Written byShalini Ojha
Painting a grim picture of the battle against coronavirus, Bajaj Auto Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj said India didn't flatten the COVID-19 curve but ended up demolishing the GDP curve, all thanks to the lockdown which was imposed on March 25.
He made these remarks on Thursday while speaking to Rahul Gandhi, as a part of the series where the Congress leader seeks experts' opinions.
Bajaj began the interaction by saying that the COVID-19 experience has been bittersweet.
"Some of us who can afford it, are happy at home. But when you see what's happening around you, with businesses and masses, it's more bitter than sweet," he said, adding that every day teaches something new.
He then said the lockdown, which has been extended thrice, didn't achieve its objective.
Bajaj added no one was ready to "explain the math to us". Data about vulnerable people and the preparations being done should have been communicated well, he said.
"We have fallen very short of disclosing facts, logic, and the truth," he added.
He said of the various forms of lockdown, India chose the harshest one, which was porous, hence the infections are still rising.
On the strict curbs, Bajaj didn't quite understand why India looked towards the West, towards countries like Italy, France, and the US.
"Everything that the scientists and doctors have spoken of, we should never have been looking towards it. We know there can be no medical infrastructure that could deal with this pandemic," he opined.
The industrialist then said he considers India's lockdown draconian.
"Everyone is trying to find the middle path but India did not just go west, it went wild west. You have flattened the wrong curve, not the COVID-19 curve but the GDP curve. We chose not to look at the east," he added.
Bajaj said the restrictions exposed India to "the worst of both worlds".
About the expectations from the government, he said, "We hear stories of people from Japan and USA getting $1,000 per person as support, not as stimulus. We are not even talking about stimulus here. We are just talking about support, whether it is for big businesses, small business, and for individuals."
The industrialist noted that a large country like India can't save itself from trouble. "It has to sail itself out of trouble," he noted.
Bajaj said in the absence of clear communication, people think the contagion is like cancer, recovery from which is impossible. He felt the road to recovery will be a long one.
To note, India's unlocking phase started on June 1.
"It is a Herculean task to open up. Fear has to be taken out of the minds of people. There has to be a message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying 'this is how we have to move forward'," he went on.
About his company, he said Bajaj Auto is moving to Brazil too. "Demand generation starts by wanting to be on a global platform. You have to narrow down what you want to do. You can't be Mahendra Singh Dhoni if you play six different sports," he added.
Separately, Gandhi said India is the only nation where infections are rising when lockdown is being eased.
Saying that the lockdown was hard on migrants, who had nowhere to go, Gandhi added, "I don't think that even during the World War, the world was locked down."
When asked what he would have done, the Congress MP said the battle should have been moved to states.
"In India, the central government has backed off now. It's too late now," he added.
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