1.3 billion Indians reiterated their firm resolve to fight the coronavirus. On the call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the country observed “Janata Curfew” (people’s curfew) on Sunday. People including politicians, sportspersons, film stars and celebrities came out on to their balconies, roofs and stood before open windows to clap, ring bells and utensils to show their respect and appreciation for the people who are in the front-line tackling the virus like doctors, nurses, para-medics, police, delivery personnel and people involved with maintaining hygiene.
The Prime Minister had addressed the nation on Thursday and called upon the people to observe voluntary abstinence from going out from 7 AM to 9 PM on Sunday, 22nd March. The entire country participated in the noble cause. Essential services remained open. However, many states and union territories have declared a complete lockdown till 31st March for maintain public health. This is absolutely necessary to keep the coronavirus from taking to the third stage i.e., community spreading. He urged the people to stay at home and go out only in case of an emergency.
Prime Minister Modi has emphasised the need to remain vigilant. He said citizens need to “be prepared and not panic”. He also called on the people to maintain hygiene, and stressed upon social distancing. Mr. Modi in his address to the nation had called for concerted efforts to fight the pandemic. He said that no country in the world would remain untouched by the Covid 19. A high level economic task force headed by the Finance Minister has been set up to address the issues of Indian business, industry and the small entrepreneurs.
Rail and road transport have been curtailed during the ‘lockdown’ and would be available only for personnel involved with providing essential services. Grocery stores, medical shops, fuel stations, banks, hospitals and emergency services like police and fire services would be functioning normally. Prime Minister Modi in a tweet has appealed to the citizens to cooperate with the authorities for ensuring the ‘lockdown’. The Prime Minister has said that this absolutely essential for ensuring own personal safety and the health of our near and dear ones.
In India, as per latest reports, the total number of people who have tested positive for Covid 19 is 400 plus. Twenty five persons have been discharged after having recovered from the disease. 8 people have lost their lives. Hospitals have prepared isolation wards to cater to Covid 19 positive patients. More than a million passengers who have arrived in India have been screened for the virus to prevent its spread. India has already suspended all visas expect for work and diplomatic till April 15th. International flight operations have been cancelled till 29th March. These measures are intended to keep the disease from spreading into the country.
India would need to take several measures to counter the harsh impact being encountered by the real sectors of the economy. This ranges from an immediate cut in policy rates with coordination from the apex bank, the monetary authority to regulatory forbearance for sectors in the vanguard of disruption, government guarantee for loans to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), deferment of taxes and livelihood security for unorganized workers who get laid off because of lack of orders for their units.
India has taken several preventive steps, like social distancing which has led to a temporary shutdown of various small and medium units. Apex business chambers like the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry has called for a medley of monetary, fiscal and financial market interventions to help industry and trade tide over the trouble, while the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Chief Vikram Kirloskar said India Inc. might require at least three to six months to get back to normal operations and business continuity after the entire course of the Covid-19 is over.
Script: Kaushik Roy, AIR: News Analyst