NEW DELHI: Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto Limited, on Thursday called the nearly two-month long national lockdown “draconian" and said the economy had been decimated because of its fallout.
In an online conversation with former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Bajaj said, “You have definitely decimated the economy. You flattened the wrong curve. It is not the infection curve, it is the GDP curve. This is what we have ended with, the worst of both worlds. In my view, what should have been done is something more right of centre," he said in the conversation streamed today.
Bajaj’s comments come in the backdrop of the sentiment in the industry that the stimulus measures should have been more direct rather than through the banking channel. The business community is now pinning its hopes on a recovery in consumption amid the challenge of job losses. Much of the relief offered to businesses till now is in the form of credit.
“The way India has been locked down is a draconian lockdown. This kind of lockdown, I’m not hearing about from anywhere else," Bajaj said, adding that the “social and emotional aspects" of the lockdown have been better in other parts of the world.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi administration, which returned to office a year ago, had to first grapple with a slowing economic growth and then the coronavirus pandemic that has brought almost all economic activities to a standstill for two months due to the lockdown. This has crippled finances of central and state governments, limiting their ability to offer a big stimulus that the industry has been seeking. The Modi administration has focused on the rural economy, which supports demand in many sectors of the economy, including two wheeler producers.
Bajaj said “I strongly believe that a large country like India cannot save itself out of trouble. It has to sell itself out of trouble. We have to get demand going again."
Gandhi, reiterating that the lockdown had failed, said “It is the only lockdown in the world where the disease is increasing after we are opening up. What you are finding is that you are going back to that anyway. The central government has backed off and has said that now we are going to be forced to leave it to the states."
For over a month now, Gandhi has been holding online conversation with experts over the fallout of the pandemic and the national lockdown. This was the fourth in that series. Gandhi has earlier spoken to former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan, Nobel Prize winning economist, Professor Abhijit Banerjee and public health experts Ashish Jha and Johan Giesecke.