Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Full Lockdown No More Justified

A war or a national calamity is always a Godsend for a PM and political party when the going is not so great. AB Vajpayee lost the confidence vote in April 1999 and was the caretaker PM. The elections in six-months (held in September-October 1999) could have gone many ways. Then Kargil happened in May and the victory over Pakistan dramatically improved ABV’s and BJP’s prospects and he was voted back as PM more convincingly. People forget all other issues when the country is faced with an enemy. Towards the fag end of the PM Modi’s first term, the economy wasn’t doing all that great and there were many other problems. And then Pulwama happened and the retaliation at Balakot in Pakistan. The Balakot bombing was like thumping our chest with pride and throughout the 2019 election campaign, Modi kept shouting “Un ko ghar pe ghoos ke maara”. That and other accomplishments gave another thumping majority to Modi and BJP.

The start to the second term of Modi was sober and, often, lackluster. Come August, 370 was junked and that gave ModiSarkar a boost. Although, junking 370 doesn’t make any difference to anyone individually, it does re-align JK with India and makes big political changes. A couple of months later, the CAA gave Hindu refugees (till 2014) from Afpak and Bangladesh the right to citizenship in India. This resulted in some bogus riots and protests ending in communal violence in Delhi. There wasn’t much cheer on the economy front for ModiSarkar but the visit of US President Donald Trump in February kept spirits going and some level of public revelry. The Delhi violence started after Trump left and the Shaheen Bagh blockade had shown Amit Shah and ModiSarkar as incompetent and inept.

In the face of all this comes the Corona epidemic which is declared a worldwide pandemic and another national crisis, another “War” as Modi called it to fight against. For a govt facing a minor economic crisis and multiple problems Corona was a Godsend. Though India was dealing with Corona from sometime in February, Modi himself got more serious about only in the first week of March or thereabouts:
Given that the Chinese Virus was new, suddenly posing a threat and little was known about it, the initial response to it is understandable. Nobody in the world was prepared for it and China and WHO misled everyone. ModiSarkar too was a bit slow in responding but that is reasonable under the circumstances. The first Corona death in India happened around March 13 and things got a bit more serious. But it wasn’t until March 20 that Modi addressed the nation and persuaded everyone to follow a “Janta Curfew” on Sunday, March 22. Though citizens diligently followed his advice, some panic had already set in and people had started hoarding some items from the market. Then, on March 23rd night, all flights were grounded. And on March 24, Modi made yet another national address announcing a 21-day complete national lockdown till April 14.

This first full lockdown was not very well thought out and seemed announced more in panic and fear. PM Modi kept advising everyone not to panic, not to fear but to take precautions but once again some migrants were running helter skelter in a few days, Muslims in ghettos and mosques didn’t want to follow the lockdown, and the state govts and police were also not fully geared to handle the sudden blockade. Everyone was “adjusting” slowly. But still, no harm done. But what did the govt learn in the 21 days of lockdown? Nobody knows. In some states, the Covid cases and deaths went up and in some states they went down. Then the explosion in cases because of Tablighis happened. And after the lockdown was further extended till May 3, some places had the same mass violations and more so in view of Ramzan:
This post will stick to the issue of lockdown and extension and deal with the mass defiance of lockdown by Muslims in another post as both the issues are separate. Modi likes drama, he likes the “shock and awe” method of doing things even when not everything is like demonetisation. The grounding of flights with many people stranded all over with a 24-hour notice was imprudent when a total lockdown was not called in yet. When the total lockdown was called for, that too was suddenly from midnight of the same evening of announcement without any thought to people still in transit or stuck at various places. The virus was not such a danger that everyone was immediately under a nuclear attack as Modi made out to be. It is almost two months since we have been seriously dealing with Corona – cases, treatments, deaths, medical supplies, violence against health workers, idiotic violations – all of it. Here is what the Covid stats looked like two days ago:
The cases are steadily growing and more so in specific parts in India. The figures in the image above are for April 27 morning. Since this keeps changing every minute, I would suggest you check the latest figures while or after you read this. As the number grows in India, the recovery rate also seems to be growing. Though the number of deaths is also growing, and unfortunately so, it is still around the 3% plus mark against the total cases. However, if you view it against the total Indian population, the number of deaths would appear to be almost negligible. Therefore, extremes like draw a “Lakshman Rekha” and “Don’t go out” and “Don’t let anyone in” are not called for anymore and that level of fearmongering can be clearly avoided. There are regions in India that are less affected and some cities are more affected by Covid. No particular state is that widely affected (except maybe Maharashtra) so as to warrant a 100% lockdown. There are certain districts and cities that are “Red hotspots” and among the top cities affected the most are:

Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Indore, Pune, Jaipur, Thane, Chennai, Hyderabad and Agra. Of course, Kolkata is also affected but is missing from the list as it seems real numbers are not coming out from Bengal.

Even in some of these cities, it is clear that “some specific” suburbs and ghettos are badly affected and not the whole city as such. If Jaipur has Ramganj, Ahmedabad has its Eastern part only, Mumbai has Dharavi, Govandi and such places. All of these Red zones have some intimacy with Tablighi Jamaat whose members have been floating around the country. Lives of millions are now damaged. Most of these millions are daily wagers who are left in the lurch with no work and no wages. Although govt claims doles being made, that would hardly be a solution for an extended lockdown.

The initial lockdown may be justified and everyone needs to support the govt and the PM without any reservation. But now we are about to near the end of the second lockdown and there is no justification by numbers or the nature of the enemy for so much fear to exist and for people to be jailed in their homes. As many doctors are pointing out, the simple rule of a quarantine is – to quarantine the sick people, not to jail the healthy people. Many doctors also claim that the more people are locked, the more they are likely it is to weaken their immune system. The stats on international standing on the Corona impact also shows India has been safer and luckier than many of the Western countries:
In the video conference with CMs on April 27, Modi wanted to know if there should be further extension of lockdowns or if they have had enough. A few CMs wanted an extension, some wanted a dole-package and others had no clue as usual. Finally, it does dawn upon Modi, that any further extension of this lockdown can seriously harm the economy and livelihood of people. Currently, polls show he has the approval of 93% people in the manner he has handled the Corona challenge. This may dwindle quickly if reparations aren’t undertaken quickly. The statistics in India do not suggest that a national lockdown or a full-fledged extension is justified in any manner whatsoever.

PM Modi now wants Indians to woo firms that exit China – I wonder if that advice is for the corporate sector or for the govt Babus to target such firms. So far, companies exiting China have shown greater preference for Vietnam and Taiwan. There is nothing – no lure, no incentive and no motivation for any company to move to India. Japan has announced a $2 bn incentive for their companies to return to Japan. Commie policies of ModiSarkar have ensured that India is again an unattractive place for investments. FDI is not in great shape and nor is the manufacturing sector. “Make in India” slogan is all but dead. This is the reality that Modi must wake up to. When shops and businesses come out of lockdown it will take them anywhere between 1 to 3 months to return to full strength and productive work. Most shops that have been closed and have perishable goods will have to throw it all away and clean up. Malls may have to be fumigated as they are favourites for rats and other pests. Even postal services, rail services and air services will take a few weeks to return to normal. So, it is not just recovering from the lockdown but return to “normalcy” that will already cost another month or more. Therefore, no further total lockdowns are justified.

Life after Covid will be very different for a long time. There will be a new normal. People must walk around in masks, protect themselves, Public transport must be frequently disinfected. Gloves must be frequently change, they are not permanent all-day protectors. Public places and hospitals will have to be sanitized every single day. Schools have to find new ways of seating children. Sporting events will have to wait at least another year before stadiums can be filled again. Doctors, nurses, health workers, security forces must be given special medical check-ups so that they return to full healthy service. How people will be accommodated in trains and planes is another challenge for the transport system as “Social distancing” will now be a long-term exercise. All these are challenges and people and govts must face them under the new normal without any more lockdowns.

Life cannot come to a standstill. Even otherwise, every time a person goes out, there are attendant risks – known and unknown. Covid is now at least a known risk. People will be mature enough to deal with it and govts too should mature. The Lockdown must be restricted only to the “Red hotspots” and a majority of India must slowly return to normalcy.

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  1. You are so right Raviji. People have understood how they need to take care of themselves by maintaining hygiene practices and observing physical (social) distancing. With fear of Corona now lockdown should be opened phasewise. Also we must understand that those who are not showing any sign of disease - even if some people come in accidental contacts - a very small percentage of new outbreak may happen from asymptomatic such cases. Cities which do not show any signs of Corona should start functioning normally (definitely with physical distancing, hygiene and if needed masks - though I am not a votary of 100% mask).

  2. Jaan hai to jahaan hai.Just because the numbers are significantly lower as compared to worldwide trends doesn't warrant leniency in the public movement of a nation of 1.4 billion.Agree that lockdown cannot be infinite but only after more data of patterns+infected areas and people should it be eased- And going by cases coming out now lockdown can be extended for up to a week more.
    Also the mortality rate needs to be looked upon over total outcome: Upto 27th april 825/6840= ~12.5%.

    1. Jan Hain to Jahan Hain is a bullcrap slogan cooked up by him, that he does in his speeches. Without livelihood there is no life.

      How many farmers kill themselves every year? Is that because of illness or economic distress? How many will do so this year?

  3. The biggest problem is the typical cluelessness as well as cowardliness of the Indian middleclass. The people who have a few months of savings and a decent home are trending #extendlockdown on Twitter and I wonder if Modi considers this to be the voice of the nation.

    Chinese media houses has successfully managed to stall our economy without war through their propaganda and fearmongering.

  4. As you write this blog,many states have opened up partially,especially the areas coming under Green Zone.Modi arbitrarily cannot decide whether the lockdown is to be continued or not nationwide.Ultimately its the states to decide depending on the ground situation combating the spread visa vis dwindling economy.People are going to come out despite lockdown & engage in essential daily activities. Let's hope Herd Immunity will soon develop.I think Modi has done well in holding the fight against the Pandemic although his initial response was slow.

  5. You missed out negligence of Telanagana Home minister to report Tablighi covid case occured at కరీంనగర్,if this would have been enquired properly Tablighi covid spread might have averted,,problem in our intelligence is fully exposed both internal and external,,don't know how many entered in to Kashmir silently and why can't move rohingyas using this situation as opportunity,,,lot of questions on home affairs

  6. Lockdown has to go now if India has to survive economically. No doubt, lockdown has worsened the economy of India and any extension will ruin it irreparably.

  7. Raviji, you have been very consistent in positive criticism of the PM and his functioning with some very prominent cabinet morons who should have never found a place in the team. It seems the PM has reached a level of narcissism that closes his eyes and ears to the harsh realities and difficulties facing India. He needs to clean up his own cabinet, tighten law and order, get rid of the corrupt family, the "jamatis" and all "babus". This should have started from the very beginning of his second term. But alas, the awards from the mulla nations and his hidden desire at world leadership (and maybe the Nobel) has left him disoriented. The tanking economy will be his biggest challenge yet as well as protecting the Hindus, Hindutva and Bharat from the enemies within and without, e.g. #presstitutes, #chrislamofascists and his cabinet NPAs like the "lump of maida".... Thank you for your analysis. As always, hats off to you.

  8. I have been an old reader of your blog. I love the way you criticize this gasbag PM and his clown cabinet. I voted for him and perhaps would do that again but not with any hope or enthusiasm. He gets support from one set of people and uses that power to serve another set of people - typical RSS-BJP delusion. Their Twitter ecosystem is perpetually in opposition mode and that includes their ministers. The fall of Amit Shah has been spectacular! In fact I would love to read your thoughts on that - what can possibly explain the recent failures of Shah and simultaneous rise of Yogi.

  9. he has gone old, he should retire gracefully and hand it over to Yogi midterm...

    the fact that when 100 cases was there, when relatively safe to move migrants, they didn't instead, they reduced them to beggers

    and now, when 40k cases are there, when economy needs them, they are moving them back..

    this is the genius of modi -- modi and shah have good heart for nation.. and that's it, beyond that this entire cabinet is worthless piece of low performers..

    we are stuck with choice between the dubmbest low performers v/s the corrupt antinationals!


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