This post has been written by Drishti Mehra, a student pursuing a B.A, LL.B. from Amity Law School, Noida.
With a population of 1.33 billion people in India, imposing a lockdown is the big step for any government. In a situation like COVID-19 where the whole world is suffering from its awful spread, it was necessary to take a step like this to further restrict the spread of this virus, but implementing lockdown without any pre-planning in a country like this where a huge amount of population resides, it would affect the resources, money, and lives of the people.
Looking at the scenario in India, the lockdown has failed miserably and there is no better way of saying it. Being fair to the government, at first when the lockdown began on 23rd march 2020, it was supported by the majority of the people. While noting its preparation, communication and timing left much to be desired. It was a hard decision which was taken further delay would have caused much trouble than we are facing today. The current peaks of COVID-19 cases every day is a clear sign of lack of planning and implementation of lockdown not correctly. Fighting towards this problem has not only affected the people financially but emotionally too. Due to mismanagement of government, all the sectors have faced the implications.
What was the main objective of any country at this time, to break the chain of the COVID-19 cases and provide the best possible medical facility available there in the country? On the evening of May 14, India officially overtook China in a number of infections, and the first case reported in Wuhan, China was on November 17, 2019, while India had its first case on 30th January 2020. In a populated country like India, the number of tests conducted so far in 106 days is 20 lakhs only. Today’s doubling rate stands at 13 days and India is amongst 15 top countries with most COVID-19 cases. The arrangement in quarantine centers was not appropriate as many videos with unknown sources were uploaded on the internet showing the conditions of the centers. Also, the number of availability of beds in hospitals are very less and patients are declined to be admitted in the hospital, only the critical patients are being admitted. Though the first case in India was reported in January and no strict measures or the seriousness of the situation was understood by the government. The Modi government relied on lockdown only and considered it the only remedy.
Emerging from two months under one of the world’s most stringent COVID-19 lockdown, India faced a double dilemma. The stay at home rules indeed bend the virus growth curve and many people were not in contact with the virus but it’s a population of 3.2 billion people and even before the pandemic, the GDP of India was spluttering, the projected rate of growth was 4.6% and who understands the economic reality would know that the budget for the year 2020-21 was 30.42 lakh crores and on an average per day Rs. 30,000 crores were spent and in 55 days 16.50 lakh crores were spent though all mercantile activity remain standstill. Nirmala Sitharaman, the finance minister of the country announced the 20 lakh crores package for this pandemic situation which felt like a ‘loan mela’ which people didn’t know how it would be financed. PM care fund was also generated by PM Narendra Modi in which many businessmen, actors, and renowned personalities donated to overcome the situation of this pandemic but there was no public authority under section 2(h) of RTI act. Nobody knows where that money has been used as the government claims they are out of economic help and the need was felt to introduce unlock 1 effective from June 8th, 2020. According to the current situation, India’s cases are at its peak, and unlocking the country at this point in time is like giving a free way to COVID-19 in the country where states like Maharashtra, Gujrat, and Delhi are suffering the most from the virus. In this time where cash should be handed out to the general public, the government is giving loans and making them liable to repay or bound them with legal consequences as clearly seen the liquidity package betrays the basic economic understanding.
As an eminent writer in his essay, the Migrant very eloquently put it: “They are not fleeing the pandemic; they’re fleeing us. They took one long, clear, searing look at us – identified us as the industrial-strength ingratiates that we are – and they packed their bags and left. It wasn’t the bug, it wasn’t being denied wages, it wasn’t heated, it wasn’t filth, it wasn’t even the slumlord’s overnight eviction. They just realized who we were – people who saw other humans as essentially a replaceable means to an end – and they decided to replace us.”
The saddest situation was how migrant’s social contract with the government has been ripped to shreds. In the past 55 days, migrants have seen their worst fear come true; they have seen the days where they were not afraid of COVID-19 but of hunger. They had no work here and were desperate to go back to their hometown but there was no facility available to them and then the situation got out of hands when the migrant workers gathered at Anand Vihar bus terminal in Delhi. Where was the government in the first 50 days when they were back on the streets again and no special arrangement for food and income was made? Why did the decision to start the Shramik trains delayed and taken when it was actually riskier? There are no answers to these questions because there was no planning of how to conduct the lockdown. The labor laws which were made to protect the rights of the labor were suspended by the government during this pandemic and this is a complete breach of their right to have a livelihood i.e. article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Lockdown in India is a massive failure and there is no confusion about it, the steps were taken by the government resulted in economic, social, and medical drainage of the society. The government focused more on political stunts rather than actually helping the needy. The package of 20 lakhs crores introduced by the finance minister was the biggest disappointment for the country at this time. Unlocking the country at this point of time when the number of cases is rising every day and the doubling rate has increased undoubtedly and proper testing was conducted and there were no enough testing kits available for the people. Whereas other countries are together in this situation but here politics is given more importance. India did not require a lockdown; it required the containment strategy. The number of infections would have been more but given that our fatalities have been less, people would have managed.