Coronavirus: Startups urge PM Modi to initiate strict lockdown, impose Section 144

The Indian startup ecosystem has come together in the wake of the growing number of novel coronavirus cases, urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to impose Section 144 across cities.

As the number of people infected with COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus continues to rise, the Indian startup ecosystem has sent a petition to the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The petition appeals for a “strict lockdown” and imposition of Section 144 across major cities in India by this week. 

Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) prohibits the assembly of five or more people.

A total of 66 representatives from the Indian startup ecosystem, including founders and investors, have prepared and endorsed the petition, calling for a lockdown across major cities for a minimum of two weeks. It urges that Section 144 be imposed, latest by March 20, to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The petitioners include the likes of Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl, Cred’s Kunal Shah, Red Bus’ Phanindra Sama, and Accel Partners’ Prashanth Prakash. 

“While containment efforts should continue, imposing a lockdown and Section 144 now versus 30 days later might reduce deaths by five times (saving nearly 10,000 lives),” the petition highlights.

The group has also urged the government to scale up novel coronavirus testing infrastructure by opening it up to the private sector. Till now, testing is restricted to 52 government-approved labs. The petition points out that learnings from Wuhan, China (where the novel coronavirus originated) show that actual undiagnosed cases are typically five to 20 times of diagnosed cases. 

“India, therefore, likely has between 600 and 2,500 cases,” it notes.

India has so far reported three deaths and 141 cases of infection related to the novel coronavirus. Globally, the COVID-19 has killed over 7,500 people and infected more than 1,89,000, according to Worldometer, that tracks real-time world statistics.

The petition by representatives from the Indian startup ecosystem from Bengaluru to Gurugram, also notes that countries that have acted “early and strongly” such as South Korea, Singapore, and Japan have been able to bring down cases of coronavirus, compared to those that “waited and watched” like Iran, Italy, France, and the US.

It also urged the government to consider a second planned lockdown from May 18 to May 31, to ensure that the country does not see “a second peak (in cases) after the initial restrictions are removed”.

In between the first and second lockdown periods, the group urged the government to encourage private business to continue working from home and keep schools, colleges, temples and places that see large gatherings shut.

On Monday evening, PM Modi took to micro-blogging site Twitter to urge people to come forward and share technology-driven solutions for COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus on the government’s portal

The government has started a COVID-19 ‘Solution Challenge’ on the platform where individuals and companies can submit their tech-based ideas for “strengthening the fight against coronavirus”, and stand a chance to win Rs 1 lakh.

Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) characterised the novel coronavirus as a global pandemic.

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)


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