Needed, exit codes

by April 21, 2020 0 comments

As States relax restrictions, recklessness among Indians is not a good sign for the time when lockdown is completely lifted

Traffic on the roads of Mumbai, contradictory orders in Kerala, social distancing a casualty…the first day of the new week, one when things were supposed to get a bit more organised, as some people would be allowed back to work because of the Government’s decision to partially lift the restrictions for select sectors, highlights the challenges before both the Central as well as State Governments. There is no doubt that people are desperate to get back to work and so is the Government. State and Central Governments are facing huge revenue pressures and only getting the economy rolling can help ease this anxiety. Companies are desperate to restart work so that they can help their employees pay the bills. The partial resumption of work will help the workers get payments. Those self-employed, too, will be able to get back their source of income. Most importantly, the partial exit will come as a relief to the farmers. With the Rabi season reaching its peak this month, the free flow of labourers and transport system will mean they will at least be able to sell their produce and not incur losses. While all of this sounds good, the exit formula has to be well-planned for the spread of the virus in our country is still high; its scale cannot be ascertained yet. Different States cannot have separate sets of norms. For example, many people need a haircut but without putting into place safeguards, salons cannot be allowed to open. There needs to be a proper, deliberate nationwide procedure in place before salons, restaurants, bars and even large-scale public and private transport are allowed to re-open. Also, who will monitor compliances?

The continued lockdown till May 3 did at least establish that this country, as many others in the world, decided to keep the needs of public health before the economy. This is despite the fact that millions of Indians will probably lapse into poverty and destitution. In fact, many more might die from poverty than will actually directly be killed by the disease. Balancing this fact with the inevitability that India’s already overwhelmed public healthcare system will be brought to its knees by the Coronavirus is not something that any Government, either at the Centre or in any of the State capitals, would have ever thought they would have had to deal with. Despite the public clamouring for plans and the media criticising the way they have been put together, it would be correct to acknowledge that these are unprecedented times for administrators across the world. But that will not excuse a detailed set of codes to lift the lockdown, whatever it might be. The confusion of the initial days of the lockdown and the continuing stories of economic migrants, mainly from the eastern States stuck in industrialised parts of the country with little or no food or money, should entail that at least there is a uniform exit code.The chaos in the streets in some parts of the country today is an indication that an unplanned lifting of the lockdown will lead to an unmitigated disaster for the country, both on the public health front and on the economic front, and would have defeated the purpose of the past four weeks. The population is getting desperate but is still following rules to a large degree. Without proper planning and rules written down on paper, we should be aware of what is coming next.

(Courtesy: The Pioneer)

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