INDIA’S coronavirus caseload has jumped to over 450,000, and the death toll has gone up to over14,000. The daily spike in numbers has now risen to around 15000. This is happening at a time when the country has decided to open up and live with the pandemic, as now appears the most pragmatic solution. In the first three lockdowns, while the Coronavirus cases kept growing, the economy which was already reeling was hit hard. On Monday Moody’s Investors Service projected the Indian economy to shrink 3.1 per cent in 2020. Though it had pegged India’s annual growth at 0.2 per cent in April, the prediction was revised following the disruption caused by coronavirus pandemic. Incidentally, Moody’s has also taken on board the recent clashes with China on the border which underline rising geopolitical risks in the Asian region.
This state of affairs hardly makes lockdown a sustainable strategy. In hindsight, it is clear the lockdown wasn’t a good strategy at all. Its benefit was limited to providing the government time to put in place the healthcare infrastructure to deal with the crisis. But far from doing that the government spent its energies in strengthening the lockdown bringing the businesses to a complete halt. This suddenly deprived the migrant labourers in major cities of their jobs, triggering a massive exodus to that clogged the highways, defeating the purpose of lockdown.
Three months on, while India is among the top five countries with most Coronavirus cases, its economic growth has halted. To borrow the words of the industrialist Rajiv Bajaj, the lockdown has flattened the wrong curve as it has decimated the economy. Now that the government has belatedly woken up to the need to reopen the economy, questions have arisen about its flawed strategy to deal with the pandemic. It followed the Chinese strategy of lockdown blindly and at a far bigger scale by shutting down the entire economy, something that was not advisable for as densely populous a country as India. It solved little as far as arresting the spread of Coronavirus but it brought untold suffering in its wake for the millions of people who lost livelihoods as a result.
Now that the government has gone back to reopening the country, it is clear that the Coronavirus can be fought without sacrificing the economy. It is possible to persuade people to take necessary precautions so that they don’t contract virus. At the end of the day, the fight against Coronavirus has to be a people-led effort than the one driven exclusively by the government.
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