Rajiv Bajaj, the MD of Bajaj auto believes that the lockdown will make India weaker rather than stronger in combating the epidemic.
In a piece he wrote for The Economic Times, Bajaj feels that India “should have only kept the vulnerable at home, closed all public spaces, an allowed the young and healthy to keep turning wheels of the economy – with due precautions with respect to hygiene, masks, distancing, etc.”
“I don’t buy the condescending argument that all Indians are a bunch of illiterate, ignorant, indisciplined morons who need cattle-like shepherding,” Bajaj wrote.
Countries like the United States and the United Kingdom have employed Bajaj’s model. Work from home is optional, people maintain social distancing (which they always did in public spaces). Yet, there has been a spread of the virus, and the COVID-19 pandemic in New York and London is example of what happens if a strict lockdown is not implemented.
In an alternate universe, Bajaj’s piece may make sense, but two incidents have proved that Indians can be anything but disciplined.
First is when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Janta Curfew. During that time, the prime minister requested people to stand at their balconies and clap for the doctors and nurses who have worked tirelessly to treat the COVID-19 patients. Instead of adhering to the request, people came out of their home, burst firecrackers made a ruckus for nearly 45 minutes.
The second incident is the 9 Baje 9 Minute event where people came out of their societies to light diyas; some burst fireworks, while others started fires. A BJP MLA from Telangana – Tiger Raja Singh –brandished a flame torch as if he was going to battle the Night King from Game of Thrones, as his supporters gathered in large numbers to yell, “China virus go.”
The third incident include a multitude of religious gatherings starting with the Tablighi Jamaat gathering at Nizamuddin. There are other gatherings: the one at Ajmer, the Telangana MLAs celebrating Ram Navami, and the gathering at Rajasthan a day after Ram Navami, as well as temple gatherings on Hanuman Jayanti.
As Mr Bajaj should realise, religious zeal will always overtake whatever guidelines are issued to lockdown a nation, irrespective of whether it is a fight against a virus for which there is no vaccine or whether it is a war between two nations.
Let’s say Bajaj’s idea is implemented: there will be a massive influx of daily wage workers for starters, secondly, public transport will be back to normal. If you live in Mumbai or New Delhi, you probably understand this better than anyone that this means it will be crazy. Finally, it would have lost the purpose of the 21-day lockdown that has been implemented.
Another thing Bajaj has missed out is the lockdown has mainly been implemented because of the lack of testing available in India. Lockdown or self-quarantine means that you can stay at home and only step out for essentials. True, it hurts the economy, but what will India do, if the number of COVID-19 positive people suddenly spikes because of Bajaj’s suggestion?
Finally, in his article, Bajaj talks about the Ayush ministry in detail, stressing in the need to consider alternative medicine and homeopathy to treat coronavirus. While his argument comes from the fact that he is a follower of homeopathic medicine, there is no scientific proof to prove that these can cure coronavirus.
Currently, scientists are still struggling to find a vaccine, and by the looks of it, it’s still going to be some time before a solution is delivered.