Instead of state-wide closures, he said, governments should look at having restrictions only within specific containment zones that are badly impacted due to the disease. “The cure must not be worse than the disease,” Bhargava told TOI, making a case for opening of dealerships and markets as “prolonged and widespread lockdowns will hit the economy” as well as impact dealer sales and production at factories.
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“If the markets are shut, then demand will fall. Any prolonged shutdown will mean demand will go down. Production cannot continue if sales stop. You can’t run factories if dealerships are shut. It doesn’t make sense,” the chairman of the country’s biggest carmaker said. “Where will I send the cars that I produce? I need to have the sales outlets open and people buying cars and taking deliveries from dealerships.”
The second wave of the pandemic in the country is more pronounced in terms of infections and fatalities and there have been lockdowns — some complete and many partial — across key states such as Maharashtra, Delhi and Rajasthan. There have been severe restrictions across many other states, and there is a fear that many of them may also opt for a lockdown in view of the rising cases of Covid infections.
Bhargava, however, said that “blanket solutions” such as full lockdown or curfew may end up doing more harm than benefit as the economy slips and poor suffer. “I am not happy with such a clampdown. We cannot afford shutdowns. It has a crippling impact on the economy and hurts the poor more, which also leads to migration of labour. What will they (labour) do if there are shutdowns?”
Interestingly, PM Narendra Modi too said that the country needs to be saved from full lockdown as much as possible, and it should be enforced only as a last resort.
Bhargava said that instead of widespread closures, only areas that have many Covid cases should be marked as containment and restricted zones. “Let normal business continue in other areas. Let everybody follow safety protocols, for example at dealerships or restaurants. If they don’t follow the norms and protocols, then shut them down.”
Asked about the impact on the auto industry’s sales due to the existing lockdowns in the second phase of Covid spread, he said that sales have been satisfactory so far.