What steps need to be taken for Unlockdown 1.0
Unlockdown 1.0 must bring about many adjustments and the Central and state governments will be faced with new challenges in maximising opportunities for livelihood while minimising the loss of lives.
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As the unlockdown begins in large parts of India except in containment zones, one thing must be kept in mind. People’s lives won’t remain the same and the state of businesses, industry and all economic activities won’t remain the same because the Covid-19 threat isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, it’s quite possible that the people across the world may have to live with Covid-19 for years together just as the world has been living with the HIV threat for more than four decades without a vaccine.
The need to adjust
Therefore, Unlockdown 1.0 must bring about many adjustments and the Central and state governments will be faced with new challenges in maximising opportunities for livelihood while minimising the loss of lives. For example, governments will have to increase the frequency of all public transport to avoid crowding and maintain social distancing. The real test for governments will come when Phase 3 of unlockdown is implemented (the date of which is still to be decided) when all road, rail and air travel is normalised to pre-Covid times and when the hospitality and entertainment sectors resume normal activities. Three major states - Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, have already extended the lockdown till June 30. Once these states resume normal life, a spike in new Covid-19 cases is a possibility.
People may have to live with Covid-19 for years together just as the world has been living with the HIV threat for more than four decades without a vaccine. (Photo: Reuters)
When the nationwide lockdown was enforced from March 25, the total number of cases was just 500. Now more than 70 days into the lockdown, the number has grown to 2,36,657 with 9,887 deaths. This shows glitches in the implementation of lockdown and the biggest glitch relates to migrant workers. The Centre should have kept them in mind and anticipated the problems of more than 10 crore migrant workers who normally commute to their homes after harvesting season which coincided with the lockdown.
Things would have been different had the Centre given four or five days’ notice before shutting all transport means and enforcing the nationwide lockdown, the magnitude of which is without any parallel in the history of post-independence India. For example, the tiny city-state of Singapore had given four days prior notice before enforcing its lockdown and that too a partial lockdown!
Unlockdown is absolutely essential even though the Coronavirus pandemic is yet to reach its peak and one doesn’t know when the peak will come – June, or July, or even later. India cannot be unmindful of how many countries around the world are now relaxing the lockdown. For example, countries such as Spain, Iran, Italy, Denmark, Israel, and Germany have begun to ease restrictions after long and rigorous lockdown. Germany had reopened hairdressers, playgrounds, automobile factories, churches and museums on May 4 and is planning to resume international travel June 14 onwards and reopen borders to European Union travellers.
The case of Brazil is rather bizarre. Despite the fact that Brazil has had more than half a million cases and the number of deaths, President Jair Bolsonaro has not enforced a lockdown and has, in fact, encouraged anti-lockdown measures.
Unlockdown is not only the right decision but also a much-needed step to revive the economy which was already in dire states even in pre-Covid months. Credit rating agency Moody’s has now downgraded India’s sovereign credit rating from Baa2 to Baa3 or just above junk grade. India’s GDP in 2019-20 had grown only at 4.2 per cent even though the lockdown period in the last fiscal year was of just seven days. But the lockdown is ongoing and even if it were to be lifted on June 30 midnight, the total length of the lockdown would still be 98 days!
The first focus of Central and state governments is on June 8, when the unlockdown will begin in parts of India. The states will have to be vigilant, and will all citizens.
Back to business
The lockdown has seen Prime Minister Narendra Modi proactively engaging with states and the Chief Ministers. PM Modi has conducted five virtual conferences with the Chief Ministers. This is good for strengthening Centre-States relations in a federal democratic structure such as ours.
Now the Prime Minister needs to take this to the next level and convene Parliament so that the unprecedented health and economic crisis posed by Covid-19 gets a national and democratic response and all political parties contribute their might and resources to deal with the Corona pandemic and thrash out a more effective and safe strategy to exit from the lockdown. The Modi government may also mull over the idea of holding Rajya Sabha sittings in the Lok Sabha and the Lok Sabha session in the Central Hall to enable social distancing for as long as the Covid threat continues.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)