The COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of the time and greatest challenge the mankind has faced since World War-II. Since its emergence late last year, the virus has spread to every continent, and cases of people getting infected are rising daily in India and across the globe. The Government of India has declared a complete lockdown till May 3, 2020, to curb the menace. However, as effectively as the lockdown has prevented the transmission of the viral disease, it has impacted businesses widely across the country causing many getting closed. Addressing the issue and how businesses are battling the COVID-19 crisis to sail through the hardship, Dr DK Bhalla IAS(Retd.), Advisor, Nagaland House, join in a webinar hosted by Dr Ravi Gupta, Founder and CEO, Elets Technomedia.
Speaking on the measures implemented in India, Dr Bhalla said, “Immediate lockdown imposed by the Prime Minister has proved to be the right step for India in this crisis. It is not easy for a population of 130 crore to go through such a long lockdown. We might escape the worst but have to be prepared for further lockdowns because there is no certainty that such a pandemic will not occur again.”
Emphasizing on the lockdown being an effective measure, Dr Bhalla, took to the other side of the lockdown which has resulted in businesses coming to a halt, slumping economy, and many layoffs, especially in small and medium enterprises. He said, “Many businesses had no contingency plan to work from home or no work at all for months.” However, companies still supporting the Government’s decision of lockdown and are in solidarity with the citizens has made it a successful move and this is the kind of resilience India has shown, Dr Bhalla added.
Advising the businesses to bring in reforms in their plans, Dr Bhalla said, “Business continuity should be a necessary plan for all the business. All the businesses must be able to have enough to survive for at least one year without any earnings. Individuals, as well as the organizations, must change their priorities. For the public and the govt, the first priority should be health. For businesses, overleveraging should never be an option. Work from home must be an option more preferred in the times to come.”
When questioned about the post-corona times and the scenario after the viral pandemic is over, he said, “Life after corona is going to be changed. There is going to be a huge burst in digital spheres and there will be a huge hit on finances in every sector.” However, on India’s way back to normalcy he added, although, India does not have the financial muscle which other richer nations have but with strong leadership, India will win the ongoing fight against the pandemic.” Moreover, comparing the present crisis with the 2008 crisis, Dr Bhalla pointed out that coming out of the 2008 crisis was easier but now it will take 4-5 years to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shifting the discussions towards industries and their reopening, he said, as far as the demand for labour is concerned it will be huge and industries are facing a major problem. There will be a huge crunch for labours in the coming days as many have fled back to their home towns fearing the lockdown, Dr Bhalla added.
Addressing the situation in the Northeastern states, Dr Bhalla said, “There is no research to substantiate about the cold or hot climate which affects Covid-19. The whole of the Northeast has no more than 50-60 cases and this is worth appreciation. These states have very strictly implemented lockdowns and been very active in providing help to students, medical help, and more. The states have a feeling of togetherness and as a family and they are working together to fight the viral pandemic.”
When asked about the Centre’s decision to reopen standalone shops, a few manufacturing units with reduced labour, Dr Bhalla answered that the relaxations that the Government of India has implemented amidst the lockdowns are genuine and are basic requirements, considering the fact that many migrant poor labourers are without work and money surviving on the food and shelter provided by the authorities.
Concluding the session, Dr Bhalla talked about togetherness and solidarity and said, “Everyone must provide help to COVID-19 patients worldwide. Everyone must follow ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’. Meanwhile, the Government must look for better reforms and strategies to kickstart the economy.”