Over two months in to the lockdown, we begin our countdown not towards another lockdown, but a gradual opening up. In a week from now, the country will know whether it is right on course towards opening cup, having minimized the number of cases and resulting deaths and of course the avoidable crisis of moving workers back to their home states.
According to data posted by Dr. Shamika Ravi, we can conclude the following about India:
- We are still some time away from declaring if we have peaked in terms of total number of cases
- Our doubling rate of total confirmed cases is now 16 days and growth in active cases stands close to 2%
- The bunching of cases is a sign of peaking and we seem to have Russia for company
- Another heartening sign is the lower death rate and one that is considerably slowed; Recovery rates have improved significantly and stands somewhere in the range of 44 – 45 %
- Many states who have now received incoming workers from other states, are observing a second wave and consequently a steady rise in number of active cases
- Maharashtra is leading the pack with significant number of new new cases
The Hon’ble Prime Minister has written a letter of gratitude to the people of India thanking them for the trust placed in him and his government and voting them back to serve. Being a peoples’ man, on a normal day he would have had meetings organized across the country and would have jetted off to meet people if not for th pandemic. A letter or chitti still evokes a personal touch and hence the format. A significant word used early on is ‘active cooperation’; no other PM has been able to get people to respond to various initiatives or collective voluntary action the way the Hon’ble Prime Minister has been able to. Schemes like giving up of a gas cylinder subsidy, rail subsidy or maintaining a clean surrounding are examples of mass movement and active cooperation. The letter even touches upon the vaccination program being undertaken for better preventive health of our livestock. All contemporary issues surrounding the pandemic and suffering of people have been touched upon in good measure. All relief measures for sections of society too have been called out. One area, which we hope will get the desired attention is Police reforms. The law enforcers probably have the most difficult job in the world and to police in a country of our size and population requires more feet on the ground and a lot of creativity rising from the use of technology. Freeing them up from political clutches and making them truly independent can only be a dream but gradually easing them out of petty corruption is definitely achievable. The multiplier effect of such an action will be truly remarkable and will touch every citizen.
The chatter on many whatsapp groups are mainly around household helps – cooks and maids to be precise. Household helps too seem frustrated at not being able to return to work and earn their full salaries. People with continued income are able to set aside atleast a partial sum of money to be paid as salaries to household helps despite the absence triggered by the pandemic. Newspapers too should find their way back in to households so that companies can start spending on advertisements and gradually put many back in to employment. Another sector that should open up gradually is public transport in the form of auto rickshaws and taxis. Many vehicle owners and drivers have headed back to their home towns in the absence of any guidance regarding resumption of services. People in large cities tend to struggle without such public transport.
Workplaces have started discussing return to work guidelines in consultation with local authorities. Many states have issued guidelines to kickstart their local economies in order to increase revenue from taxes. Though the centre, via the Atmanirbhar Bharat announcement has allowed states to borrow an additional 2%, that comes with a number of riders that are focused on bettering the basic infrastructure like electricity reforms and signing up for trans state schemes like one country one ration card. This is truly federalism with responsibility.
It is a great opportunity to move our examination systems out of the 3 hour writing menace to one that involves multiple choice questions. Availability of testing centers and online tools can be a great facilitator.
Rice was once again the go-to staple this week. A few tiffin varieties crept in to the schedule and were welcomed with open arms.
Few interesting tiffins along the way, given that on certain days lunch preparations consisted of gravies like drumstick sambhar.
The word lockdown should be put out of use. People, thoughts, work, action can never be locked down. All, while exercising caution. From next week, we take a look at how the country is planning to open up over the next few months.
Time for some positivity!