI Aayog and chairperson of the national task force constituted to advise the Modi government on Covid, presented a mathematical model on 24 April at a press briefing where he claimed confidently that there would be no new coronavirus cases in India from 16 May. And most of us believed him. Up until we reached 16 May and realised we’re in the eye of the storm. Evidently, the government’s task force seems to be headed by fiction writers rather than credible data crunchers. In fact, epidemiologists from this task force have gone on to anonymously testify that they were rarely ever consulted by the government for their inputs on coronavirus and the measures that would actually help, one of them being aggressive testing and tracing.

Narendra Modi thrice extended the lockdown and yet failed to do the one thing that could save the day for India—testing. Instead of using the lockdown to scale up testing facilities, the PM only chose to address the nation for some morale boosting by either asking Indians to clap for frontline workers or to light candles to wish away the darkness caused by the pandemic. India didn’t need morale boosting. It needed solid policies. In fact, the PM emphasising on these things only furthered an unscientific temper. This was evident in the WhatsApp forwards which propagated superstition and misbelief, with claims such as lighting candles at a particular hour or clanging thalis could help kill the virus.

Also read: Modi govt looking to set up social security fund to support migrant workers

PM’s irresponsible messaging

In fact, Modi made ‘irresponsible’ statements, asking the nation to fight and defeat coronavirus in a 21-day war, just as the Mahabharata battle was won in 18 days. The country did not need false promises of escaping the pandemic through a 21-day lockdown. Indians needed a reality check. People needed to be briefed by the PM, if not weekly, then fortnightly, so that they could brace up for the next few months, conserve resources, stay alert and not stigmatise Covid patients. But Modi didn’t bother with any of this. He still refuses to face a press conference.

The long, ill thought-out lockdown has pushed the country headlong in the deep end of the economic conundrum that it faces. And the worst hit, both by the disease and the lack of money, are the poor. The world became witness to the labourers’ crisis that unfolded in India. The politics over it has been detestable too. And the late response and initial stonewalling towards the miseries of the poor is typical of Prime Minister Modi. While the critics expected it by drawing the example of Narendra Modi’s silence during the demonetisation mess, his supporters brushed off the labourers’ crisis as inevitable.

But the fact remains, people died due to bad lockdown implementation. And it cannot be written off as inevitable collateral damage during a pandemic. No country has seen death of the poor due to starvation or lack of resources in the fight against Covid at this scale, except India. India is not assuring any social security to its poor. And who is supposed to be responsible for this? The victims themselves? Modi’s supporters will have you believe that it was the fault of the poor who died while they tried to go back home. They expect the poor to have stay put, wherever they were, even if it meant they were evicted from their rented shanties or didn’t have food to eat. The monstrosity of victim shaming during these times was truly diabolical.

Also read: Covid-19 pandemic shows equal opportunity remains a distant dream, says Bombay High Court

Then came the package

The charade of self-reliant India now seems to be the only go-to PR strategy. But asking an already crawling businesses to rise up to the occasion by taking loans and kickstarting businesses from the Rs 20 lakh crore revival package that the Modi government has offered is not only an eyewash but apathetic. Estimates from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) show that over 12.2 crore people lost their jobs in India in April 2020, most being labourers and small traders. And if the popular thought is that only the poor are affected, then it should be reiterated that 18 million business-persons are also estimated to have gone out of business in April 2020, according to CMIE.

In fact, women are economically one of the worst hit in this pandemic with many who worked in the informal sector now jobless. Moreover, 23.3 per cent men and 26.3 per cent women employees have lost their jobs, especially in semi-urban areas with factories and industrial zones. Data suggest that 46 per cent of women had voted for the BJP and its allies.

Also read: Modi govt to create short-term job opportunities for migrants in 116 ‘Atma Nirbhar districts’

Don’t act, but blame the opposition 

The Modi government has taken cognisance of its failure in handling the pandemic with Home Minister Amit Shah admitting that the government ‘might have gone wrong somewhere’. However, this admission too involved political mudslinging, with Shah passing the buck to the opposition asking them what they had done, besides interviewing people sitting in America or Sweden.

The irony is that Amit Shah chooses to ask this question to those, who he himself, as well as the PM, have on many occasions asserted to have wiped out from the political landscape of India. The whole idea of “Congress mukt Bharat”, has been ambitiously pursued by both Shah and Modi, thus making their questioning of the opposition seem contradictory.

With Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot alleging the BJP of trying to topple his government, it seems, that the Modi sarkar is only looking to ride out the pandemic sacrificing the future of India for their own political gains.

But coronavirus won’t spare the ‘popular’ Modi government. General elections maybe far away, but dominance over the Rajya Sabha, which Modi-Shah ambitiously pursue, is through assembly elections. And elections in politically significant states are just around the corner. Bihar and Bengal. Bihar has one of the largest migrant population. With viral videos of poor men and women breaking into an abusive tirade against the government, PM Modi needs to put a pause on his political ambitions and work on the nightmarish problem of coronavirus he has on hand, which he has so far appeared to have taken very lightly.

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. When I open tv to news about today coronavirus case but media channels past one month continue Sushant singh case repeated. I don’t who is Sushant sing but now I know but this is distrusting continue same news. I have rember flim titanic last seen ship goto shank and musicians try to divert passage mind thay start ringing violin but no passenger ready to listen it. Indian media stop to show hospital sechuvation thay never ask top private hospitals doctor thay are some time ask only Mr golerya Aims director but why media not understand his hand fold because of he a govt servent. Why Sri amitshah first admitted in medanta hospital why Delhi health Minister last goto to max hospital thay never ask that type question thay are frod propaganda news given about chaina also and thay given jujment also I stop the looking Indian news channel Indian correct news I find BBC dw and mint thay are not Indian but given news Indian our Indian channel is Indian but no news real condition of India. Same full Hindi channel daily 1000 people is died but Indian media telling us per year more than person death for TB? My question so coronavirus come so TB pestent not death

  2. If we look at all the parameters India has indeed fared poorly economically and now health wise under Modiji. I am surprised that instead of learning to Tolerate a fair and unbiased analysis, India in July 2020 has gone down the drains especially by some real greedy bhaktards who are looking to loot the bird of gold. India is too big and strong to be cowed down by such greedy and cunning people. I hope 2024 teaches the Modi, Shah and bhaktards an apt lesson of never again trying to divide the peaceful fabric of my beautiful nation called India. Chak de, Chak de India. Jai Hind!!!

  3. He can tweet within hours over the suicide of a Bollywood actor but remains silent over the months on the miserable sufferings of the migrant workers. Shame on him and his supporters. Agree with you, total failure on the part of the Central government especially the P.M.

  4. The blind hen supporters of P.M. Modi can not accept any true criticism and judge it by the name of religion. He is the most incompetent Prime Minister that India ever had. He should be kicked out of the power just only because of mishandling the Covid 19 scenario sparing other serious faults of de-monitization, false war cry against Pakistan and remaining silent on China over Ladakh, creating all time high unemployment, and dividing the country over religious belief and identity. Shame on you the anarchist supporters. Well asked questions by the author.

  5. Name of the author itself indicates the contents. No starvation deaths, lowest death rates, development of health infra, and incalcating the safety habits in masses are the main achievements of lockdown. These same activists , channels have predicted 24 m infections and 1.4 million deaths in india by June.

  6. As asked by Sid, please share the source of starvation deaths. Please not testing was also done extensively during the time of National Lockdown but not as intense as how it is at present. The main reason being the lack of equipment, but the government didn’t stay awaited. It started ordering from other countries on urgency and started to set up manufacturing hubs here in India also. Don’t you think the new economic package helped the poor? It was for poor people and for farmers which is India’s most chosen occupation. I respect your opinion but please don’t put out your thoughts as you wish, add some facts in your argument

  7. Very unfortunate article at this point of time, when the entire world is surprised about how did a country with 130 crores of the population has managed such low mortality figures, we have someone like this author who does not know the reality of governance and leadership. We had Tablighi Jammat, we had resistance to quarantine and lockdown measures and even then in spite of so many problems, this country has managed the Corona so well. Mistakes do happen when you are involved at this scale, the person who does the job is bound to commit the mistakes but he is certainly better than all others who do not do or just do the criticism. The author is prejudiced and biased and needs to be fair and objective.

  8. The situation is such that either way the government is faulted. If the government is telling lie it is performing its duty to keep the nation worry free. The helpless parents comfort the sick baby by telling him that he is much better now. It is same. How can the
    government tell the nation that millions of deaths are expected by July end. The situation is actually not so serious but required containment to weather them out. India will come out of it unscathed. The spiritual power of India braved and weathered out mahapralayas several times in the hoary pasts. Truth prevailed.

  9. MODIJI has handled the situation with limited resources in an excellent manner. Remember only 3 percent population pays income tax so resources are limited. Whatever he does will antagonize those who want to continue proselytizing ISO think having scientific thought and control population.

  10. You are clearing suffering from “framing effect” bias. There are many prominent examples of framing e.g. proposing the risk of losing 10 out of 100 lives vs the opportunity to save 90 out of 100 lives. Modi tool decisive actions, but there was never a clear answer to Corona, specially with dense population.

  11. Fake news! vinod Paul public apology for this event ,and said it was error in the slide how this able to write a blog without knowing fact.Shame print!

    • Mr Hardeep Singh: Since you claim that by looking at the name of the author you would be able to guess the content, let me apply that theory to yourself.

      So going from your name”Hardeep Singh” should one guess that you are a Khalistan terrorist ?

  12. Excellent analysis, Zainab. Modi is a patient of “Self Serving Bias” and he is expert in winning public favour by false flag operations against Muslims in Gujarat, Kashmir, etc

    • Muslims started the riots by burning Hindus inside the trains but according to most of you people, Hindu lives do not matter.No wonder there is so much Islamophobia in the world.
      And to your second question on kashmir, India should break the bones of all Pakistanis by destroying their economy. You do not need any bullet to fight them.
      And the third point. Why is it there are separatists movement wherever Muslims are a minority?

      • Mr Gary: Your justify the Gujarat pogroms where thousands of utterly innocent Muslims were murdered, raped and burnt alive by claiming:

        “.. Muslims started the riots by burning Hindus inside the trains ..”

        Whilst I do not expect your ilk to know that collective punishment is forbidden in international law and other facets of civilised behaviour, let me nonetheless ask you a couple of questions Sir:

        1: When a mob instigated by the RSS, Bajrang Dal, VHP and other elements descends on Muslim households to rape, kill and burn alive innocent Muslims who had utterly nothing to do with the burning of the train, what should be the role of the state government, its Chief Minister and the police ? Protect the innocent or allow mob rule ?

        2: Applying your sick, twisted logic of collective punishment, were the pogroms against Sikhs in 1984 following the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi justified? After all even Rajiv Gandhi justified it by saying “When a great tree falls, the earth trembles” didn’t he?

        3: Coming to your claim that there are separatist movements where there are Muslim minorities. Didn’t Sikhs fight for an independent Khalistan? Didn’t many states like Nagaland, Tripura etc. not want to leave India? Indeed, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is still in force in the North East. Separatism has many causes and takes place along many dimensions – religion e.g. Islam not being the sole cause. Didn’t Bengali speaking East Pakistan not want to leave the union with West Pakistan despite Islam being a “unifying” force?

        4: Your idiotic suggestion “India should break the bones of all Pakistanis by destroying their economy” might make for great talking points in your shakha or the local gaurakshak chapter in your city – but is otherwise wishful thinking. India and Pakistan do not trade much and China is Pakistan’s all-weather friend shoring up the Pakistani economy. And there are plenty of Middle East states to help Pakistan too. So please clarify how you would go about “breaking the bones of Pakistan’s economy”. Particularly when the Indian economy itself was in the doldrums long before the COVID crisis – thanks to some spectacular self-goals like demonetisation and Hindutva economic ideas.

        So once you have done you gaurakshak duties for the day and have done the necessary groing scratching at your local shakha, do try to answer my question Sir. Thanks.

  13. Came here for some detailed, well-constructed and well-drilled analysis. The pros and cons of the debated: lockdown implementation, migrant crisis, DBTs to informal sectors or not, the unlocking and testing strategy modification over the course of time and also contributions made/failed in terms of Railways, DGCA or Disbursement of funds and PSB loans.
    But what followed is a dire article. Void of Everything apart pitting supposed “Bhakts” and “Opposition” against each other. Apathetic.

  14. The Print has given a simple mandate to this idiot Zainab Sikander’s – string together 5 to 6 paragraphs that criticize & malign the Prime Minister.
    She is nothing more than a click bait chick for The Print – not to be taken too seriously.

  15. Your thinking Is Not right as This is A pandemic not your lawn Grass no one knows what is going to happen in future in march or as in june You are incapable As Writer dont put your opinion anywhere go first know How to write mr writer plz dont blame

    • Talking about defating China but what about Corona that it gave to us.Nothing will happen of these politicians. All would end up with deaths of millions of people and billions affected economically , mentally and hospitalized. Everyday I see news of people of other countries(Brazil, Sweden , Italy etc.) protesting against their government for their carelessness and failures in handling the pandemic. What about the sleeping people of India? Modiji opening lockdown at full speed and people being dying and hospitalized. He does not have eight to play with our lives.
      When America opened the schools , it saw an huge increase in covid cases. Instead of taking lesson from them , our government is doing the same mistake.
      People believe that this government would protect us from corona which could not save it’s own ministers from the same.

  16. Poor critics of Modi. They are trying to clutch every straw they can get hold of. If cases didn’t come down despite strictest lockdown, you can imagine what would have happened if there was no lockdow. Also there are lie spreading machine about starvation deaths. Author must now that in Mumbai local itself mor that 100 die every month normally. Now she is quick to assign all these kind of accidental deaths to lockdown which is immature and dishonest.

    • Oh, what a great country to compare our country with? I hope the news that New Zealand is covid free today has reached you too.

  17. Please share your source of starvation deaths? Making unsubstantiated claims by columnists of certain faith has become widespread. Mixing cherry picked facts with wishful thinking is ensuring that your message will never resonate

Comments are closed.