When the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address to the nation on March 24, in which he announced a 21-day lockdown throughout the country, stressed on social distancing and work from home to combat corona virus, it was clear that each and every citizen has to fight out this virus through the shelter in place concept. Earlier, the PM had made a ‘Janta Curfew’ and creation of “Covid-19 Economic Response Task Force”, which were symbolic and a precursor for any challenge ahead. Residents living in 75 districts across the country, including in major cities such as the capital New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata have been placed under travel, work and movement restrictions until March 31. A sudden rise in cases has led to growing concerns over India’s capacity to test for the virus and that a major outbreak on the scale seen in Europe will spread in the country.
Tehelka cover story by Special Correspondent Rakesh Rocky this fortnight is about our resolve, our patience and social distancing for a singular goal to minimize the spread to check its outbreak for a positive impact. Many states have also banned larger gatherings to slow down the corona virus juggernaut. Economic Response Task Force is much needed because the virus has not only impacted travel, tourism, manufacturing sectors but stock market fall is unending.
The fight as such is to block the spread of virus and also to keep economy in good health to ward off recession blues. If pandemic comes under control in a month or so, the disruption of GDP which was already in slow down mode, could be minimal. Otherwise, it could add up to Modi government’s economic troubles. The fact is that governments across the globe are in an unprecedented crisis at present. An extraordinary situation calls for an extraordinary response.
The most vulnerable are workers in the informal sector, the daily wage earners and start-ups. The government has to look for providing succour to the rural and urban poor by at least fulfilling their basic needs. The Reserve Bank of India has to step in to stop further slide in commodities and stock markets. The virus has galloped to most countries of the world affecting millions of people and led to large number of deaths.
The WHO chief has warned that the “window of opportunity for containing the virus is narrowing”. India has taken the threat seriously learning from what happened in Italy, Iran and America where the cases rose manifold. China which resorted to forced social distancing has shown a sharp drop.
India has caught the bull by the horn and is likely to change the course of pandemic by its shelter in place concept and aggressive action to contain the viral spread. It has also done well to immediately quarantine those returning from abroad. It is a fact that thermal screening can’t be fool proof to detect infected people. What we need is to cut the transmission chain effectively by self-imposed social distancing. Time is to be aggressive but not to panic!