India, A Rudderless Ship

To control the spread of coronavirus, India went into a complete curfew on 24th March 2020. For the last two months of this ongoing curfew, the Indian government has repeatedly asserted success.

How valid is their claim? And was the lockdown justifiable from a cost-benefit perspective?

The government says that it instructed all arriving international passengers from February onwards to self-quarantine. I arrived in India on 6th March and was given no such instruction. They say that they had set up booths of the medical staff at airports to check on the health of passengers. I took three domestic flights between the last week of February and the mid of March. While the booths were there, there was no one checking on passengers.

As usual, Indian front-line staff had wandered off.

A group of political science students would have told the government that imposing such a tyrannical curfew on the public should have at least accompanied stringent actions against the erring government employees.

The job of the government is to govern those within its jurisdiction, not those who live outside. The government did the exact opposite.

While they brought in plane-loads of people from outside India, at a massive public expense, they did not bother about its most impoverished migrant workers stuck in slums. For a fraction of the cost that they incurred on bringing overseas Indians, they could have helped the migrant workers, who were left to fend for themselves and to beg.

Not only migrant workers but tourists, those visiting families in other places, those traveling for work have been stuck now for two months. Do they have a place to live or money to support themselves? No one knows; not many people care about them.

India had not organized proper quarantine facilities for those it brought from Wuhan and Italy. Many of those ran away from the inhuman facilities, spreading the virus. Did the government not think about this simple issue?

Depending on what numbers you look at, between 300 million to 1,000 million Indians do not eat well on any given day. They live from hand to mouth. The curfew has imposed unimaginable destitution, starvation, and poverty on them. In the worst-case scenario, the total deaths from the coronavirus would not have been more than a million. The current curfew has been an unmitigated disaster from just this one perspective.

A group of school students could have done a simple cost-benefit analysis for the government and would have recommended at most a partial shut-down, something that should have excused the poorest from any restriction.

No country in the world has imposed a full curfew. None has imposed a totalitarian restriction on the movement of people, not even China.

India stopped everything. All trains, buses, taxis, and flights were canceled. Moving in your own car is at best restricted for grocery shopping—the police reserves the right to beat you up before asking questions.

On a typical day, Indians have no access to the ambulance. With no taxi running, those sick are dying, for they cannot get to the hospital. Private hospitals have mostly shut, anyway.

Indian media is showing that the situation in the US has been a catastrophe. It isn’t. You can drive from any part of the US to another without any problem. You can leave your home without any restriction or complicated zoning system.

Those suffering from coronavirus are getting abysmal treatment in India. There is no protocol. No wonder people are worried about the medicine that is being injected. Those who resist, according to a newly passed executive order, will go to prison for seven years. His arrest does not need a warrant and is unbailable.

Expecting only the citizens to be responsible, the government requires people to submit to the rude, apathetic health staff servilely.

A group of school students could have told the government that such tyrannical executive orders would lead to a rapid building of a police state.

Media came out with stories of quarantined Muslims not honoring the process and that they were creating a ruckus and throwing urine at the staff. This story was never followed up, nor it seems it went to the court.

Unproven case of resistance by a group of Muslims has been so over-blown that if the virus does go out of control, all blame can be passed on to Muslims, not just one group from Nizamuddin that was involved. Of course, other religious and political groups have flouted the lockdown, although they have not been highlighted by the media.

The Indian government has repeatedly patted its back, claiming that it has halved the growth rate of the spread. This portrayal is false. “Rate of change” is deceptive for the base changes every day. Those affected are already isolated, so what matters is the absolute number of cases that emerge.

In absolute numbers, the cases are increasing rapidly every day. What we don’t know yet is whether the increase is linear or exponential. Either way, the lockdown, despite being the most atrocious in the world, has failed. Every other major country is showing a continual fall in new cases.

A group of Statistics 101 students would have corrected how the government and the Indian media is using the data, and told them how embarrassing India’s performance has been.

Indians now having been confined indoors for two months have not been exposed to much sun, have not exercised or walked much, and have not faced the attack of germs that they usually face. When the lockdown is over, they will emerge out weak and lacking in immunity. Diseases not related to coronavirus will explode.

A group of students in epidemiology would have told that government about the higher-order, devastating consequences of a totalitarian, complete, absolute curfew across the country.

The Indian government and the Middle Class have been orgasming about how the coronavirus has come with a silver lining, that the western companies will move their manufacturing from China to India. Not only is it bad manners to expect good to happen to you based on the loss of others, but India has also always missed this train. It will lose again, for India lacks institutions, skills, and worth ethic.

What a group of school students will have told the government is that India is going to outdo China in one area. That by the time this article is published, India, despite its atrocious lockdown, will have had more cases of coronavirus than China will have had. And there will be no sign of the virus coming under control in India. The economy, in the meantime, has been an unmitigated disaster, and the human catastrophe inflicted on the poor people will be overwhelming and unprecedented.

In their conclusion, every group of students, aghast, will have asked if the Indians government has advisors, planning department, and crisis management department, for they would have seen no sign of their existence.


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5 thoughts on “India, A Rudderless Ship

  1. SANJAY ARORA says:

    Mr Bhandari, I like your straight talk. You call spade a spade. India is too large, complex and diverse to be managed centrally. If anything, the centralisation of power has increased under PM Modi. India needs to be a loose federation of states. Competing for skills and capital through business-friendly policies and tax regimes. Otherwise, the poor work ethic and other cultural irrationalities of the Hindi heartland (due to its electoral weight) will keep pulling down other states in the North East and South that have the potential to be the next Singapore or Taiwan.

  2. Siddhart arora says:

    ” Indians now having… coronavirus will explode. ”
    Please sir with all due respect dont present ur opinions as fact. I m a doctor , and here what u r talking about is something called Hyigenic theory, which is actually opposite of wht u r saying . Ur immune sys. actually goes up where it starts to considers even non-lethal germs as threats .
    Dont try to be a medical expert when u clearly lack knowledge abt the nuisances of medicine. Read first before providing misinformation

  3. Amit S says:

    In hindsight now that India has emerged out of Covid successfully, I’d be curious to understand the author’s position as of today.

    • Mises India says:

      India has emerged out of covid successfully? In what way? Lockdowns destroyed the livelihood of millions of people. GDP collapsed by -23%. Present GDP figures are manipulated by the government. India is slipping in HDI and world hunger rankings. 74% cannot afford nutritious food. Inflation is killing us everyday. We don’t see any success in this.

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