The Problem Statement
At the time of writing (22-Apr-2020), India has 20000+ corona virus affected cases. Some of the world’s most developed nations with far better healthcare systems, living conditions and despite housing just a fraction of the population of India, have been loaded with far more numbers. Even world’s #1 airport at Changi singapore has now decided to shut down its most significant international terminal 2 due to this pandemic. India has led this war against Covid so well that even Non Resident Indians (grudgingly) wish they were back home. Even amongst India’s affected numbers, 35% actually came from one event at Nizamuddin, Delhi, heavily attended by overseas visitors. Even in these 20K+ affected numbers, 50% come from just six cities – Mumbai (incl Thane), Delhi, Pune, Jaipur, Indore and Ahmedabad – who clearly need to buck up. Rest of the country is doing a great job containing the balance 50% and are infact on the reducing curve.
The Covid death rates, as a percentage to affected numbers, isn’t alarming. India has infinitely more number of deaths per week due to road accidents, than the total Covid count of 600+ fatalities till date. The recovery rates have shown an increasing trend in past couple of weeks. The stronger Indian immunity – from a diet devoid of frozen, packaged, hybrid or imported foods – grown on tough conditions, tropical temperatures and the fast growing probability of a drug that improves a Covid patient condition, has the nett ability to reduce corona virus to any other infection like Chicken Pox etc. Covid is here to stay, unlikely to get eradicated from world map in near future and yet will remain an infection with as much of a chance of death like say malaria.
Data tells everything. Its possible, that the past 37 days of lock down, more people may have died of hunger (incrementally) or due to inability to reach the hospital. There is a growing strong argument that further extension of lock down 2.0 will leave more people jobless, hungry, bankrupt and have worse consequences than China’s ‘gift’ virus. There is scope for staggered normalcy to return as the fragile economy can’t be made to suffer much longer. Here’s my suggestions for the country which is suggested for implementation from 1st May 2020.
1. Dense congregations to remain closed
All places of worship, education to remain closed & all public congregations, festivals, exhibitions et all to continue remain banned till further notice. Schools anyways collect annual fees so they wont face any losses and can continue partial operation by online classes… however they should NOT look at overburdening kids on online education mode. Nursery kids should be on leave, mid school and high school kids to not have more than 3 hr online classes per day, for college kids it should be 5 hrs max. In ‘stay at home’ phase, domestic violence, child violence and stress is increasing exponentially. The pressure of education must be rationalized. Knocking off 20% of the annual syllabus today, will not deprive the child of being a CEO, thirty years later.
2. India Inc to have flexibility at every level
Every white collar employee with a laptop (& vpn) to continue working from home .. physical staff in offices to be rotated over 6-7 days and not just 5-6 days … with mandatory weekday offs spread out. Someone can get weekly off on a Wednesday, his colleague on a Monday. We don’t want malls, restaurants and traffic to be over crowded only from fridays to sundays. The weekend concept, the fixed working hours or fixed working days concept must go. The human congregation load has to be spread out evenly over 24X7.
3. India Inc to function 24X7, loads to be spread
Offices to run 24×7 and timings are to be made very flexible.. at no time should any office have more than 30% staff. One staff can work 5am to 12pm, his colleague can work 1pm to 9pm. etc. This will also ensure less pollution (with lesser cars on the road) and no extreme loads on public transport at any time. This rule includes Govt offices too. They should remain open 24×7. The above though means that usage of resources like electricity, roads will increase.. government will need to subsidize electricity costs, road tolls etc
4. Public Transport to function 24X7, loads to be spread
Public transport to run 24 hrs or maximum time feasible … so the need to board a crowded train or run to catch the last bus etc is reduced. This is a great opportunity to make India run 24x7x365.
5. Malls, Restaurants, Mandis to function 24X7, loads to be spread
Shopping malls, hotels, pubs, alcohol shops, restaurants, food courts, markets, wholesale mandis to stay open for 24 hrs or maximum time feasible (police anyways is patrolling 24×7) so that crowds stay distributed and the economy keeps rolling. Shop owners pay steep rentals and they need their businesses to restart and we need the entire supply chain to keep moving smoothly again. Restaurants, pubs and food courts to take responsibility that seating capacity be decreased and spacing (between tables) is increased, where needed. Markets and mandis need to use odd-even type of formula.. like fruits only on certain days of the week etc; non veg on other days of the week etc.
6. Movie halls, theatres to remain closed; studios to work 24X7
Movie halls & theatres to remain closed till further notice. Bollywood makes enough money to sacrifice earnings another month or two. Government can provide relief to hall owners and distributors by waiving off entertainment tax for one year. However studios must remain open and work 24X7 to continue TV and web content shooting.
7. Sports events to be held at 30% stands capacity
Indian Premier League or any other mega sports event to be now played with stands only allowed 25% to 30% of capacity till further notice. Rest of the fans can enjoy it on live television mode, for now. Sports is important and should not be completely stopped.
8. Delivery services, Mobile application based services to run as usual
All delivery services and mobile application based taxi services to resume and run as per normal. With offices open 24×7, there will be some people on the road always, hence the safety aspect is increased. Car pooling though has to be banned for now.
9. Limited international travel based on algorithm
Flights to and fro from all countries with Covid cases count above 100, in the last month, to stay cancelled. NRIs want to return India now, but sadly are the biggest threat to fresh injection of the disease or any new virus, coming in. This should be reviewed on a monthly basis. Only when a country is established to have less than 100 cases in the previous month, will flights travel restart for the next month.
10. China precautions
Direct and indirect flights to and from China or travelers with any travel history to and from China in the last six months to be denied entry to India. Goods entering India from China to undergo checks before they are passed by customs. These rules should be kept in place at least till end of the year 2021, for fear of any subsequent virus China could be planning.
11. Hire more in healthcare, security and police
India’s healthcare, security and police staff needs to be increased now.. ie hire more. World has realized that people in these professions are the real heroes and not footballers or cricketers. We are now talking of India running 24×7 – good time to hire more staff in these categories, train and improve the unemployment numbers.
12. GOI mandated Level 1 Covid prescription
Indian Government must mandate a basic prescription for anyone with CoronaVirus early symptoms … so that the first level treatment (say Paracetamol or Hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine or whatever prescribed) and home quarantine responsibilities lie with the patient.. just like with chicken pox or malaria etc; and not spoon fed again and again by Prime Minister Modi. With a stronger Indian immunity, a big chunk of cases are/will get sorted out through personal care. This will help the healthcare system from getting over stretched and they can concentrate on regular work and critical cases.
13. Care for the aged/disabled
People aged below 10 and above 60 must stay at home aside going out to buy essentials or for medical trips. If someone is above 60 and needs to go office, open shop or to travel, they need to find alternatives.. a helpline should be established for the aged and the disabled in every town and city.
14. Public messaging and education
Everything else to remain normal. Corona caller tunes, messages on sanitation, sanitization and social distancing flashed regularly.. and that each one is responsible for own safety; must continue.
15. Home Ministry communications
Home ministry should hold a daily 45 min live telecast press conference taking questions and clarifications every day, so that all ambiguity is removed and even common man can raise unsolved issues in his area. Poor communications is root of many mishaps, that has to be avoided.
This is a great opportunity to make India run 24x7x365 and demonstrate to the world it’s ability to upgrade itself even in a war like situation. Once the corona dust has settled, the value of India as a safer destination to open offices will increase; the employability of Indians will increase; ..both at the cost of China and countries who are friendly with the Chinese. America and some of the leading western nations, who are losing lives in thousands, will be seething in anger at anything Chinese. India must strike, now that the iron has got real hot. Such an opportunity may not come soon again.