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India may have to sell itself out of this crisis, says Rajiv Bajaj

"We should have kept only the vulnerable at home, closed all public spaces, and allowed the young and healthy to keep turning wheels of the economy — with due precautions, with respect to hygiene, masks, distancing, etc."

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Last Updated: Apr 08, 2020, 07.48 AM IST
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Rajiv Bajaj, MD Bajaj Auto
Coronavirus

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To the best of my knowledge, virtually no country has imposed such a sweeping lockdown as India has; I continue to believe this makes India weak rather than stronger in combating the epidemic.

We should have kept only the vulnerable at home, closed all public spaces, and allowed the young and healthy to keep turning wheels of the economy — with due precautions, with respect to hygiene, masks, distancing, etc.

I don’t buy the condescending argument that all Indians are a bunch of illiterate, ignorant, indisciplined morons who need cattle-like shepherding.

The current approach is obviously totally unsustainable in the future; every now and then when a virus returns, are we to fear that the lockdown will also be back?

I’m dismayed that despite having a full-fledged Ayush ministr,y and being the world’s centre of excellence in homoeopathy, India has barred homoeopaths and naturopaths from offering affordable, scalable solutions, especially given that homoeopathy is universally acknowledged to have no inimical side effects.

Being a profitable, debt-free company that exports almost half of what it makes, Bajaj Auto is, fortunately, in a relatively resilient position for now. Consequently, we have assured dealers, suppliers and employees, including all contract employees, that we will not permit this extreme lockdown to impact them till April 14.

However, I’m afraid we cannot guarantee that this will continue to be the case thereafter as well.

Until we see signs of normalisation, we are reviewing our capex budget to be put on hold, marketing budget to be reduced to virtually zero, interest waiver on dealer credit to be tempered, and wages to be cut across the organisation. We are at the moment not effecting job cuts and intend to honour all supplier payments due.

So far, the industry has received scant support from the government. However, I'm less concerned about that as to my mind, the priority is recalibration of this arbitrary lockdown. For, I firmly believe that we’re not going to save ourselves out of this crisis, we have to sell ourselves out of it.

The writer is MD Bajaj Auto, views expressed are his own.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
(Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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