PM Narendra Modi declared a three-week nationwide lockdown starting midnight last Tuesday, explaining that it was the only way of breaking the Covid-19 infection cycle. This essentially extended the lockdown from most states and Union Territories to the entire country and provided a more definite timeline.
"Social distancing is the only way to break the cycle of infection," he said.
All other lockdown conditions, such as the availability of essential commodities, remained the same, the Union Government had clarified. Modi had told people to stay inside their homes for 21 days, warning that if they didn't do so the country would be set back 21 years and families would suffer.
It was hence time to take stock and review the situation in a week's time.
India's lockdown: Review
After a reasonable amount of interaction across various sectors with different stakeholders, my observations are given below.
1. PMs call is being abided by most, the lockdown has been reasonably successful in most areas so far. It is getting stabilised. It takes time for any such action to stabilise.
2. I spoke to people working on International airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Guwahati, none of those I spoke know of any case where the airport staff working regularly, have been affected.
3. I spoke to the villagers in the countryside, fortunately, the awareness level is satisfactory. No cases so far reported. In fact, they said that activity in farms be allowed as they work with distance in any case. This will not only provide job to the agri labour/workforce but also prevent losses in harvest and prevent any supply breakdown in food grains, vegetables and milk supply.
4. I spoke to a few industry owners and workforce, they recommend that the factory owners be asked to arrange inhouse/ nearby accommodation and food and allowed to engage the workforce. They would ensure screening daily and ensure distance. This will prevent any breakdown in employment of workforce, prevent migration, prevent breakdown in supplies and loss to the economy besides preventing a long restart period in case the balance workforce also migrates to their native places.
5. I spoke to some essential supply contractors, they are afraid that in case the govt departments related to the essential supplies do not release pending payments, they wouldn't be able to pay to the labour/workmen which may lead to workforce migrating and disruption of essential services like water/electric supply and garbage collection/disposal, etc.
6. I spoke to a few very low income/daily wagers, few are getting food being distributed by Gurdwaras, NGOs, good Samaritan citizens etc, few, however, find some difficulty going out full family for both meals. At the same time there are reports of a few people collecting both rations and food from numerous sources and hoarding. This needs rationalization.
7. Few people expressed concern about certain people not abiding with the lockdown. Everyone wants it to be imposed and abided seriously. They recommended strong action against those violating instructions.
8. Spoke to a few average class people, they are concerned about likely shortages in capacity of healthcare system including doctors, protection gear and ventilators etc. Very few know about the PM having constituted 11 Quick Response Teams in Central Govt to deal with different issues to fight the Pandemic effectively.
9. Most places the administration and police are working very well, very few exceptions are there. So is the medical staff working well so far.
10. Most places have reasonably regular electric and water supply. Similarly, communication and internet facilities are working well.
11. The media staff is working on the ground in most places.
12. The absence of regular train, bus, metro and taxi service has influenced a few essential services but they are somehow managing. They understand the need and are adjusting.
13. Although the list of designated hospitals, duty doctors have been communicated in a few areas this along with quarantine facilities need to be disseminated. At the same time how to do self-check and get an ambulance to reach doctors/ designated hospitals needs to be disseminated.
14. I tried to create awareness to the degree possible in the time available. I tried to motivate everyone and conveyed that the Govt will do it's best. They must keep themselves abreast with Govt announcements and stay wherever they are.
15. As far as the economic and financial policy initiatives, stimulus and their impact is concerned, broadly these have been welcomed, however, their initial implementation would give an idea in a few days, hence those aspects would be better reviewed next week.
16. Overall the reaction towards the lockdown is reasonable. People are anxious about reopening after lockdown but are willing to observe lockdown as advised. Few poorest need to be supported in a planned way. The agricultural and select industry sector which can function within acceptable precautions need to be allowed to engage the workforce and prevent a break in supplies.
Disclaimer: This is a guest post by Major General Dilawar Singh (Retd.), former Director General NYKS at Ministry of Youth Sercices and sports. He was also Additional Director General of Rashtriya Rifles, has served six tenures in counter-terrorist areas, commanded two Counter-Terrorist Balallions and is the only officer to have received three citations therein. He holds unbroken records for academic and operational excellence as well as long-term planning for the Indian Army.