With four hours’ notice, India’s prime minister announced that no one could leave home for 21 days — the most severe step taken anywhere in the war against the coronavirus.
They had no idea where to take me and they started treating me like an untouchable, she said, invoking the term used in the past for Indias lowest social strata. The person in charge was shouting at me all the time: Stand there! Do this! Do that!
Still, many experts agree that putting India on lockdown, however harshly, is the countrys only hope to contain the virus.
There is no option but to go for a complete lockdown, said Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda, a former senior army commander. With Indias population density and the state of public health infrastructure, we may not be able to handle a large-scale outbreak.
The lockdown includes schools, offices, factories, parks, temples, railways, even the airspace. Borders are being sealed between the states.
Economists said a prolonged lockdown could devastate India, where slowing growth rates have already wounded the economy.
In a recent column for The Hindu, Jean Drèze, a prominent Belgian-Indian economist, said almost everybody in Indias informal economy a huge share of the countrys work force has been hit by an economic tsunami.
As news of the lockdown spread, migrant workers stuck in cities rushed to book train tickets to their villages or risk being trapped indefinitely. With severe supply chain disruptions, farmers worried that the coming wheat harvest would fail to reach millions of Indians who depend on their crops for survival.
This situation is worse than war, said Arun Kumar, an economics professor at the Institute of Social Sciences in New Delhi. If we are not able to provide essentials to the bottom 50 percent of the population, then there will be social revolt.