21-day shutdown – bold, critical and timely: BJ Arun, TiE Silicon Valley president

Ritu Jha-

BJ Arun, TiE Silicon Valley president, called Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lockdown of India for 21 days in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, a bold step; and a couple hours after Modi’s speech the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) asked the US businesses with off-shore offices for input on whether they want exemptions.

In a special televised address to the nation, Modi urged Indians to stay inside their homes, and if the situation is not brought under control in the next 3 weeks, the country could go back 21 years and that several families would be devastated forever.

Modi, acknowledging the economic impact owing to the pandemic, said, “The nation will have to certainly pay an economic cost because of this lockdown. However, to save the life of each and every Indian is our top most priority. Hence, it is my plea to you to continue staying wherever you are right now in the country.”

BJ Arun, TiE SV president.
BJ Arun, TiE SV president.

Arun, on Modi’s initiative, told indica that India’s huge population does not allow for much personal space on buses, trains, and at social gatherings.

“Prime Minister Modi’s bold decision to shut down the country for three weeks is critical and very timely to arrest the spread of the virus, “ he said.

Pointing to the initiative taken by the California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Arun said, “San Francisco Bay Area adopted the shelter in place before any other city in the US, and we are already seeing a relative flattening of the curve compared to places like New York City.”

The pandemic’s impact has already been seen both in US and India with spikes in layoffs. And India has been facing its highest unemployment in 40 years with further losses in aviation, travel, hospitality, retail, manufacturing and automotive sectors.

When asked about the impact of the 21-day shutdown on IT companies with offices in India, Arun said, “The impact to US-based IT companies with offices in India will not be as pronounced as those that have, say, manufacturing plants, etc. While broadband is now quite affordable and readily available (thanks in large part to Reliance Jio), it will still be a bit of a challenge since tight living quarters are typically shared with roommates or  family members.”

What he sounded more concerned about employees who still need to report to work.

“What India must be sensitive to and support are the class of workers that are dependent on jobs that cannot be performed from home,” Arun said. “India’s government will not be able to pump trillions of dollars into the economy like the US Feds, so wherever possible, employers must continue to try and pay workers that are not able to contribute due to the shutdown.”

Lauding the effort made by industry tycoons, he said that while it is great to see that captains of industry, like Anand Mahindra of the Mahindra Group and Anil Agarwal of Vedanta Resources, have already committed to support their daily wage employees and contractors, the average citizen too should step up and pay their domestic staff, who may not be able to work for the next three to four weeks.

Meanwhile, just a few hours after Modi’s address to the 1.3 billion Indians about the complete lockdown, the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum asked all its businesses to send in a heads up if they need exemptions from the lockdown under essential services.

Briefing various American business firms running in India, USISPF President and CEO Dr. Mukesh Aghi gave a clear picture of the situation through an official statement.

“The government of India has announced a national lockdown for the next 21 days all across the country. Every state, district, and village across India will be under lockdown, at a time when the number of positive COVID-19 cases are increasing across the nation,” the statement read.

Adding that the lockdown will have a huge impact on business, the statement said that in the past few days, they have successfully managed to get exemptions for some member companies through advocacy to various state governments.

The statement then asked business owners to send them requests if they sought exemption from the lockdown under essential services.

As of Wednesday, March 25, India had 606 confirmed cases and 10 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University

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