Maharashtra, the state worst hit by the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, has imposed a 15-day lockdown in a bid to contain the alarming surge in infections. Severe restrictions on public movement have been announced, including the enforcement of Section 144 of the CrPC that prohibits the assembly of five or more persons. Essential services have been kept out of the ambit of the curbs, even as the state government has come up with a relief package of Rs 5,476 crore for the poor whose livelihoods will be hit the hardest, such as street vendors and autorickshaw drivers.
The fortnight-long partial shutdown will impact not only Maharashtra but the nation as a whole because this state accounts for nearly 15 per cent of India’s gross domestic product. Maharashtra has been at the forefront of a strong economic recovery after the country slipped into recession last year. Mumbai, India’s financial capital and home to the Hindi film world, will undoubtedly bear the brunt of the disruptions. The authorities have rightly made some concessions to soften the blow. The Mumbai administration has allowed domestic helps to go to work during this period. Work at construction sites with residential facility and industrial activities where accommodation or transportation of personnel is available will remain unaffected. However, the suspension of shooting of films and advertisements will adversely affect tens of thousands of workers who are part of the entertainment industry.
The state government, which has cited ‘breaking the chain of transmissions’ as the objective of the lockdown, needs to ensure that economic activity is not stopped completely but is only scaled down. It will require day-to-day assessment to ascertain whether the curbs are achieving the desired purpose or proving to be counter-productive. At any rate, the vaccination programme should not face impediments due to the restrictions. It is laudable that the state has imposed a ban on religious, social, cultural and political functions till May 1. This much-needed step should be replicated by other states, especially those where the situation is deteriorating fast.