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Testing time for India, economy

Testing time for India, economy
Highlights

As expected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the total lockdown till May 3, saying the country's war against Covid-19 pandemic had not yet...

As expected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the total lockdown till May 3, saying the country's war against Covid-19 pandemic had not yet reached a decisive stage. However, the extension is effective till April 30 only as May 1 is a national holiday on account of May Day which falls on Friday. Then, the country will go into a weekend. However, the extension is not without reason. When India went into the total lockdown on March 25, the country had just a little over 560 confirmed cases. The PM's announcement on Tuesday on the extension came at a time when the country's Covid-19 cases crossed 10,000 mark.

That means corona cases jumped more than 18 times during the 21-day lockdown which ended on Tuesday. Compare that with the global count. The world, which had over 3.75 lakh cases 21 days ago, saw the count increase by just five times to 19.2 lakh cases now. Though India's current Covid-19 count, at 10,364, is small when the country's population of over 1.35 billion is taken into consideration, the rate at which the number is going up is much higher than the global average. Further, India lacks adequate, efficient healthcare infrastructure. Given the deadly nature of the novel coronavirus and the way it's spreading, India will be in safe zone as long as the country's poor doesn't fall prey to the Chinese-born virus which has already claimed over 1.2 lakh lives in more than 200 countries. If that happens, the country will land in a bigger, messier crisis than what developed countries like the US, the UK, Spain and Italy are going through now.

So, the prevention of the contagion is the only effective cure that India has at its disposal. But that can be achieved only through the total lockdown which enables people maintain social distancing, an imperative to keep the virus at bay. That way, it could be said that India chose an effective path for its fight against Covid-19. But the lockdown comes with a hefty price tag as it brings the economic activity to a standstill. Barring a handful of industrial units that produce essential products and companies that offer essential services, all other public sector and private units shut down operations. Rough estimates say that the economy has been losing close to Rs 40,000 crore a day on the account of the lockdown. On the count, the 21-day lock cost India a whopping Rs 8.4 lakh crore. The extended lockdown will double this economic pain.

However, PM Modi said during his televised speech that lockdown curbs would be eased in areas with lower or no incidence of Covid-19 after April 20 if no new hotspots cropped up. But that can only happen if the lockdown norms are implemented with an iron fist. Till now, some people are violating lockdown norms with impunity. That's a reason why cases are shooting up in many States. However, the country can't afford such a laxity anymore if it has to save precious human lives without causing more damage to the economy. So, it is a testing time for India, Indian people and the Indian economy.

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