Lockdown! A word most of us were unaware of before Covid-19 or as former US president Donald trump would say, China virus, hit us. Lockdown is something which most of the world imported from communist China. China earlier that year, ie. 2020, had imposed a severe lockdown and controlled the spread of the virus, or at least so they claimed.
Today with the rise in Covid-19 cases, the new variant called Omicron, talks bordering threats by various government officials are growing.
Initially, when we in India were told about lockdown, most Indians supported it. But, the picture became much more clear as the days and months went by. Now, it could be argued that India would have been in a far better situation without a lockdown.
During the first lockdown, the Indian economy suffered a great deal. Economy shrunk by over 20% in the first financial quarter of the year 2020-21. This loss was almost entirely due to the lockdown. This economic impact resulted in many families in India being thrown back into poverty. Apart from that about a thousand migrant workers lost their lives, because they walked back to their villages in UP and Bihar primarily. So the first lockdown claimed a huge number of lives as well as harmed the economy.
Now, when you talk about economic loss due to the lockdown, you need to look at it holistically. When a family gets pushed back into poverty, their living standards fall. This increases the probability of getting sick due to unhygienic water and food. Which in turn makes these families more vulnerable to diseases. So the whole reason why we impose lockdown, ie, to protect the vulnerable, we endanger them the most.
So who is the target audience of Lockdown? Well, as the famous epidemiologist, Jay Bhattacharya from Great barrington declaration ( https://gbdeclaration.org/
) said, it is the laptop class which gets protected. It is people like me who are writing this and most people who will read this, they get protected. Because even in the severe most lockdowns we keep the ‘essential services’ open. (Essential services/ Essential worker always reminds me of that scene from Schindler’s list where all the jews in the Warsaw ghetto get in line. After which the Nazi doctors and officials determine who is the ‘essential worker’ and who could be sent to concentration camps to be liquidated.) Almost all the essential service workers belong to the poorer sections of the society. Which is why it doesn't surprise us when a Sero survey in Mumbai’s slums found out that back in July 2020, as much as 56% of the population in the slums were Seropositive, while only 22% population in highrise buildings was seropositive. We let the poor people who could not afford healthcare to work for us, live in confined spaces and be exposed to the virus.
Meanwhile, laptop class was patting their own back for their enormous sacrifice of staying home during lockdown.
Now, let's come to the population that is not poor. According to Anurag Katariar, Ex president and current trustee of NRAI (National Restaurants association of India) 40% restaurants in Delhi did not file for their licenses to be renewed. While in Mumbai, the figure for the same stands at 36%. Before the pandemic, the size of the hospitality industry in India was around 4.25 lakh crore rupees. After Lockdowns, the size of the same industry is around 1.8 lakh crore rupees. That is a huge huge loss to an industry which provides a lot of employment. This is not because of the Pandemic, this is because of the lockdowns.
Today, when more than 62 crore people in India are fully vaccinated, is there any need for any restrictions on our liberties? Especially when a variant like Omicron which spreads faster but is nowhere near as lethal as the delta variant is spreading through our population. Some experts are even claiming this to be a natural vaccine, as it creates antibodies in the patient's body without killing the patient. When this is the situation today, Do we need a lockdown? More importantly, do we want our citizens to be in a state of limbo where they do not know whether there will be a lockdown, or restrictions imposed or the most hilarious stuff like night curfew or Weekend curfew be imposed or not?
There is absolutely no information given by any government in India which provides data on the results of Night curfews, Weekend Lockdowns. These restrictions allow bureaucrats to interfere in our lives more than we need them to, they curb basic liberties of a citizen without achieving anything tangible and they keep the entire population in a sense of fear. We have a BMC mayor, who I shan't even name, who said that there will be a lockdown in Mumbai if cases rise beyond 20k. When over 70% of the population is fully vaccinated in the city, which is a worldwide accepted threshold of herd immunity. (I’d again refer to https://gbdeclaration.org/
) at this stage, we do not require any lockdown or any restriction whatsoever.
Lockdown is a fundamental violation of a citizen’s liberty. Lockdowns work in dictatorships precisely why dictatorships work in those societies. As the great Conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton used to say, democracy requires trust among people. While Dictatorship requires distrust. If a society has trust, it can never tolerate a dictator who creates distrust among people, in order to consolidate power. We have tried to implement something which can only be implemented in a society which has distrust which can have a dictatorship. Like China. Because efficient lockdown can only be implemented with neighbors informing on neighbors. That is not our society, that is not what we want our society to be.
Let us hope that saner minds will prevail and there will be no more lockdown or restriction anywhere in India. Moreover, governments and administration should come out to clarify the same in order to not keep Indians in a limbo. That is something we need desperately at this time.