The decision taken by Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and implemented by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to cancel visas to India from tourists in countries across the world has created shock waves in the travel and hospitality industries. Both have already been affected by the ongoing economic slowdown, and this move pushes them further into losses. They argue that the measure is way too draconian, and ought to be replaced with a system of enhanced screening and tracking of visitors, for example, through comprehensive use of thermal scanners as well as registering and thereafter using the smartphones of those judged to be at risk to track their movements. Closing off India to the rest of the world is an unprecedented measure, and it speaks for the courage and boldness of the Prime Minister that such a drastic and dramatic measure has been taken. Although some sectors of the economy will be badly affected by a ban that is to last a month, the fact is that the alternative of a possible rash of Covid-19 cases across India as a consequence of infected tourists moving about the country is much worse. It is better to undergo some pain to some for some time rather than accept the potential risk of the epidemic taking hold in the country the way it has in China, Iran and Italy. It must be added that the Ministry of External Affairs has demonstrated a speed and an energy not seen in all ministries where the Covid-19 epidemic is concerned. The External Affairs Minister and his team have explained the situation clearly, and such prompt attention to informing the public has been helpful in ensuring a minimisation of the impact of the ban on tourists visiting India. It must be added that tourist arrivals would anyway have been much lower than usual, as most travellers are staying at home rather than going to distant shores the way they used to before the full force of Covid-19 hit the globe. The hiatus of a month can be used by the hospitality industry to ensure an upgrade of facilities and for this, policies need to be worked out by the government to ensure that job losses as a consequence of the after-effects of the Covid-19 outbreak are kept to a minimum. Across the board, attention needs to be paid as to how to ensure the survival of businesses and establishments at a time when there has been a terrible shock to both demand as well as supply.
Prime Minister Modi has a proven track record in administration, and this is evident in the manner in which his government is responding to the Covid-19 crisis. Avoiding panic but moving at speed, testing centres are being set up across the country and quarantine facilities established. At the same time, firm steps are being taken to ensure that large-scale events do not take place till such time as the disease that is spreading across the globe goes into retreat mode. An example is the IPL. The advisory to postpone the event is timely, and it is surprising that some members of the IPL do not recognise the necessity for it. The BCCI needs to be complimented for having made it clear to the IPL franchisees that the request by the Government of India should be heeded and not sought to be bypassed. In the United States, even the NBA has had to cancel its tourneys in view of the risk of spread of an infection which has already taken root within parts of the basketball fraternity. Just as even the soundest of banks would find it difficult to meet exigencies caused by a run on the bank by the majority of depositors, the spread of the virus to large numbers of citizens would overwhelm the health facilities available in practically any country. It was, therefore, sheer prudence to attempt to ensure that the disease does not spread in India the way it has in China, Iran and Italy. Overall, the strong steps taken by the Modi government are on track to ensure that Covid-19 ends as more of an irritant than the potential catastrophe that could occur if mismanaged. The blocking of travel to India by foreign tourists has demonstrated to the whole world that the authorities in this country are ready to go the extra mile to ensure the safety of citizens from the deadly novel coronavirus.