Since Prime Minister Modi used the Phrase “Aaj Raat 12 baje se” (after midnight) in November 2016 announcing a bizarre step to demonetize high-value currency notes, all his TV addresses attract wild speculations and for most the time Mr. Modi doesn’t fail to entertain these speculations.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a complete lockdown across the country for 21 days from Tuesday midnight.
- In his second address to the nation on the pandemic raging across much of the world.
- Modi said the decision will have an economic cost but saving people’s lives is of paramount interest to his government.
- “If we don’t handle these 21 days well, then our country, your family will go backward by 21 years,” he said.
- There will be a complete bar on people from stepping outsides their homes, he said and even folded his hands to emphasize his request.
- Experts and the experience of countries fighting the deadly virus make it clear that the social distancing is the only way to combat the disease, he asserted.
The lockdown was expected, India doesn’t have the capacity to fight this epidemic. The only plan of action visible is to stop the virus reaching stage three of community transmission.
But is it the right time to impose a nationwide lockdown? Is it too early or it’s already late?
Chances are that its too late, the first COVID 19 test came positive, the southern state of Kerala acted swiftly by putting patients in isolation, tracing all the contacts even the seat of cinema hall of the infected person, creating quarantine ward and arranging personal protective equipment’s. Central Government also took a bold decision, imposed travel restriction, anyone coming from china was placed under quarantine, airlifted its citizens from the epicentre Wuhan.
But India dropped the ball when it came to testing. It failed to ramp up the scale and has currently the lowest testing rate of 6 samples per million people. The criterion for testing was limited to those who have travel history to affected regions of the world or those who came in contact with any positive Covid 19 patients. Travel restriction on Americans coming to India was imposed as late as 19 March, by then America had already become a hotbed for the virus.
It seems that in the early days the central government was overconfident. Mr. Rahul Gandhi warned the Government to take this seriously comparing the government to the oblivion captain of Titanic who keeps telling everything is under control to this union health minister replied that one should not compare coronavirus to world deadliest peacetime marine incidents. Such statements give shows how less government official was aware of the pandemic which has already taken far more lives than Titanic.
PM Modi’s decisions can often be heroic in aspiration but very quickly derails by the reality and his mediocre administration. The ability to enforce and monitor this lockdown along with India’s capacity to survive these 21 days will tell us whether this lockdown was a success or not.
In a country where migrant workers live dozen to a room, such unprecedented lockdown ask the question to the state. will migrant workers be shifted to their home state, increasing the risk of spread? How will you ensure India’s Woking class who lives on daily wages will have enough to eat?
The Indian state will have to step up and be there for its people like never before. Some states who took early measures like tracing contacts, isolating suspects and preparing its health infrastructure in advance might get world-class results when all of this will be over but overpopulated northern states may not.
Mr. Modi might have thought he had left with no choice and his instincts are always to go as bis as possible. We can only hope that this lockdown of 1.3 billion people, the biggest in human history doesn’t prove as ludicrous as Demonetization. Whether India succeeds or not, it will be irrevocably changed after 21 days.