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Wednesday, Apr 01, 2020 12:30 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Apr 01, 2020 06:45 [IST]

The show must go on

Fully functional communication lines are crucial to ensure the success of any public emergency measure, and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s latest directive seems reflective of that. The regulator has asked operators to extend the validity period of prepaid plans and provide their users uninterrupted services during the 21-day lockdown currently underway. At a time like this, no one should get cut off.
Effective communication is vital. Many migrant workers seen leaving big cities seem misled about various aspects of the pandemic and what’s best for them. Confusion-clearing messages delivered via phone networks could reach significant numbers. Telecom firms are under enormous pressure, no doubt. Airwaves have been overloaded, and internet data delivery speeds have slowed drastically in many places. The surge in demand signals the value of reliable connectivity. It has perhaps never been higher. Service providers, thus, have a heroic role to play in this crisis. They must do whatever it takes to avert breakdowns, deploying extra resources if required. Even small disruptions could be disastrous for some people. Remuneration can wait.
It has been decades since India experienced a shortage economy, but that is what we now seem to have. The scramble for household items seen after Prime Minister Modi abruptly ordered a nationwide lockdown on 24 March, was not entirely without reason. Supply chains broke down and shop shelves in large parts of the country went empty. At first, transport was restricted, though the government clarified that essential commodities—as officially defined—should be allowed passage by the police. On Sunday last, the Centre revised its guidelines to let other products be transported as well. This is a relief. Among other items, cleansing agents and hygiene products of daily use that have run out at the retail level can now be restocked with stuff from warehouses and the like. But what is still under discussion, reportedly, is how safety protocols can be put in place so that disrupted factories can restart production. Existing inventories, as estimated, may not last beyond three weeks. According to an assessment made by industry players on 29 March, stocks with wholesalers would last 20 more days and with retailers just five days in case assembly lines stay frozen. Solving this problem, however, is not as simple a matter as lifting road barriers for trucks.
The country’s top priority at this point is to contain the Covid-2019 pandemic before the bulk of the Indian population gets exposed to the virus that causes it, an outcome whose likelihood may not have diminished much yet. If the virus has stalled business operations across the country, it is because it is highly infectious. It survives on surfaces for extended periods and can be picked up by those who touch these. This makes it necessary to minimize all forms of physical contact with objects in general, in public spaces as much as in offices and on factory floors. In addition, humans need to stay at least a couple of metres apart from one another. For the resumption of factories, thus, the work premises would have to be sanitized first as a precaution, and requisite safety gear provided to workers, who themselves would have to be screened for signs of infection—an imperfect task at best—and asked to adopt strict codes of distancing and general conduct. Similar measures would be needed for delivery networks. Supply lines can be kept intact so long as the risk of business-chain contagion is crushed. Temporary regulations could be issued for this. The sooner it is done, the better the chances of our regaining some semblance of normalcy.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi