Timeline of Actions of the Indian Government
As the cases rapidly rise in India it is easy to overlook the number of interventions that the Indian government has made. For almost a month, entire February, the number of Coronavirus cases in India were limited to 3. Despite that, on 21 February 2020, the Cabinet Secretary chaired the meeting with state representatives to understand their preparation.
Just 2 days later screening started at 21 airports and 77 seaports. This was keeping in line with the global scenario and how the virus was spreading across the world. This changed to universal screening less than 10 days later, on 3 March 2020. On the same day the Prime Minister reviewed the preparedness level of states. It is worth noting that the total number of cases as on 3 March was just 6. As the cases started increasing in percentage terms, on 7 March the Prime Minister met central ministries to understand their level of preparedness and their planning. The total number of cases was still less than 40 but more than 5 times from the previous meeting.
By 13 March, it was declared as a Disaster and states were thereby allowed to draw funds from the state disaster Relief Fund. This ensured that no state was divided of funds at this juncture. Making available valuable funds at such a crucial time was a very welcome step. The total number of cases was still under 100 at that time.
The next day Prime Minister proposed the creation of the SAARC emergency fund along with other member nations. At that time, there was no mention of a lockdown. However, this is the same week where Italy Iran and Spain had proposed lockdown. 5 days later, when the cases touched almost 200 the Prime Minister addressed the nation at 8:00 PM. He told them of the grave danger staring the country in the face. He ended his address with a call for a self-imposed lockdown. He asked people to not get out of their houses on Sunday that is 22 March 2020. He was clear with intent, mentioning that this was a precursor or rehearsal for what could be coming up because of the dangers of the outbreak. Something that everybody fondly recalls from this address is the proposal to show gratitude towards health workers, soldiers, doctors and other people who were working to fight against the virus by ringing a Bell or clapping for banging please at 5:00 PM on Sunday. Twitter was full of videos posted by people observing the lockdown as well as showing their gratitude.
Just after the address, a number of businesses did not know whether they were allowed to open. The tricky part was that no enforcement agency was tasked with the implementation of this self-imposed curfew. While businesses wanted to show solidarity to the country and to the pm, they also wanted to ensure the provision of essential services such as healthcare and food supplies to where they were needed in the country. A number of these questions started coming to Invest India. On 20 March, the entire invest India team got together, brainstormed and started developing a platform where businesses could come, check out notifications from official sources and get their queries answered. It was nothing short of magical when this portal was launched on 21 March at 8:00 PM. By the time it had been 24 hours after launch, that is by 8:00 PM on 22 March, in West India had answered over 70 business queries.
On the same day, the central government announced that 75 districts where there had been cases, would be locked down in consultation with the states. This pointed towards an acute need for this platform to function well. The total number of cases had touched 400. On 23 March, the Prime Minister announced a countrywide lockdown. This was accompanied by a relaxation in compliances under various economic laws as well as SEBI regulations.
As the cases grew comma the Indian government realised the need for the economic package to ensure that people at the bottom of the pyramid had enough resources to survive the lockdown and to brief the economic crunch. The package was announced on 26 March by the honourable finance minister. This was followed by an RBI liquidity package where they infused liquidity in the market. Further comma the central government has created a number of empowered groups looking at various aspects of the disease, rehabilitation, and supply of essentials on 29 March.