All around the world, western political leaders are trying to find the right balance between ‘authoritarianism’ and ‘totalitarianism’ (which is probably what everyone needs right now!) and yet fulfil their obligations to a free press and an individualistic society who prefer to make their own choices when it comes to exerting their personal rights, freedoms, movement and expression. No greater is this challenge than in India which, as stated by Bloomberg, has to achieve “something that has never been tried before: 1.3 billion people – a fifth of the globe’s population – locked down in one place for 21 straight days”.
In this article on How India Plans to Lock Down 1.3 Billion People in a Democracy, Bloomberg contrasts India with China which was “able to quickly mobilise all levels of government once it acknowledged the threat. More than 2,000 migrant workers built two new hospitals, with 2,600 beds in total, in just 10 days. Stadiums, offices and hotels were converted into isolation units. China then flew in thousands of doctors into Hubei to treat the sick, while barricading residents indoors to prevent the spread. Mobile-phone carriers complied with government requests to track movements of people who had been in Wuhan and office buildings used facial recognition and automatic temperature gauges to monitor suspected cases”.
Whilst India had the advantage of an advanced warning, their greatest challenge is to comply with the extra checks and balances that apply in a large and vibrant democracy. As Bloomberg says “although Modi won the biggest political mandate in decades, India’s federalist system means he must work with powerful state leaders to implement his orders. The country’s vibrant democracy, with a diverse ethnic makeup, also has few of the advanced technologies that the Communist Party deploys to keep troublemakers in line”.
This is indeed a big test for democracy. Let’s hope they succeed.