As we near the end of an extended national lockdown, our policy discourse must broaden from containing the outbreak to addressing the three ‘R’s for the economy as well: of relief, revival and reconstruction. While the pandemic will haunt us for a few years, it is also true that complete lockdowns will harm Indian society as much—if not more—than the disease.
Unlike rich countries, India’s government simply does not have the resources to pay people to stay at home. Most businesses are staring at insolvency after having to keep and pay employees over the past four weeks. Even if they manage to stay afloat, their distress will compound our unemployment crisis. According to Mahesh Vyas of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, 140 million people, or 14% of India’s working age population, have lost their jobs during the lockdown. Both urban and rural India have been hit hard.