Will the lockdown in India end on 14th March or any time soon?

Returning to those living, they need more than cereal, pulses and vegetables. Except these three, other supplies are running low even though the manufacturing of processed/packed food was silently approved after a week or ten days into lock down, without any pomp or show.

Yesterday the byte by the Chief Minister of Haryana disclosed that now it shall be a period of ‘Lock-In’ as distinguished from ‘Lock-Down’. The announcement tracker on a news channel insisted to install the ‘Aarogya-Setu’ (Bridge of health) app which may act as an e-pass to travel.

For those who are technically uninitiated let me explain that every (almost) human being has a mobile phone and it has a unique identity. Besides every phone number is also a unique identity. When we move or stay at place for long, we leave a trail of movement which can be tracked. The champions of privacy can rise now and beat their chests. As we have been noting everyday during lock own, as to how the suspected patients (e.g. Jamati) and their contacts were traced and isolated/quarantined, the technology is at work and almost every person with symptom or suspicion is rounded up except some Jamati, about whom we have not been emphatically assured. Thus the people’s movements are under surveillance all the times. Yes we were warned but today I am not complaining. Google, if you had opted for saving the time line on it’s maps app, always knew it and was telling it too.

Therefore, with the help of computers or as geeks like to call it ‘Artificial Intelligence’ people can be left to intermingle from a distance to generate revenue for themselves but also for the Governments. The ‘AI’ will keep a track of the movement, especially that which may pose health danger.
Contrary to popular belief, Governments are always bankrupt. They borrow from the people all the time and give back a little to make a pretense of favouring the people. Without going into a debate of economics or politics, let me assure you that the model of socialism is based on Robin Hood, the Prince of Thieves, who would rob Peter to pay to Paul and Harry. The rich people who are at the risk of being robbed by Governments, are clever people who know how and where to hide the wealth.

Therefore, if it is possible, the economic activity can not be underestimated. In case of India there are some different complications on economic front. The remittance of foreign currency would be seriously hit as half the foreign exchange earning is by the Indians working abroad and remitting the funds home. With Global recession likely to set in, it will be a problem. On the front of goods export, India already has limited share of global market with tough competition from it’s all neighbours especially the export giant China. The force majeure may help the business class from paying the compensation for non-performance of contracts but it does not save them from losing their business to competitors especially one as fierce as China which has already made recovery from it’s own virus and has already restarted it’s manufacturing activity.
Emotions of antipathy, however strong against China, would not last forever. Especially when there is little choice to procure products elsewhere. Therefore, the earlier economic activity starts in India, the better it will be for the economy.

Industrialists in India are complaining that the economic stimulus package announced by the Government of India is small as it is less than 1% of GDP while that offered by USA and EU is about 10% of GDP forget two things.

First is that India is a savings based economy and not consumption driven like west. In other words people save for raining day and spend in rainy days too. In other words no stimulus is needed for people to spend. Just opportunity to spend is enough to encourage. The USA and Europe has consumption driven economy where people have no savings and most live from pay check to pay check. They need credit to spend and thereafter they earn to repay. In India such ‘pay check’ based population is called poor or vulnerable.

Second is that the Dollar is an artificial currency which is kept up due to it’s unique position in international trade. Believe me, no country except USA likes it but it is a fact. Therefore USA has been and again this time will be borrowing huge amount of debt to spend on stimulus. Any other country doing that would run the risk of erosion of the value of it’s currency.

As regards the virus, majority of people are in lock down since 22nd March and by morning of 15th March 2020 have spent 25 days in isolation and the maximum incubation period is 28 days would be over in three days. That take care of all primary infections. But there are secondary infections too.
Presently all infections and possible contacts of infected persons have been traced with oral/call/cctv history and isolated or quarantined. Very locality which had 6 or more patients is out of bond and people would remain inside for next 14 days. These hot spots would disappear over time or perhaps new hot spots will appear and would be dealt with. But the fact remains that out of approximately 725 districts in India, 400 districts are untouched by the virus with not a single case of infection. Would it be even fair to imprison people of these cities in their homes for any longer more than necessary just because the state governments are afraid to take responsibility?

As per yesterday’s press briefing, India now has Covid-19 ready, specialist hospitals ready in 486 districts as on yesterday. This number was less than five, about a month ago. Add to this isolation care wards created in Railway Coaches to accommodated over three hundred thousand patients, which can be moved to any place across country, any time at short notice.

Therefore India has walk a tight rope on the economic front and can not afford simple solutions of lock down or open up. It needs a middle path. Perhaps a lock In.

Would it or won’t it?

Presently six States have extended lock down for two weeks. All these States except Karnataka, are ruled by ‘arch enemy’ of Prime Minister’s BJP which rules in the Center (Federal) Government. To rule out the possibility of politics in decision of these States would be naive. But the Prime Minister got reelected in 2019 with thumping majority, unlike any time in the past, not for his good looks or charming smile. He knows very well what these adversaries are upto and in all probability would trump (oops) them in their own game by making a different type of lock down.

If it is a gamble to lift or relax the lock down, at this moment which may lift India out of it’s crises, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only politician who would take this bet and will most likely accept the challenge with all the preparations already underway.

It need to be noted that India too has problem of casual workers, migrant and seasonal works out of which at least 200 millions are vulnerable. They live between pay-check to pay-check. To keep them at the mercy of community kitchens, cash hand outs and entrenched in meager homes without work is dangerous. This is the most important factor in terms of human face of the problem.

Therefore we shall have to wait for the announcement but I will not bet on status quo any longer.

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