Is Lockdown Necessary in Guwahati?
A few days ago, the Assam government had boasted that the state is well prepared to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. The preparedness was flaunted and compared to models taken up by states like Kerala. And Assam seemingly came out on top. But today it has been a sudden U-turn.
When the entire country is looking to unlocking everything gradually, the Assam government has decided to impose night curfews across the state and lock down the main city of the state - Guwahati - for 14 days to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
With roughly 6,000 plus positive cases and with a recovery rate that hardly qualifies Covid-19 as a deadly disease (Assam has had 9 deaths so far), was it necessary for the state government to impose a lockdown again in Guwahati given that all the vital economic sectors have suffered badly since the last three months?
Talking to G Plus, the chairman of Confederation of India Industry (CII), Northeast, Abhijit Baruah said, “I think the lockdown was not necessary now as looking at the numbers of death caused by Covid-19, the impact of the disease, by God’s grace, is very minimal in Assam.” He further added that the lockdown will severely affect all businesses which have already been adversely impacted over the last three months; some businesses will, in all likelihood, fail to revive post this lockdown.
An employee of a shop that sells musical instruments, located in Paltan Bazar, talking to G Plus said, “It’s been two months that I have not got my full salary.” For the month of March, his employer had paid the full salary, but thereafter he has been receiving only 25% to 30% of his salary. G Plus also talked to the employer to understand the situation better.
The employer told G Plus that since 24th March till date, his shop has sold only one guitar worth Rs 3,500, leaving him a profit of 20%. He said that his employee travels to the shop from Jyotikuchi and he understands the crisis he is going through, but he is helpless. There is simply no earning. The salary of the employee is Rs 7,000 per month.
Similarly, a businessman from Fancy Bazar said that 80% of the shopkeepers in Fancy Bazar are middle class people who survive on daily sales from which they have to also look after their employees. Business has been virtually non-existent since the last three months and the latest lockdown will further cripple the business sector. The businessman said, “The government is confused.”
Talking about education, noted educationist Shantikam Hazarika, talking to G Plus said, “I am apprehensive that the students have been away from their classes for so long. And no one is even thinking of how to bring them back.” He said that digital classes are completely over-hyped but practically these are of no use.
Hazarika had taken some online classes himself but did not find them effective enough as he could not gauge if the students were at all learning or not. Moreover, in a country like India, with all its call drop problems, connecting to someone over the phone itself needs multiple attempts.
So online classes without any issues with the network is impossible, he said. The educationist was unhappy with the performance of the education department.
Many parents of private schools and universities have complained about having to pay fees without their children getting to attend physical classes. While the government had requested schools for fee waivers, it was only for two months of the schools’ tuition fees.
The private schools and universities, on the other hand, spend huge amounts of money on maintaining their expensive infrastructure and cannot waive off the fees. They also have to pay salaries to the teachers and this issue does not seem to ending any time soon.
Talking about health sector, city-based paediatrician, Dr Prakritish Bora said, “Out Patient Department (OPD) foot fall will be zero in the hospitals and even In Patient Department (IPD) will witness around 50% to 60% decrease in footfall. The health sector will be impacted as people will not come to hospitals. Patients with chronic diseases will also avoid coming to hospitals which will further create problems.”
He further added that the lockdown is not a permanent solution, as it will just halt the surge temporarily. The doctor said that the administration should lay stress on educating and enforcing social distancing strictly.
Guwahati is indeed bracing up for a grim fortnight and only time will tell whether the lockdown would at all serve its desired purpose.