To open or not to open India up: a dilemma that need not be one

As India decides what next after the 21-day national lockdown ends on 14 April, opinions are divided among those who want a phased lifting and those who want to extend it. This reflects underlying differences between those who believe it is worth taking calculated risks to forestall widespread suffering on account of lost livelihoods, and those who are concerned taking such risks could cause the pandemic to spiral out of control.

Bold as it was, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to impose a lockdown on 24 March was easier compared to what he has on his plate now. At that time, the consequences of the pandemic were clear, whereas those of the lockdown both unknown and in the future. It is almost the opposite now, and the moral dilemma appears far more acute. The prime minister has to weigh the real suffering of hundreds of millions of people caught in the lockdown against the millions who might catch the disease if the lockdown is lifted and the pandemic spreads. It’s not an easy decision, but there are ways to make it less difficult.

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