Rajiv Bajaj Didn’t Mince Words When He Slammed the Govt Over the Lockdown

Coronavirus

Rajiv Bajaj Didn’t Mince Words When He Slammed the Govt Over the Lockdown

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

After engaging with former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had an honest discussion with Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto Ltd. Rajiv Bajaj is one of the few industrialists, if not the only one, who has been publicly critical of the “draconian nature” of India’s lockdown and the inadequacy of the economic stimulus announced by the government.

Here are some key takeaways from the conversation:

  1. Draconian Lockdown: Rajiv Bajaj delivered a punchline within the first five minutes, stating “India has flattened the wrong curve, the economic curve.” According to him, India’s lockdown was quite extreme and draconian in nature. Stating some personal examples, he said he’d spoken to friends and family from across the world and nowhere is it as severe as here. He pointed out that instead of looking at the West, we should have looked toward the East, at countries like South Korea and Japan, who are in our vicinity and have been much more efficient. He also said that the government has not been able to explain the “math” behind the need for such a stringent lockdown, failing to disclose transparently the facts and statistics.

  1. Challenges Of Opening Up: Bajaj said that we told the country that Covid-19 is a “fatal disease” and to now convince them to get out and “live with the virus”, which is the new narrative, is going to be an extremely challenging task psychologically. “People still think infection means death, it is a herculean task to open up. To get this fear out of the mind of people there has to be a clear narrative from the PM because when he says something people seem to follow,” he added.

Rahul Gandhi too spoke about his conversation with experts who said that we had changed the nature of the disease in the minds of the people from a “non-fatal” disease to a “fatal” disease and it’ll be difficult to change that.

  1. The Economic Stimulus: “We have to lift the demand. We have to lift the mood of the nation. We have put stimulus to increase demand growth,” Bajaj emphasised. Pointing out global examples, he said two third of what was handed out by the government went to organisations and people as direct benefits. It has not been the case in India.

Gandhi added that experts he interacted with too were baffled about why the government wasn’t handing out money directly to the people who needed it the most. Bajaj had earlier also pointed out that he hadn’t heard anyone go “wow” about the fiscal stimulus announced.

The conversation ended with Rajiv Bajaj joking about how he was advised against this chat and that he should “not risk it” by talking to Rahul Gandhi. The interview created a lot of chatter on Twitter.

Industrialists and businessmen often speak in favour of the government because there is a lot at stake. Rajiv Bajaj is clearly an exception.

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