Limited Lockdown: Planning the Plausible Way Out
In the unprecedented move by the most of the state governments first and then the union government, the entire country was put to a standstill for a period of 21 days. The world’s fifth largest economy is at halt and with each passing day is bearing losses. A pause button was pressed by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi with his signature style of addressing the nation. The move can be termed as a necessary evil which is being taken by almost all the countries for the betterment of their respective citizens.
The deadly corona virus has attacked around 204 countries and India is no exception. The only way to break the chain was a complete countrywide lockdown so that community transfusion does not take place. It will be erroneous to say that the government implemented the lockdown in haste and no signs were given prior to the complete lockdown. The state governments very systematically started closing places where large gatherings took place on every day basis such as gyms, hotels, schools, universities, cinema halls, tourist places etc. From the Centre, the lockdown was first experimented with the complete lockdown for one day, which was then extended to 21 days.
Thereafter, it was further extended by another 19 days to May 3. The union government cannot be criticised for the decision taken and the timing of the decision as in comparison to many developed countries, India’s response was a prompt one. Developed countries like United State of America and Italy are paying for the delay in steps taken by the government to prevent the spread of the virus.
The real battle will start after the lockdown period gets over. The citizens of the country should bear in mind that after the completion of the 40 days the virus wouldn’t disappear without leaving any trace. As soon as the lockdown is lifted, people will start gathering, keeping the peril in the back seat. The government will be having a tough time in managing post lockdown period. The government should opt for limited lockdown till the increase in positive cases starts declining.
A complete exit from the lockdown will backfire; rather easing lockdown in stages is the only possible solution. This can be only achieved with a new breed in federalism, where more power has to be granted to the states and the union plays the role of a nodal institution where it will be facilitator. This will stand to be called as co-operatively federal structure. A common exit plan for the entire India cannot be the solution to the problem.
The needs of each state shall be targeted by the state itself and priority to them should be given in the first phase of limited lockdown. At the first stage only the supply chain of essential goods should be opened. The onus of deciding what amounts to essential goods shall be designated to respective states itself. Only, opening of the retail shops, which stands at the end of the supply chain will not solve the problem, if the entire supply chain is not restarted.
The chain starts from production and ends at consumption of goods, each stage shall be taken into confidence. It will totally depend on the state machinery. The implementation shall be moved from macro administration to micro administration. The state has to further delegate the task of implementation to each district with additional power to each district, depending upon spread of the virus. Further, with the advent of the harvest season in India, lockdown in the primary sector will disrupt a large section of population.
At the subsequent stage, non-essential items but day to day products should be given seal of approval. This includes soaps, detergents, hygienic products etc. The operating line should be same as the first one. The third stage, places which attracts crowd and are of least important for sustenance shall be opened for the public. Business in this stage includes hardware stores, clothing outlets, electronic goods and places with non-essential gatherings cinema halls, gyms and also religious gatherings should be given clearance. For transportation too, there shall be phase by phase opening of airports and railway station. Interstate transportation through railways or road shall not be permissible and can be only through air only. Limited public transport should be allowed and sanitization of the transport modes has to be done on regular intervals. Though the lockdown will be lifted, but restrictions should be imposed on the public for the welfare of the public at large. A phase by phase by implementation shall take at least six months for the complete lockdown to get over.
Coming to horizontal strata of the person on the basis of income, the worst effected from the lockdown are the daily wage workers as no work for almost a month may push them into livelihood darkness, recovering from where will be a difficult task. The basic needs of such citizens have to be borne by the government itself. Direct benefit transfer will be an effective measure, where the government can identify the Jan Dhan Accounts and amounting bearing the basic necessities shall be transferred. The Jan Dhan Yojana has built the infrastructure for the government and it is an apt time to use those accounts for transferring benefits.
The steps initiated have to be followed by the people. Both, formal and informal ways have to be adopted so that people comply to the orders of the government. Religion too, can be mode for limiting the menace of the virus as it plays an important role in the Indian culture. Government can also take help of various religious leaders and groups, for an appeal to their followers to adhere to the restricted lockdown.
The only remedy to break the chain of corona virus is physical distancing, India being a population of 1.2 billion people, the concept of physical distancing was never in practice. Since, these 40 days have made people of India more concerned and conscience towards hygiene, this would not be wrong to say that physical distancing will be the new normal in India.
The centre and the state are taking all the preventative measures during the lockdown so that there is no exponential growth. The task of state machinery will increase manifold post-lockdown. This is a war and the stages involved to slow down the pandemic are the battles. The complete war can only be won through subjective lockdown or down to earth lockdown which means no formal lockdown but terms and conditions will be applicable.