COVID-19: Concerned over lockdowns impact on businesses, economic growth, says former Bajaj Auto chairman Rahul Bajaj

Former Bajaj Auto chairman and vetran industrialist Rahul Bajaj has expressed concerns over what a series of state-wide lockdowns to curb the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic might do to businesses and economic growth in the first quarter of the ongoing fiscal.

Bajaj, who had resigned from the post of non-executive Chairman of Bajaj Auto in April, in his last address to shareholders as the head of the company also lashed out at lockdowns saying that will destroy business, employment and the economy without necessarily controlling the spread of COVID-19.

In his address written on April 29 for the company's Annual Report for 2020-21, Bajaj had expressed concern whether India's GDP would witness positive growth in January-March 2021 in the wake of the second wave, to follow up on "a small but positive GDP growth of 0.4 per cent" in October-December 2020 period as the economy recovered from the lockdown imposed last year starting towards the end of March.

However, as per government data released in May, India's GDP grew by 1.6 per cent in the January-March 2021 period.

"More worryingly, I am concerned about Q1 FY2022 and what a series of state-wide lockdowns might do to businesses and economic growth," he wrote.

Written during the second wave of the pandemic, he hoped that the "rapidly accelerated vaccinations coupled with a strict enforcement of masks and social distancing would soon bring the second wave under control".

Bajaj further wrote, "Let us also hope that we do not react to the epidemic by declaring more lockdowns, as we did the last time. For these will destroy business, employment and the economy without necessarily controlling the spread of the disease." The veteran industrialist, who hung up his boots at Bajaj Auto after being its chairman for 49 years, said during the pandemic the company "has walked the extra mile to ensure health and safety for all employees".

Sharing the views of its former chairman, Bajaj Auto's management in its discussion and analysis on the annual report also contended that "nationwide lockdown; not even localised state-wide lockdowns" were the solutions to the pandemic.

"Today, there is enough evidence to show that these have not worked to limit the spread of the virus. Instead, such lockdowns create massive economic uncertainty; threaten the livelihood of daily workers and the poor; prompt needless urban-to-rural migration; and sharply accentuate fear in an already fearful milieu," the report said.

It further said, "That will be an unmitigated disaster. Let us not make that mistake yet again." Stating that the solution is a combination of strictly enforced safety - involving masks and basic social distancing - coupled with a rapidly accelerated vaccination programme, Bajaj Auto's management discussion and analysis said, "And, subject to basic safety and inoculation, work must continue. For that is what brings in the daily bread, feeds home and hearth and makes a nation grow."

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal