It is a sweet irony that I am writing this review on a day when my State of West Bengal has started strict lockdown measures to break the chain of COVID transmission. Lockdown – this is definitely one of the words that have become part of everyday lexicon post March, 2020. And it is also a divisive idea that has the society split wide open.
While scientists and the medical fraternity are vocal about complete shutdown, economists, and governments across the world have often been found not to keen to enforce a lockdown, as livelihoods of millions would be threatened because of it. However, we live in times, when one has to choose between life and livelihood.
Last year, the Government of India announced a countrywide lockdown at four hour’s notice, leaving millions of Indians – mostly migrant workers stranded. The government’s handling of COVID had been lackadaisical, whimsical and downright unplanned. The lack of foresight and forward planning among the policy-makers plagued the nation, for which we are suffering till date.
Abantika Ghosh’s book ‘Billions Under Lockdown’ throws light on India’s tryst with the pandemic. I have been zealously following her updates on Twitter, and this book gave a better insight into how the ‘backroom offices’ in the corridors of power functioned to deal with this unforeseen enemy. From the sudden lockdown to economic slowdown, the sloth reaction to the first few cases to the stage of community transmission — she has chronicled it all.
From controversies – for example, the various ‘remedies’ offered to rid India of Corona – to the confusion in scientific community regarding the use of hydroxychloroquine, struggle with flailing health infrastructure to the politics surrounding COVID, and the vaccine diplomacy – she has given a detailed perspective of the year gone by.
The book is a must-read for public policy enthusiasts, as well as policy makers, for a know-how on what not to do – and some best practices – while dealing with a pandemic.