The coronavirus cases, as on 24th March, was about 500+. Two weeks into the lockdown, the cases are now 5000+. Affected districts rose from 62 to 257. As against one district with 10+ cases, now 70 districts have 10+ cases. By all account, the intensity of coronavirus cases is increasing.
Yet; the central Government has been toying with the idea of lifting the lockdown. The words and phrases being used are different, “calibrated exit”, “partial lifting in a graded manner”, “staggered removal of restrictions” etc. The bottom-line remains the same: The existing lockdown cannot continue beyond the 21 days.
Narendra Modi told us that the nation is at war against the coronavirus. He spoke that Mahabharata was won in 18 days, we have to win in 21 days. By no account, as on date, we are winning the war. Yet, just as the first week of the lockdown was getting over, Narendra Modi floated the idea of lifting the lockdown measures in some manner – “a common exit strategy for the states once the lockdown ends”, to be precise.
Why? Why is Narendra Modi showing haste in ending the lockdown and not extend it further? What could be the issues that have made the Prime Minister of the country waver in his approach? What does he know about the coronavirus numbers that nobody else seems to know? Or, is it about coronavirus at all?
The Political Cost
It is crystal clear that the mighty Government of India had no clue about the cogs in the wheels of the Indian Economy – Migrant Workers. The lockdown just blew up the lid of the worst kept secret of the dark underbelly of the Indian Economy – Migrant Workers.
For sure, the images of migrant workers walking all across has shaken up Narendra Modi and caught him completely off-guard. He knows that these migrant workers may or may not vote, but their extended families in villages surely vote and they vote for him.
It is just not bad optics, the migrant workers’ exodus, but also terrible word-of-mouth publicity in the villages that they come from. The Prime Minister knows the electoral loss this could lead to. This is the political cost of coronavirus lockdown.
The Economic Cost
The economy has come to a stand-still. That’s not the worry, it was expected. The worry is that it has impacted revenues of the Government in an unforeseen manner. The Government anticipated that the revenues will come down, but it had not accounted for the revenues to cease completely.
The Government was somehow managing the salaries and expenses for its employees. Now, after taking into account the payments for coronavirus cases, the coffers are empty.
The Government is broke. This is the elephant in the room that the Government cannot talk about to anyone. Narendra Modi knows that the state Governments will not be able to pay salaries for May if the coronavirus lockdown continues, and when they turn to the Central Government, everyone will go bust. This is the economic cost of coronavirus lockdown.
The Social Cost
The Government of India has to fend for the migrant workers, the poor and the vulnerable. Narendra Modi has, seemingly, realized that the delivery mechanism for the Government’s relief measures is non-existential. It can put up the pretence for a week or so, but post that everyone will see the bluff.
The Prime Minister knows the psyche of the Indian Citizens more than anyone else. He knows that his electorate cannot be held back for more time from what they are used to doing. The impatience and the edginess of the Indians will start pouring out.
Narendra Modi has the foresight to see the societal strife this can lead to. This is the social cost of the coronavirus lockdown.
What Next After Tali, Thaali, Diya, Mombatti
It is also very much possible that after asking Indians to amuse themselves with the sound and light show, Narendra Modi has finally run out of ideas. What does he ask them to do in his next speech? Not able to think about what to do?
Start easing out lockdown restrictions.
I know this is not the time for a joke. For that matter, this is also not the time to go on a musical and a lighting sojourn, which we were made out to do. Forget it. It was a nice motivational strategy with no backup plan.
The Hidden Strategy
Is it that Narendra Modi is having another strategy? Given all the above lockdown costs, he wants to deliberately let the virus spread to as many people as possible, expecting that they will become immune to the virus. After all, we have the immunity befitting a third world citizen.
Narendra Modi knows that India’s half-baked lockdown will yield half-baked results. And, now he does not want that either. Everything written above is just hypothesis trying to read the most enigmatic mind of the country.
It is unclear why and what for Narendra Modi is so keen to lift the coronavirus lockdown with the unknown consequences. Hopefully, he will not be able to. For the States do not know his reasons, as he cannot speak out the obvious.
If all of the political leaders do agree for a lockdown let-up, the only hope will be the Indian Citizens, that they do have better sense to save their lives.
Stay Home Till India Is Coronavirus Free, Stay Safe.