How to Survive the Lockdown
India Today Editor-in-Chief talks about globalisation being replaced by isolationism as nations struggle to shield their populations from the dreaded Covid-19, in the April 6, 2020 edition of the India Today Magazine.
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The deadly coronavirus has activated the most primal instinct of the human race, survival. Entire nations are locking down, shutting off borders, cancelling flights and breaking contact with the rest of the world. Globalisation is now being replaced by isolationism as nations struggle to shield their populations from the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic and contain its spread within their borders. At the time of writing this, 423,724 people have been infected across the globe and 18,925 persons have died. With 470 active Covid-19 cases and nine casualties, India hasn’t faced the brunt of the virus yet. There are fears that these numbers could rapidly spike if and when we witness the dreaded Stage 3 of community transmission, where a large proportion of the population becomes infected, as is being seen in other countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to be commended for locking down the country for three weeks. This, as he says, is the only solution for a country like India to battle the virus. It is the only way we can prevent our medical infrastructure from being overwhelmed. The prime minister’s commitment of Rs 15,000 crore for improving medical services is most welcome. We now need to work out the logistics of getting essential services to the public during the three-week lockdown. We are somewhat fortunate in knowing what happens when a country does not act promptly to contain the spread of infection, China, Italy, and even America, being the prime examples.
India Today April 6 cover, How to Survive the Lockdown.
Inevitably, the medical emergency has turned into a financial one. The wheels of the economy, the movement of goods, services and people have ground to a halt. The unprecedented lockdown could pull back India’s GDP growth by 0.5-1 percentage point in the first two quarters of fiscal 2021. The worst-hit will be the travel and tourism, aviation, hospitality and entertainment sectors. Manufacturing sectors like automotive are projected to collapse. The BSE Sensex’s 3,934-point fall on March 23 was its steepest ever. Nearly 300 million of 392 million self-employed Indians will face employment challenges. Nearly every sector of the Indian industry is seeking government intervention through grants, direct stimulus, cheaper loans, tax cuts or deferment of taxes or rescheduling payment terms. India is a poor country with a woefully inadequate social welfare system. A large percentage of our population lives on the margins and such an economic shock can put them in a state of untold misery. The government, as the country’s biggest spender, has to play a larger role in opening up purse strings. The Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package for the rural and urban poor, self-help groups and senior citizens announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on March 26 is a step in the right direction. These cash transfers for food security are the first of the many relief measures expected to protect us from this economic tsunami. The government has to ensure that implementation is swift and the benefits go well in time to those who really need it before desperation sets in.
All of us, students, office workers, employees and businesses are in survival mode as we try and keep our lives going normally. But necessity is the mother of invention and human beings are the most ingenious innovators who know how to survive crises. They have survived wars, famines and pestilence, only to emerge stronger.
Our current issue recognises this strong survival instinct within human beings. Our cover story, ‘How to Survive the Lockdown’, put together by our bureaus, is your essential guide to survive this unusual crisis, from what employers can do to keep their staff in high spirits to de-stressing, entertaining yourselves, staying fit and working from home. We also have experts telling us what the government needs to do to fight this deadly pandemic, be it stocking up on life-saving equipment like respirators and testing kits or ramping up manpower requirements in the health sector.
We too have brought out this issue under tremendous constraints, with most of our staff working from home. A core team has functioned from office to keep the magazine running and coordinated production through virtual meetings and online work-sharing. India Today has never missed an issue in 44 years and we are not going to let the coronavirus spoil our record. We will continue to keep you updated with credible and useful news information in these trying times. Our issue is also available digitally (http://www.indiatoday.in/emag and www.indiatoday.in/magzter) free of cost. Do log on.
The India Today Group has 2,200 employees and we have enabled 78 per cent of our workforce to work flexibly from home and the field. Despite operating remotely, our publications will be published, channels will beam and digital services will remain live. I am over 60 and, being in the high-risk group, have self-isolated for the past week so that I don’t become a risk to myself or others. We are going to serve the nation in this pandemic to the best of our ability. All of us must do whatever we can.
This crisis affords an excellent chance for governments, people, corporations and voluntary organisations to come together and fight this pandemic. We need to act fast and break the chain and flatten the curve of new infection. Coronavirus might have separated us physically, but it has also brought us together. This is the time for us to show the world that India can beat this scourge. Yes, we can. And we MUST.
(India Today Editor-in-Chief's note for the cover story, How to Survive the Lockdown, for April 06, 2020)