Alongside similar measures taken by South Africa and the United Kingdom, this week, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the country would go on an unprecedented lockdown for 21 days, starting on March 25.
The measure is intended to be a ‘total lockdown’ which is intended to prevent citizens from leaving their homes.
According to Modi, “there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” he said in a televised address to the nation. According to observers, however, there was little suggestion in respect of exactly how citizens would be able to comply with these measures.
Although the government declared supermarkets would remain open, many immediately shuttered. The need for food and other basic items is a big concern in a nation where many impoverished citizens are often in precarious economic circumstances. The measures prompted a surge in panic buying as enforcement of the lockdown remained unclear.
India is home to around 1.3 billion people, at least 300 million of which live below the poverty line.
Compared to the United States, China and several locations in Europe, the coronavirus has not yet spread widely in India. As of March 25, there were 606 confirmed cases. Due to the country’s weak public health system and densely populated living areas, however, authorities are concerned that the possible spread could multiply quickly.
Thus far, enforcement of the lockdown has been disordered. In his address, Modi said that “every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown,” which some authorities are reportedly enforcing with heavy-handed tactics.
Reports of violence as a means to enforce the lockdown are emerging throughout the country. “They charged inside and started abusing and beating me,” said a New Delhi resident who owns a meat shop that was reportedly raided by police.
A spokesperson of the Delhi police has reportedly denied any beatings are taking place.
Responses to the shutdown
Many in Modi’s government support the lockdown as necessary, while some have expressed concern over the pressure it will place on India’s poor and middle classes. “All shops are shut, not even groceries or chemists are open,” says a taxi driver in India’s South Andaman Island. “The uncertainty is killing me.”
Despite this, a resident from Bombay, Ritesh Shah, told The Millennial Source that the vast majority of the population is seemingly relieved about the lockdown that has come into effect. “The masses are extremely happy with the decision taken to lock India down, considering how vast our population is.”
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