Why Arvind Kejriwal had to relax the Delhi lockdown despite coronavirus surge

The Delhi government was one of the first state governments to declare a lockdown. It did so even before the Central government announced it.

 |  3-minute read |   21-05-2020
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Delhi has crossed the 11,000-mark in terms of coronavirus-positive cases. Close to 6,000 of these are active as a little over 5,000 have recovered from Covid-19. The capital city has lost 176 lives so far to the virus. The city reported about 500 new cases each on Tuesday and Wednesday. Despite the surge in numbers, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has allowed a lot of relaxations for Delhi in accordance of the Union government’s guidelines.

The natural question is: why? Why does the Delhi government want to open up the capital amid the increasing number of cases?

In his novel Kafka on the Shore, Japanese author Haruki Murakami writes, "And once the storm is over, you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about."

The Covid-19 outbreak is an unprecedented storm. Neither the Centre, nor the city government, has had any prior experience in dealing with such a pandemic. India has made great strides over the last 70 years, but the health infrastructure remains lagging. The outbreak had ravaged most parts of the developed world and when it came knocking on India’s doors, and lockdown was the only viable option.

Today, looking at the migrant crisis and the massive economic hit, it may appear that the Centre failed to formulate a detailed SOP to implement this lockdown, but the necessity of the lockdown is beyond question.

The Delhi government was one of the first state governments to declare a lockdown even before the Central government announced it. The fundamental reason behind the move was to prepare the infrastructure to fight Covid-19. Kejriwal formed an expert committee to lay out a detailed plan to fight the virus.

relaxations_690_052120041936.jpgThe Delhi government has allowed relaxations to save the economy. (Photo: PTI)

When Lockdown 4.0 began on May 4, Delhi’s SOP was clear - test, trace, treat and track. The state government used the lockdown phase to make arrangements for PPEs, ventilators and other important equipment needed to tackle the situation.

With a robust system in place to take care of these needs, the government realised it’s time to open up the economy to avoid an emergency on that front.

Announcement of the economic packages will not make much of a difference on the ground if the economic activities do not restart. Looking at the exodus of the migrant labourers across the country, it is clear that the opening up of the economic activities will not be an easy task either. In India, most of the economic activities fundamentally depend on the unskilled labour workforce and the lockdown has devastated their lives.

Amid the surge in numbers, the Delhi government has indeed taken a great risk by opening up businesses. Time will tell if the move was right or wrong, but the move was much needed.

We need a mission to fight Covid-19 and a vision to open up the economic activities. We cannot make people ‘aatmanirbhar’ by keeping everyone indoors because not all sectors and people can work from home.

The crisis is one where the governments need to provide the basic infrastructure, but a lot depends on us. We have to follow the guidelines on maintaining social distancing, washing hands and wearing masks. We have to ensure that we travel following the instructions and not violate them. For every individual, this is also the time to show their social responsibility.

Delhi is the fourth most impacted state in the country. But if we come together, we can tide over the crisis. Together we can beat the virus and get the economy back on track.

Also read | Game changer: Telangana to begin regulating crop pattern



Sayantan Ghosh Sayantan Ghosh @sayantan_gh

The author is an associate research fellow with the Delhi Assembly Research Center.

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