At the onset
The announcement of a national lockdown for 21 days was not easy. If anything, it asks for tremendous restraint from the whole of India in a bid to restrict the dangerous proliferation of SARS-CoV-2 that has brought the entire world to its knees. The infection hit 4,00,000 people on Wednesday as India recorded 500-plus active cases with 11 deaths. In a desperate attempt to flatten the curve of Covid-19 infection, the Central government took the drastic step to put the entire nation under lockdown even as near-lockdown of the country was already being observed from March 22 to March 31. The afternoon announcement by the finance minister of ample time to file tax returns was only a premise for the prime minister's crucial alert that came later in the evening. As the prime minister pleaded to the entire nation with folded hands, it became quite clear what the nation faces and how drastic the consequences of non-compliance can be. With Home Ministry issuing guidelines for the 21-day lockdown to be observed effective from midnight of March 25, the objective by and far became clear: Arrest the spread of Coronavirus or suffer the devastating consequences. Prime Minister's speech had several crucial facts that the entire Indian population got to hear directly from the prime executive. Foremost was the fact that the virus had spread like wildfire. As the PM pleaded, he let out of one crucial realisation that ours is not a very strong healthcare system when compared to countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom or Italy. His comparison and acceptance pointed out how the spread of Covid-19 could push India back by 21 years and in all likelihood, that was an arbitrary and understated figure. Unlike the past outbreaks in recent history such as Swine Flu in 2009-10, Coronavirus has incapacitated most of the advanced nations. While China has not reported any new cases, the Western world is haunted by the virus they imported from China with Italy's death toll surpassing China's to become the highest nearing 7,000. Even Spain is on a devastating path with more than 2,200 deaths. Coming back to India, the 21-day national lockdown is to ensure that the virus does not spread any more than it already has. With Day 1 of society's quarantine, cases rose and in all likelihood, they will rise. But the attempt is to curtail the spread in a way that damage is minimum and the humongous population survives as infected ones are treated and towns, cities sanitised.
What has been more worrying is the plight of daily labourers and homeless people. More than those privileged enough to read this editorial are those who barely manage to have three meals a day. The Central government and state governments must devise measures to reach out to them and supply ration because under such a lockdown, if not from Covid-19 then from other reasons, the death toll will rise. Further, the financial aid for healthcare announced by PM Modi of Rs 15 crore has been a subject of debate for many social spheres. Politicos and civil societies amidst others have argued that the package is too less for a country like India. If one divides the package by the population figure, not more than Rs 120-130 comes out for each Indian. No impetus is served to the inadequate health infrastructure by such a meagre figure and hence the government will have to enhance this figure in the near future. As essential services ply and supply lines of necessary goods are strengthened, it must be kept in mind that there is no necessity that at the end of the 21-day lockdown, things will be back to normal. Given the state that the world is in, the current national lockdown is just the beginning. But even so, it is the beginning to a definitive end that can only be reached by a unanimous struggle as a country.