Lockdown Good to Check Coronavirus Spread But Economy Must Wait for Stimulus
Ashwani Sharma | India Tomorrow
SHIMLA, APRIL 16—For Minakshi Choudhary, a young Shimla writer, motivational speaker and cancer survivor, the 21- day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a step to fight coronavirus spread in India, was nothing else than a forced confinement to her home.
Suspending her all time on outdoor social activities, counselling sessions and long mountain trekking, which had become an important part of her lifestyle during past several years, sounded like beginning of a new nightmare or a stressful period.
“Initially, I thought I will go mad, or slip into some kind of depression. However, to my utter surprise, my fears were unfounded. I, indeed, discovered a fundamental truth that life goes on. Human beings are best to adjust to any situation— grave or congenial”, she says.
Looking after aged parents, spending a meaningful time with her IAS husband, doing her routine yoga sessions, meditation and reading books beside trying her hand in the kitchen was what she found more productive use of the time at home. Now, when the lockdown has been extended, Minakshi finds herself more focussed, and a caring home maker.
Only stressful time was the day when a medical emergency cropped-up with her aged father—a patient of Alzheimer's (she has also written a book on dealing with Alzheimer's parents) at Solan. As she was only nearest person among all siblings-both her brothers out of the country-Minakshi faced the crisis bravely, managed to her necessary permissions to travel own to her parents and handled the situation with patience.
“The figures on coronavirus, escalating every day really sounds scary, yet I believe the measures like lockdown–as many heard and experienced first-time seems have been able to slow down the spread of pandemic. The people have to understand the gravity of situation and adjust to the conditions. Lockdown is only way out if we listen to medical experts”, she predicts.
First case of COVID-19 was reported in India on January 30 in Kerala, which rose to three cases by February 3-all were students who had returned from Wuhan, China. But now when world’s most power nations are reeling under the worst effects of novel Coronavirus, some of the Indian states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telengana, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have reported the highest coronavirus infections.
With more than 340 deaths and 11,000 cases, Coronavirus has left the towns and cities paralysed that played important role in key growth sectors ranging from manufacturing, processing, construction, tourism and trade, and most importantly agriculture ahead of harvesting season. Migrant workers are worst hit. So are millions of private sector employees.
Dr Deepankar Sengupta, a professor of economics at Jammu University says lockdown has undoubtedly helped in slowing down the spread of the COVID -19 in India. Its impact on the economy, industry, manufacturing sector and also the supply chain, is enormous. There is an urgent need for a stimulus package to address these issues.
“Fortunately, the Prime Minister has spoken about permitting certain economic activities with strict regulatory mechanism but everything will depend on how the market and consumers respond to limited unlocking of the activities. Agriculture, for example, is a very crucial area. It is also harvest season. How the farmers are able to undertake their operations is going to be important, as also how they are facilitated to market their produce?” Dr Sengupta feels.
He also sees a huge effect of the lockdown on informal workers, labour class and those working in the small enterprises, who are left with no livelihood means as either been laid off or denied wages.
Dr Sengupta says he is using the lockdown period in reviewing PhD thesis, writing evaluations, doing some research work and of course, doing a few household chores.
Bhanupriya Verma, a radio presenter at AIR Shimla and student of psychology, believes that lockdown period, has been a good time to “reinvent and rediscover” oneself. Many people believed they didn’t have time for family, or do something productive at home. For me, it is a good period to meet myself, give sufficient time to parents, family and kids”.
Yet, of course, the lockdown has been bitter experience to those working away from their homes. They got struck-up, ran out of money, few lost work and jobs and others find ways to their subsistence under threat.
Farmers, for example, near our home at Vakhanghat (Solan) could not market their cash crops, off seasonal vegetables or sell milk because the transportation was snapped and cities were shut down.
“There is a need to reach-out these vulnerable sections. The government should work out a package for them and extend them financial help without any delay”, she suggests.
Prof. Sikander Kumar, Vice-Chancellor of Himachal Pradesh university, currently working on his research paper on the “effects of lockdown period on economy” says, “It is a fact that the Indian economy was not doing well. It will definitely bear the brunt of the 40-day lockdown. Yet, its exact impact will be known sometime later once the economic activities are unlocked. We do have strong chances of revival as fundamentals of our economy are very strong”. He teaches economics and is author of several books, and research papers.
“The way India has handled the coronavirus crisis shows India 's scientific knowledge and power of decision making”, says Prof. Kumar.
He also draws a comparison as how effectively India has dealt with COVID-19 spread when world’s most powerful nations like US, Italy, Germany, France and China have been hit so severely by the Coronavirus despite having best health systems and disease control measures. India has been immensely benefitted by observing social distance and staying inside during the lockdown, he claims.
During the lockdown, he has been attending the office, got online teaching sessions started through ZOOM app and other IT platforms and written revaluation reports of some PhD thesis.