COVID 19 - LIFTING LOCKDOWN IN INDIA– A CALCULATED RISK THAT HAS TO BE TAKEN
The discussions were organised by Nandini Consultancy Centre (www.nandinichemical.com ), a firm of Chemical Engineers and Chemical Business Consultants based at Chennai and Singapore
The background of the team :
* Doctorate in chemical engineering with over five decades of experience
* Management professional - MBA from Indian Institute of Ahmedabad
* Former bank official with expertise in business / financial analysis
* Director of a leading trading house
* Industry professional with long experience in shop floor management
* Trustee of a non government organisation, serving the cause of deprived and downtrodden persons
The suggestions evolved after indepth discussions are given below.
SUGGESTIONS FROM TEAM OF EXPERTS
There is no point in discussing about the economic loss that is happening in India now due to the 21 day lockdown, which now appears to be beyond calculation. This view is applicable to all countries in the world, except perhaps, China, from where information flow is suspect and lacks credibility.
Present lockdown scenario in India :-
While lockdown has been on in India for the last several days, it should be clear that while lockdown is widespread, it is not total. In other words, one can say that India has been under partial lockdown. For example, there is no restriction in agricultural operations, harvesting and transportation/ procurement of the harvested products. Agriculture has good share in Indian GDP and employs very large number of labour force.
There is no restriction now on transportation of essential and non essential goods. There is no restriction on crude oil carriers docking at Indian ports and discharging the goods.
Grocery shops , vegetable market, medical shops are all allowed to operate for stipulated hours every day. News papers are distributed every day and milk is available without any issues for the consumers. Bank operations are continuing. Stock exchanges are in operation.
Several pharmaceutical units are operating though at reduced capacities.
For example, CEO of Serum Institute has said that the company is operating the Pune plant at 10% capacity and has kept the maintenance and basic facilities at the bare minimum.
The CEO of Godrej Consumer Products has said that the unit has been ramping up production of essential items, though at reduced capacity. The factories of Godrej Consumer Products are running at 20 to 25% production levels producing essential items. 50 to 60% of the depots of this company are open and 25 to 30% of distributors have the permission to operate.
Similar is the scenario in the case of several other pharmaceutical units and those producing what is termed as essential goods.
Under such circumstances, it should be kept in view that whatever growth of virus that has been taking place in India affect the lockdown period have been in such partial lockdown conditions and the virus spread in India has been much less compared to several other countries ; particularly considering India’s high population level and population density and the level of literacy.
Is it a calculated risk to further relax the lockdown?
While the central and state governments have been taking earnest steps to persuade or force people to remain at home and maintain social distance, this has not been entirely successful. All people are not observing the guidelines strictly, though most people do.
In a situation where one infected person can infect more than 400 people in 30 days , social distancing is a vital need.
As the government has already putforth maximum efforts with extensive media support to promote the concept of social distancing, the situation with regard to social distancing would not be better in future than what it is today .
There is genuine fear that further relaxation of the lockdown will lead to people taking the situation for granted and crowding themselves in streets and everywhere. This could be the possible immediate negative result of relaxation of lockdown, which would undo the gains achieved during the 21 day lockdown period.
Why relaxation necessary ?
The consequence of continuing the lockdown even at the present condition could be grave, as the self employed persons like vendors ,plumbers, auto drivers , small automobile workshops etc. as well as poor senior citizens, visually impaired / differently abled people who are millions in number all over the country , would be hit to intolerable level for day today survival. While the government has so far managed to buy peace with the people in distress conditions, by extending freebies and rupee transfer, this cannot be done to the same extent anymore as the government would run out of funds.
Further extending the lockdown period in the present manner may lead to protest and social unrest, particularly amongst the poorer section of the society.
Therefore, it is absolutely important that economic activity should be allowed to resume gradually even at slow rate , to give a feeling of hope to the people.
Phase down schedule in stages :
Government has to relax the lockdown gradually and carefully and this should be reviewed once in fifteen days to decide about further relaxation based on experience.
Suggestions for action between 15th April to 30th April
1. While the present status of partial lock down should be broadly maintained, the following further relaxation should be carried out
2. There are many companies in the field of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, food processing , electronic goods, research institutes, quality control labs etc. which are operating under strict safety parameters even in normal times and they should be allowed to resume operation irrespective of the number of employees. In such companies, observance of ecologically safe procedures is a pre condition for observing the specification of the end products and achieving results and therefore, they would be working in virus free conditions. Of course, management of these companies should be asked to give guarantee to the government that they operate at virus free conditions.
If any company would not be in a position to guarantee virus free condition, then it should not be allowed to operate.
3. All organisations / companies in private and public sector which have total manpower strength of 50 or less should be allowed to resume operations. Each employee should compulsorily wear a mask and the working space between the employees should be kept at minimum of three feet. The employers should be asked to give a guarantee to the government in writing that this stipulation would be strictly observed.
4. All organisations/ companies with employee strength of more than fifty should be allowed to operate, if those actually at the work spot would be less than fifty in number and others working from home to the extent possible.
5. For local transport, the vehicle owners, autorickshaws, taxis should be allowed to ply , carrying only maximum of three passengers at a time for the cars / taxis , maximum of two passengers for autorickshaws. Pillion riding in two wheelers should not be allowed.
6. For comparatively low paid workers , the companies should be asked to arrange transport for them or reimburse the transport expenses for taxis / autorickshaws, if the services of such low paid workers are indispensable.
7 .To start with , domestic flights should be permitted with each passenger being asked to produce a health certificate from a doctor. Number of passengers in each aircraft should also be restricted to maintain social distance.
Above steps have to be taken in the first stage of relaxation of lockdown from 15th April,2020 to 30th April,2020. (15 days)
While the above steps will not immediately result in any significant expansion of economic activities, they would be needed first step for initiation of lockdown relaxation in phases.
Strategies that need to continue during 15th April,to 30th April:
All places of worship ,should be barred from visitors
All places of entertainments such as cinema theatres, parks/amusement parks / etc. should be barred from operation.
All schools and colleges should continue to remain closed
All public meetings , demonstrations should be barred .
Existing 144 rule to prevent crowding of people should continue to be strictly enforced and the violators punished.
Stretegically important companies :
In Singapore , strategically important companies have been carefully identified and have been given exemption from general conditions of lockdown under strict supervision.
In India, there are many software companies who serve as “back office “ for many large multinational companies. In the event of the back office not functioning in India, the operation of several companies abroad could be severely disturbed. This condition poses the threat of Indian software companies losing the global market share. This aspect has to be carefully looked into.
The benefits :
With the existing relaxed lockdown continuing and the above suggestions for further relaxation being implemented, there will be semblance of economic activity which can be further enhanced gradually over a period based on the developing situation.
These suggestions need to be implemented to keep the morale of the people high ,which is an essential requirement for a stable and progressive society.
Difference in view of central and state governments :
With the political scenario in India being what it is, it is possible that some of the state governments run by opposition parties may defy Government of India’s directive. Country cannot afford a confrontation between central and state governments at this stage. Therefore, central government may ask the state governments to treat it’s suggestions as advisory in nature and proceed according to it’s decision.
Nandini Voice For The Deprived
taking every every situation in view . more
of virus in case the shutdown is not extended while number of patients
On Thu, 9 Apr 2020, 20:49 N.S. Venkataraman, <email@example.com>