India reported the first case of coronavirus on 30th January 2020. Even after seeing the fate of Wuhan and Italy in February, ravaged by the coronavirus, the Government of India kept dragging its feet. International flights continued bringing in coronavirus till 20th March.
After dabbling with a Janta Curfew for a day, on a Sunday, 22nd March, finally, the Government announced a 21-day lockdown on 24th March. One might say better late than never. However, the way in which lockdown has been conceived, interpreted and applied leaves much to be desired.
India’s shutdown is similar to the other Indian speciality – Jugaad. Neither here nor there. As a result, the results will also be middle-of-the-road.
Have you seen the annexure announcing the lockdown? It has three pages for the exception list. What kind of a shutdown is this? I suppose a lockdown is a lockdown. But, this is the Indian version; made palatable to every taste, to keep everyone happy. Why cannot a lockdown just signify – Everything closed rather so many exceptions, open to interpretations and application.
Even worse, 3-page exceptions are followed by 3-pages of offences and penalties. These also are of Indian variety, can be construed in any manner possible. The offence has to be simple – breaking shutdown orders and penalty has to be simple – quarantine in jail for 14 days.
No, it will not happen. We have a law of the land to follow. How can such high-handedness happen in a democracy like India? After all, we are not authoritarian China.
The Kashmir Lockdown
Does anyone remember the Kashmir lockdown? After Article 370 was removed. Then, why did the Government of India had a different adaptation of a shutdown? Surely, the Government did not consider so many exceptions for Kashmir. Why for coronavirus?
If it was the case of natural calamities or riots, would the Government have considered so many exceptions to the list? Here, it is more like a convenient version of a shutdown to keep all constituencies happy.
The Government thinks it is doing something, the people perceive that they are doing their duty, the medical fraternity assumes that the action is happening for containment, the economy pundits feel that the exception list will keep the growth engine purring.
Everyone will be/is happy. Coronavirus will let know her/his feelings to the slipshod measures in due time.
The Lockdown Violations
One random sample about the lockdown efficacy. Hyderabad Traffic Police book 50,000 cases for violating lockdown. These are numbers for six days, not even one week.
It can be safely assumed that for each case booked, 10 cases, if not 100 cases, would go undetected. Traffic police are at all the junctions and check-posts are set up in the city. Again, it can be assumed that traffic police will never go beyond the main roads, into the arterial roads. If all these are considered, what would remain of the shutdown execution?
With casually drafted exceptions, such rule violations are bound to happen. The Government will say that in a country like India, 100% execution is difficult to achieve. I suppose it did achieve 100% of the Kashmir lockdown. How? Why not the same rigour for coronavirus?
Why All-India Lockdown
Now, if coronavirus is in 158 districts only, why the other 574 districts are having a shutdown? In the case of the absolute lockdown of 158 districts, there would be no such need to close down the other districts.
The Government knows that it cannot enforce 100% execution of an absolute lockdown, so neither here nor there approach. Shut down everything with a whole lot of exceptions.
Just that Government of India did not know that there are migrant workers that nobody accounts for.
A Thousand Cuts
We do have a lockdown. Hence, the cases will surely reduce. But, the lockdown is not 100%. Hence, the virus will not get stamped out completely.
In India, we live by a thousand cuts. The half-baked coronavirus lockdown will also ensure that we die by a thousand cuts.