As the Covid-19 infections across the country are on a rise, there is a growing panic among industries about the government imposing a lockdown in the country.
With states announcing weekend curbs and some even announcing week-long restrictions, massive movement of migrant labours can also be observed across major cities.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal yesterday announced a lockdown till April 26, following which migrants once again started moving back to their villages with a fear that the lockdown may get extended. Similar situations can also be observed in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and a few more states where the state governments were forced to take harsh steps and impose restrictions, in order to control the rising infections within their state.
Maharashtra announced a ‘junta curfew’ for 15 days in view of an alarming surge in coronavirus infections across the state. Similar restrictions were imposed in the state of Rajasthan, where Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot; after doing rounds of meeting with the state bureaucracy, imposed lockdown-like restrictions in the state till May 3 and called it ‘Jan Anushasan Pakhwara’ (Public Discipline Fortnight).
The COVID-19 situation has raised apprehensions amongst Industries and businessmen who fear a similar situation like last year. To address their fears, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has clearly conveyed the government strategy which is against a full lockdown. She also conveyed to them that PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah were in touch with states, and were monitoring the situation regarding availability of oxygen, essential medicines and medical facilities.
The Finance Minister has also sought information from industry experts and businessmen across the country regarding their concerns and problems and has assured them that the government is with them.
Why is the government hesitant to announce a complete lockdown this year?
Last year, during the same time, India was going through one of the most stringent lockdowns in the world. Every movement, excluding the very essential necessities, was prohibited, and a population of 1.25 billion people was asked to stay at home for months.
This was done with an aim to break the chain of coronavirus infections and to ramp up medical infrastructure which was collapsing even in the very early days of the spread. All of this was done keeping in mind that the virus was spreading at an exponential rate and with very little research available on the virus, no country could think of anything else other than a lockdown to keep their population safe.
But now after almost a year since the first nationwide lockdown was imposed, governments, policy bodies, media houses and NGOs – all have the same opinion that lockdowns were not that effective in containing the spread. Instead, it created innumerable problems for the poor and middle class, and the economy suffered huge losses.
The most catastrophic effect of covid lockdown was felt by migrant workers; about 80% of them lost their jobs, according to a report by ActionAid India. This class of workers that includes daily wage workers, street vendors, small enterprises, and retailers, were the most affected since they do not have any social security cover or much savings.
These “hand-to-mouth” strata of society were forced to leave the big cities and migrate to their native villages either by walking or by any other means- in absence of public transport. Many of them lost their lives and many contracted the virus itself while travelling.
Apart from this, we saw GDP shrinking to -23.9% in the first quarter of 2020 and millions again going below the poverty line as a result. People lost jobs, businesses got shut and many suffered different other challenges related to their livelihood, all because of the near three-month lockdown.
Seeing the disastrous effects of the strict lockdown of last year, it appears that the government has learnt its lesson. Different union ministers and heads of the state governments have denied the possibility of clamping a complete lockdown and the most important reason behind it is the effect it’ll have on the economy and the revenues- both of which are very important to fight the virus.