Lockdown & livelihood

As cases surge, administrators struggle for right mix

Lockdown & livelihood

Acomplete lockdown was enforced at the onset of the pandemic, and a near-total unlocking was allowed when coronavirus-positive cases witnessed an exponential daily surge. Those in charge reason that the lockdown prevented an unmanageable initial spike, provided time to prepare for the worst and conditioned the population for what was in store. The first point is well taken, the second is debatable, and the third problematic. The country was schooled to maintain social distance and wear a mask, but what got skipped was the chapter on livelihood in the times of Covid-19. There was no mention that the ‘new normal’ would mean businesses shutting, shops bereft of customers, huge job losses and salary cuts. With mere survival at stake for millions, public health concerns had to take a backseat, and have.

Restrictions notwithstanding, crowding and mingling are fast touching routine levels, precautions are being given the go-by. In such a scenario, should re-imposing a lockdown and confining people to their homes once again be the way forward? Looks like an unaffordable option, though a handful of cities are going ahead with the tough decision. Guwahati is one, while Gurugram studied the Dharavi model of Covid management, with a limited lockdown in containment zones. A three-day window to allow people and industrial units to put things in order was proposed. Not an unreasonable one considering how, looking back, a timeframe to return home and manage affairs could have prevented the chaos and misery that Lockdown 1.0 induced.

Gurugram, by the way, is also planning to open its much-touted malls — a curious combine of lockdown and livelihood. Such is the paradox confronting the decision-makers. For the janata, the day starts and ends with an endless flurry of pronouncements on travel curbs, tests and quarantine policies. Instead of reposing public trust in the capacity and capability of the state in ensuring well-being, these manage just the reverse. Clarity of purpose even at this late stage could be a life-saver.

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