Democracy,  Economy

The Longest National Lockdown Ever

Global concerns over any contingency seldom had an effect on any of the regimes in India. Be it the Tsunami, SARS Pandemic or Anthrax Attack, India has always been among the last to respond and more often than not, our preparations were less than sufficient. The escalating concern of the past four months had absolutely no effect on the government and as a result, we are where we are.

The announcement of the lockdown by the Prime Minister himself in his ‘usual disdain’ didn’t created a ruckus because it was executed sequentially. The initial lockdown in over 75 districts created a base for behavioral analysis. The government understood the dynamics required to execute the same countrywide and executed it. This, for me, is in direct correlation to nudge theory and psycho-analysis.

The Economic Survey Report this year mentioned of the Nudge Theory and proposed its application in shaping people’s spending tendencies. “Nudge Theory” is a Nobel Winning Thesis that elucidates “the process to shape people’s behavior(s)” in quants, by applying quite literal ‘nudges’.

Can the above incident be considered an effective example of its implementation?

A nudge is a small jolt applied by the elbow.

The non-responsiveness of the government on any of the pressing concerns and the public inaction on the same is not something usual. This has been achieved over the past decade by sequentially increasing the level of trauma to the people. The first decade of the millennium, right from the Kargil War, through Nirbhaya Case, we observed huge public participation in support and protest, but since NDA-2, there is a noticeable change in social dynamics of India and people have developed a ‘herd’ tendency. By than I mean a bunch of people who begin to ‘think’ likewise!

In the tenure of NDA-3, the situation has been particularly grim. Nobody came out for Kashmir post its lockdown, no uproar for selling PSU assets for pennies, for economic halt and unemployment, for CAA, NPR,NRC; for mob lynchings and cow vigilantism, for auctioning the national monuments and the Taj, Airports and Coal Mines, for repeatedly bailing out corporates at the cost of tax payers’ hard earned money or for repeatedly favouring a particular business house.

We have learnt the wrong definition of ‘nationalism’ for sure, but whatever be the reason, the governement’s, a.k.a the BJP Government’s political propaganda has an unprecedented role in shaping the society of today’s India and that’s in action, quite overtly, right from its ‘opposition’ days.

The most debated issue last year was that of Climate Change. At our current rate of consumption, we are consuming the resources of 1.5 earths per year. This should make the condition fairly clear. But if we look on the response of the GOI, it has been ruthless. We have been cutting more trees than ever and giving chunks of dense forest to big corporates who in turn build factories that create even more pollution . While the government is busy altering the definition of forests and names of cities, India recorded the most polluted days ever. 9 of our cities feature in top 10 most polluted cities worldwide. The entire north was super-critical during the winters and yet we had no response from the government. What prep could have been expected of the same administration for this pandemic? Hence – the current state of things. The locking down of the nation is going to erode billions in the form of financial losses from our already ailing country and the very question that must stand before any righteous citizen is, “When will we understand the role of the government?”. Much to my chagrin, less than a percent of our awaam is thinking of it as I write.

Right now we have over ten thousand suspected and hundreds of infected persons as per the official data and we can’t even comprehend the total number of infected people among us as the symptoms of the COVID-19 infection become evident only after 14 days of getting exposed to the virus. This means we are looking at nothing short of a million infected people among us and the number has no upper cap, if left unchecked! If we were to operate in the usual fashion, we would have got half of the population infected in the coming days. Then what would a reluctant and economically drained government do? It surely won’t spend remaining assets in preparation and pharmaceuticals but can’t take the risk of entire population infected either. So what will it do? Lock the entire damn country! Without even considering the fact that many have only a day’s expenses as all their worth. How can one assure ‘life’ to the poor of our nation who are dependent on their wage for food? By no means we are prepared to deliver food to their homes like China and others are doing. In a country where people die of hunger, what are you expecting? Miracle? No! How will they survive these 21 days? Even if we start at war footing, now, we can at the most prepare to handle a quarter of the infections or less.

So, while we chill over ‘Corona’, holidays, for it gave us a much need break from out hateful and mundane lives, should we expect the government to mend its ways? and for the first time, do something real, at a time when its need the most?

Author is a voracious reader and an autodidact. He is studying Statistics and Philosophy and works as an Analytics Consultant. He has published columns on Public Policy, Governance, Politics, Economics and Philosophy among others. When in leisure he listen's to 70's rock and engage in pro-people talk. He can be contacted on surya@columnist.com

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