Justice Markandey Katju-
India is in a nationwide lockdown because of the coronavirus scare since 25th March, and it is time now to take a second look at the situation.
Is corona such a danger that it deserved a nationwide lockdown? I submit it is not, and the announcement by the Prime Minister on the evening of 24th March was a knee jerk reaction without proper consultation with experts and without considering all aspects of taking such a serious decision. We may consider the matter in some detail.
Flu (influenza) kills 646,000 people worldwide every year, as per the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, i.e. almost 2000 people per day. A large number of these deaths are in India.
In 2016, over 200 million people had malaria, which resulted in about 700,000 deaths (i.e. about 2000 per day), many in India.
About 400 million people are infected by dengue annually, which kills about 22,000 people, mostly children.
1.5 million people die of tuberculosis every year, many in India.
3.8 million people die of diabetes annually.
In 2017, 9.6 million people in the world died of cancer. A large number of these deaths are in India.
In 2018, 820 million people in the world went to bed hungry, many of them were Indians. In India 48% of children below 5 years are malnourished, and many will remain stunted all their lives, as per the Global Hunger Index and UNICEF reports. One can only guess the number of starvation deaths.
I am not belittling the seriousness of novel coronavirus, but I wish to state that its danger for India has been greatly exaggerated ( I am not referring to the USA and Europe ).
Corona may kill thousands of Indians without a lockdown, but it will kill millions by starvation with a lockdown. This is because about 90% of the Indian workforce ( about 400-450 million people ) is in the informal/unorganized sector of our economy i.e daily wage employees, migrants, etc.
These persons have no job security, and have to work daily to eat daily, otherwise they and their families will starve. Because of the lockdown they have been deprived of their livelihood. This may result in food riots and a breakdown of law and order. What happened in Palghar may be replicated nationwide.
Apart from the above, the lockdown is causing immense hardships to people who are stranded all over the country. The economy, which was already in a bad condition before the pandemic, has spiraled further downwards because of the nationwide lockdown.
I submit the time has now come for the government to realize and acknowledge its mistake and end the lockdown, otherwise, things will become really grim.
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India and Dhruti Kapadia, Advocate and Solicitor, Bombay High Court, and Advocate on Record, Supreme Court. The views expressed are their own].