Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy is of the view that India cannot afford to impose a nationwide lockdown for too long as it would lead to dire economic consequences. Murthy suggested that the country must embrace the current novel coronavirus situation as the new normal and begin resuming work from offices in a gradual manner.
Warning of irrevocable economic implications, he said that the lockdown to battle COVID-19 could result in the much more number of deaths due to hunger than from the fatal disease itself. To support his argument, Murthy cited India's mortality rate due to the novel coronavirus which is around 0.5 percent, much less than that of the developed and powerful nations.
"It is important for us to understand that India cannot continue in this lockdown situation for too long because at some point deaths due to hunger will far outweigh deaths due to coronavirus," said Murthy.
Murthy wary of coronavirus lockdown
Addressing a virtual audience of entrepreneurs and industry executives at an event organized by Economic Times, Murthy downplayed the COVID-19 threat stating that India witnesses more than 9 million deaths each year due to varied reasons. "Annually, over 9 million Indians die naturally, so when you compare it with the 1,000 deaths due to the coronavirus in the past two months, obviously it is not as much of a panic as we make it to be," he said.
Stressing that the lockdown cannot continue for long, Murthy further said that a significant number of Indians who are in the unorganized sector or are self-employed will run out of work if restrictions are not lifted at the right time.
He opined that companies should start mulling the reopening of offices. "In a complex situation like this, workplaces could operate in fewer numbers to improve social distancing. They could let the less vulnerable work from offices with protective gear and allow elderly people like me to work from home," said Murthy.
India will need to work 60 hours per week
The Infosys founder highlighted that in order to revive the dwindling economy of the country, Indians will have to work double hard. "We should vow to work ten hours a day, six days a week, for the next 2-3 years so that the growth of the economy is fast-tracked," said Murthy.
He also recommended that the Centre should appoint a committee to work on increasing the ease of doing business in the country.
Here are a few points that Murthy raised while interacting with ET:
- The extension of the nationwide lockdown will render a major chunk of the population jobless. This could cause more deaths than COVD-19.
- Big establishments should put in place a plan to recall employees to work from the office. They should facilitate the return-to-work of the young and those with stronger-immune systems while following all the protective measures recommended by the health experts.
- India has a comparatively low mortality rate which gives us an edge in resuming operations and saving the economy.
- There is a need to increase overall output and as Indians are not the most disciplined bunch, the option of work-from-home won't be very effective unless clear productivity standards are set.
- As most of the businesses have lost 15-20% of their revenues, the Central Government's tax and GST collections are certain to take a beating.
- Small companies and startups should be provided with financial aid so that they could remain operational until the overall situation improves.