View: Restrictions curtail life, jack up prices

Curbs on sales force phone manufacturing companies to stop production. Lockdown, curfew and restriction of public movement to narrow windows of time are making it difficult to replenish stocks at distributors and retail outlets. Wholesale price inflation has crossed the double-digit threshold. These headlines tell a story — of self-inflicted wounds on the economy and society. The way forward is for people to maintain social distancing and wear masks, even as blanket restrictions are removed and people go about their business, albeit at a reduced level of capacity utilisation. Developing Covid-appropriate discipline in public and personal conduct is the solution, not wholesale restrictions on life and livelihood.

Quarantining a household whose members have contracted Covid makes sense, but treating all of society as if they were all infected by the virus is to assume people lack the intelligent human agency needed to avoid getting infected or infecting others, even as they carry out the activity that earns them their livelihood. Such agency has two parts: awareness of the appropriate behaviour, given how the virus spreads, and responsibility of individuals towards the community at large. If policy assumes that either or both these factors to be missing, the result would be a self-fulfilling expectation. Instead, the goal should be to endow people with both awareness and community connect, so that they voluntarily adopt Covid-appropriate behaviour and allow the economy to operate without creating a rise in infections. This, it might be argued, is not easy. Getting people to behave like people, rather than as intelligent brutes, is what saints seek to achieve. That is a tough ask, but has to be attempted, with tenacity.

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But undoing stupidity, such as classifying phones as non-essential items that ecommerce companies cannot deliver in a lockdown, is relatively easy. The tough part is owning up the mistake. Policymakers must swallow their pride, and do what is right by the people, even if it means giving up infallibility.


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