India is solidly behind Prime Minister Modi’s decision for a further twenty-one day lockdown. Since he omitted specifically mentioning that shops of essential items would remain open, there was panicked ‘last minute’ buying in some cities. This wrong perception was soon corrected, as it was in Uttarakhand by the Chief Minister, who immediately released a video message in this regard. The battle has now been fully joined against the corona virus and it is the nation’s responsibility to stay the course.
Underlying the PM’s message is the fact that, unlike the developed countries, India’s resources are presently limited, making it more imperative that the spread of the disease is checked at this stage, itself. Allowing it to advance further is not an option. This is why, although the duration and severity of the lockdown may seem harsh, the alternative is infinitely worse. The encouraging fact is that, owing to India’s early counter-measures, which were gradually upgraded as feedback and more information became available, seem to have succeeded in containing the spread thus far. Even the present situation could have possibly been averted had greater responsibility been shown by individuals who dodged quarantine or did not self-isolate.
Another piece of good news is the development of approved test kits within India, which means their availability can be increased manifold. One of the shortcomings in the measures taken thus far was the shortage of these kits. As such, they had to be used at a very critical point in the process. However, should more become available, increased general testing would become possible, thereby nipping the virus in the bud, as it were. The unavailability of the necessary number of ventilators also poses a big question mark, particularly if there is a jump in the number of cases as has been the case in other countries. In the US, for instance, Ford Motor Company has promised to manufacture a very large number by May. Perhaps, large automobile companies in India could replicate the effort?
The entire experience is undoubtedly going to reshape the global and national economies. There is bound to be increased emphasis on local manufacturing, as also a greater appreciation of much that people had begun to take for granted in their lives. Eventually, of course, a nation can only be what it has the capacity to be. The Indian people must show they are able not only to weather the storm, but exhibit the better ability open societies have in overcoming crises.