Coronavirus impact: Here’s how India Inc reacted to PM Modi’s nationwide lockdown

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide 21-day lockdown as an extreme measure in India’s fight against coronavirus. CNBC-TV18 spoke to who’s who of corporate India to understand their views on the prime minister’s decision.

Vikram Kirloskar President of CII said, “Twenty one days is a very long challenge, I do not know how the government is planning to do it, but it is going to be critical. The prime minister is very right in saying unless we do it, we are going to go back 21 years. I think the government will give some guidelines on when you can buy food or what stores are available and in which manner we have to go to a store.”

He added, “The government and authorities have to figure out how to get food and medicines and other essential services without putting anyone involved in it in danger. We also have to figure out that the economy has to be running perhaps in a slow manner now, but it has to restart after 21 days, so that we can get back on our feet.”

Keki Mistry CEO of HDFC said, “What the Prime Minister has announced is something which was very necessary. If we do not break the cycle this virus will spread very rapidly and once it spreads it is impossible or very difficult to control it especially in a country like India with so many people. Let me say that this is a very welcome step. Economically, I guess it puts off a little back, we will have to still access a lot of things. Once things come back to normal hopefully in three-four weeks’ time, my sense is that economy will move on the way it has, yes there will be a temporary setback, but that is happening all over the world and I think the markets are affected badly.”

Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys said, “Companies in the IT sector maintain some very nation critical applications for their customers and therefore these employees will probably have to travel, sometimes they could do it from home, but because of certain restrictions they may have to travel to the office. Therefore we will have to be flexible, we have to make sure that individuals going to office should not be prevented. We have to become very civilised, the police will also have to become very civilised and ask people what is the purpose of their travel, where they are going etc.”

The Infosys founder added, “In the IT sector about 60 percent of the people are from other states and most of them are not married, therefore they eat in restaurants and they are all closed, so where will those people eat? How will they manage? These are all issues that our political leaders and bureaucrats have to completely understand before bringing in draconian rules. While I am all for absolute discipline in following the lockdown, at the same time these rules should be put in place after thinking about the required exceptions that are to be made.”

Sumant Sinha CMD of ReNew Power said, “This 21-day lockdown makes imminent sense, I think there is no other way to deal with this crisis right now. We have seen the consequences of doing this lockdown too late. Some might argue that it has already been longer than we should implemented this. But I sense that the government was waiting for some signs of clear cut stage III transmission happening, community transmission and I think over the last day or two, they must have got evidence that community transmission has begun to happen and therefore there is no other way of avoiding other than to go for a complete lockdown.

“I am glad that they have done it for 21 days because 14 might not have been enough. So I think 21 days makes total sense. It is a small price to pay, if we can use 21 days – take 21 days out of everybody’s life and just put this behind us, I think that would be a fairly significant achievement. So I am totally in support of what the Prime Minister and government are trying to do right now. It makes absolute sense to do this.”

RC Bhargava, Chairman of Maruti Suzuki said, “I think what has been seen in the last two days is something which will continue in the future, which is how to enforce this lockdown. As the Prime Minister said some people seem to think that it is not necessary for them to observe these rules and regulations and to bring this sense of discipline to all the people of the country and to make them understand the importance of following this lockdown is going to be the biggest challenge.”

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, CMD of Biocon said, “Many state governments have declared a lockdown in any case where they have allowed only essential services and the way I look at it is most of these lockdowns have been announced upto March 31 and I guess it means it will be extended by another two weeks. So I would expect that the 21 days that has been announced will obviously last till probably April 14 or April 15.”

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