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The unintended upsides of the COVID 19 lockdown

These are trying times for all of us. The whole world is dealing with the Coronavirus / COVID 19 crisis with no clear resolution available yet. So obviously, the best we can do right now is to stay indoors and not come in contact with others to eliminate the risk of spreading COVID 19. In India, we are following a 21 day lockdown as a step in that direction. Of course it goes without saying that with the kind of scale and diversity we have, a lockdown like this brings with it a fair share of challenges, some more serious than others. On one hand, the work and morale of people is taking a hit as they are locked in their homes, unable to step outside to engage with their social circles, on the other, more extreme end, there are people not as lucky as us, struggling to make ends meet, with authorities and communities trying to help.

But with the gigantic wheel of everyday life slowing down, there are some upsides that have started showing as a consequence. A lot of us living in metro cities have often complained about the constantly deteriorating quality of air we breathe, in all likelihood while having a fuel guzzling car or two comfortably parked in the driveway after a drive. Suddenly with all the cars parked in place, and factories shut, we are seeing the sky in its true blue colour after ages and a long breath doesn’t hurt one’s nose. Part of our team is in Northern India near the capital city, an area infamous for its air pollution despite multiple efforts by the authorities and citizens. And now, we are seeing the AQI drop in low to mid two digit ranges, something a rare sight for us.

There are other, rather unintended, consequences of this lockdown as well. Not just in India, but in the whole world, cities have been battling the issues posed by constantly rising population density in key business hubs. The impact of this is on real estate, infrastructure, air, natural resources and even the day to day existence of common man. For instance, Silicon Valley has been dealing with the issue of teachers not being able to afford the cost of living in the region. It is sad to think that the people who shape the future innovators are facing such challenges. In our country, it wasn’t hard to find similar scenarios, albeit in different space, in the financial capital Mumbai. And while the hotspots deal with this, there are absolutely contrasting pictures the moment you look towards the Tier 2 and 3 cities. All of this is driven by the business hubs, and the whole ecosystem that gradually builds around them.

With lot of companies being forced to allow and enable their employees to work from home, this could trigger a change. Many companies that could, were forced to figure out how to make ‘work from home’ work for them. Of course not every industry can operate like this but for the ones that can, this could be the point where they change direction. Maybe not everyone needs to stew in their cars at a traffic light at exactly 9 AM pumping more gases in our lungs. Millions are being spent on driverless cars to deal with this problem, but maybe the landscape can start improving right here? And this would not only be a step towards fixing our overcrowded business hubs, but would go a long way towards supporting the ecosystem in Tier 2 and Tier 3 as workforces get decentralised. Maybe we can take this learning out of this COVID 19 crisis.

Of course another unintended consequence of the current lockdown due to coronavirus is that there are only essential vehicles on the road. In normal circumstances, over 400 lives are lost daily on Indian roads for a variety of factors. However, with the country in lockdown and roads empty, it is likely that the number is not the same. We say ‘likely’ because of course we don’t have official numbers yet but it is possible that as an unintended result, this COVID 19 could spare over 8,000 lives on the road.

That said, we understand that to many, everything said above might sound myopic. But then, in the dark clouds, we are just trying to take an alternate view to find the silver lining. It goes without saying that we are trying to do our bit to aid those who are not as blessed as us, or are providing the support ecosystem in these times, and urge you to do the same. We will sail through this and continue our #DriveForSaferRoads.

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