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Critical Juncture

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India is now at a very critical juncture because there is a limit to how much the severity of the lockdown can be maintained. A calibrated process has already begun on reactivating economic and commercial activities and will obviously continue according to the urgency of requirements. Be it maintaining the supply chain of the essential commodities, or helping farmers harvest their crops – from wheat to mountain fruit – activities will need to be expanded. Along with this, an entirely parallel process of gearing up the medical requirements for the coming days is also underway.

This is why a very careful eye is being kept on the spread of COVID-19 in various parts of the country. Some states, like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi are in dire straits, with every day critical to decision making. (The impact of the ‘single source’ can best be understood in this context.) Other states and numerous districts within them are in much better condition – some entirely corona free. So, when will the confidence build up to allow greater freedom of activity in these ‘green’ areas? Even a small mistake can prove hugely costly for the entire country. India is not like the US or the other developed countries where money can be thrown at failures of judgement to rectify the situation.

It can be seen that, with the situation evolving and greater awareness among state governments and the general population, a certain confidence is building up on the next measures to be taken. The pressure to ease the lockdown where it is not a panic situation will only increase. This phenomenon is already visible in the US, where people are out in the streets, quite irresponsibly even, demanding an end to the restraints.

Already, state governments – with the consent and cooperation of the Centre – have begun the important task of ‘rescuing’ citizens stranded in other parts of the country. If there is even a marginal decline in positive cases, generally, a phased shifting can be undertaken of migrant labourers who wish to go to their native places – the initial moves on which have been made by such as Yogi Adityanath and Uddhav Thackeray. At the same time, people will have to accept that the general lockdown will continue for some more time. The hardship for lower income groups dependent on small businesses and sectors most hard hit by the pandemic – such as tourism and hospitality – is not going to be over soon. While there is a glimmer of hope, the horizon still remains distant.