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Six reasons why the lockdown extension is bad

Six reasons why the lockdown extension is bad

The nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus is proving to be a remedy worse than the remedy. The economy, already in the slow lane, has almost stopped. Businesses have been hurt; many are likely to be shut down; millions of jobs have been adversely affected. All this because we have succumbed to the fear of the unknown: the fear that a disease, whose virulence and damage remains limited so far, may become epidemic in the country. Enough damage has been done to the lives and livelihoods people, especially the poor; the sooner the lockdown is lifted, the better for the economy, people, and the nation.

There should have been no lockdown in India in the first place; it was unnecessary. Fewer than 600 people have died in India, whereas the global toll has exceeded 1.7 lakh. Our fatalities are 0.3 per cent of the world’s, while 17 of 100 people are Indian. The extension of the lockdown is even more unnecessary.

Second, the lockdown is happening only in posh colonies and middle class localities, where most politicians, bureaucrats, decision makers, and media Brahmins live. But our country is much bigger than Lutyens Zone and Middle India. It is not possible in parts where most people live—slums, unauthorized colonies, crowded localities, etc. Why try the impossible, however desirable it may be?

Third, the lockdown and now its extension are killing the economy. As we reported earlier, the slump in demand and decline in sales revenue owing to the spread of the deadly coronavirus is set to continue throughout the current financial year, leading to a massive job loss. These were the findings of a survey undertaken jointly by industry body Ficci and Dhruva Advisors.

It added that the magnitude and speed of collapse in economic activity in India in the last few weeks was unprecedented and almost 72 per cent of the respondents to the nationwide survey reported that Covid-19 would have a ‘high to very high’ level of impact on their businesses.

Owing to the lockdown, pauperization is already visible; there are long queues of poor people at places where food is distributed. Restarting the economy is the only viable way to preclude mass starvation.

Fourth, the lockdown has seriously curbed democratic rights and civil liberties. Besides, it is an affront to human dignity. Citizens, especially younger males, have faced the brunt of police highhandedness. There are videos circulating on the social media, and also appearing in the mainstream news channels, showing cops thrashing and humiliating young men. This has to stop. The world’s largest democracy should not become the world’s largest prison.

Fifth, whatever benefits the lockdown may have brought in the fight against Covid-19, its extension may erode them. No disease can be fought without money, and the government doesn’t have infinite resources; as it is, the fiscal situation is precarious. A poorer government, however noble its intentions may be, will not be able to help the weakest and most affected and vulnerable sections of society. The longer the lockdown, the greater the misery.

Sixth, more people may die of diseases other than Covid-19. About 4.5 lakh people died in 2018 of tuberculosis or TB. “The primary diseases of poverty like TB, malaria, and HIV/AIDS—and the often co-morbid and ubiquitous malnutrition—take their toll on helpless populations in developing countries,” said a 2008 paper by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). The NCBI is part of the United States National Library of Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health.

There is a strong possibility that the lockdown extension would result in increase in poverty and, as a consequence, non-corona diseases taking a heavier toll on the poor. Even at present, due to the attention on Covid-18, non-corona patients are not getting proper medical attention.

Therefore, it is time the Narendra Modi government started a graded, cautious process towards normalcy. The fight against Covid-19 can continue without bringing the country to a halt..