Challenges of a partial lockdown
Erring on the side of caution has hurt individuals and businessesUpdated: Apr 13, 2020, 19:31 IST
On Saturday, the secretary of the department for promotion of industry and internal trade in the ministry of commerce wrote a letter to the home ministry. While the note focused on a possible road map to resume economic activity, one key concern it flagged was the need to allow the “free movement of all vehicles and manpower” for activities permitted so far, since there had been a “lot of problems” on this front. On Sunday, the home ministry followed up by sending a note to all state governments. It pointed out that in parts of the country, trucks were still being detained; workers needed for the manufacturing of essential items were not getting authorisation to move; there were problems in inter-state movement of personnel and goods; and operation of cold stores and warehouses were being impeded — and asked all states to make the necessary corrections.
The intra-government communication is an illustration of the gap that exists between policy framed at the top, and implementation on the ground. It is revealing that the commerce ministry is complaining to the home ministry, which in turn, is telling the states to improve their record, two-and-a-half weeks into the lockdown. This shows that for this duration, many industries, businesses, individuals — all eligible to move under the rules — were facing obstacles.
But more critically, it shows the implementation challenges that lie ahead. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to speak on Tuesday, and outline the contours of the next phase of restrictions to tackle the pandemic. It is likely that the government will adopt a model of a differential lockdown — where some sectors and districts will be allowed to function. This, then, will require extremely nuanced implementation on the ground. State governments, municipal and district authorities, and most important, personnel of the security forces must understand the new guidelines well and implement them in letter and spirit. They have to be humane, sensitive, and awake to the needs of individuals and businesses.