Start-ups, VCs suggest Centre selectively impose lockdown with Section 144 to contain Covid-19

K Giriprakash Bengaluru | Updated on March 19, 2020 Published on March 18, 2020

Startups Bounce, Snapdeal, Unacademy, Urban Company, Vokal, Local Rides, HomeLane and VCs Matrix Partners, Kalaari Capital and Accel Partners cite better outcomes in countries that acted early, such as South Korea, Singapore and Japan


Reacting as a group for the first time since the coronavirus broke out, 34 start-ups and venture capitalist (VCs) firms have petitioned the Centre to impose Section 144 and lockdowns across key cities starting March 20 to contain the virus.

Start-ups, including Bounce, Snapdeal, Unacademy and VCs such as Matrix Partners, Kalaari Capital and Accel Partners, have pointed out that the countries that have acted early and strongly (South Korea, Singapore, Japan etc) have been able to “flatten the curve” and bring down cases compared to those that waited and watched, such as Iran, Italy, France and the US. Some other start-ups that are part of this group are Urban Company, Vokal, Local Rides and HomeLane.

Data modelling tool

These start-ups used data modelling tools to come up with a timeline starting from the imposition of Section 144 to lockdowns in a phased manner. “Our data modelling suggests that a lockdown now versus 30 days later might help save five times more lives in just 90 days. The government should impose a 2-3 week lockdown with Section 144 across major impacted cities right away, and be prepared for a second lockdown later.”

Data from the 1918 flu pandemic strongly suggests early strong action. Learnings from Wuhan suggest actual undiagnosed cases are typically 5-20x of the diagnosed cases — India, therefore, likely has between 600 and 2,500 cases, they said.

“While containment efforts should continue, imposing a lockdown and Section 144 now versus 30 days later might reduce deaths by 5x (saving nearly 10,000 lives),” the statement said.

Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 allows the Executive Magistrate of any State or territory to issue an order to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area. According to the law, every member of such an ‘unlawful assembly’ can be booked and arrested.

The founders of these start-ups wanted imposition of Section-144 and strict lockdowns with citizens asked to stay at home across major cities for two weeks starting March 20.

The founders acknowledged the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus. “India has started well with good containment efforts: Travel restrictions were implemented early in our journey. Testing of all international passengers and mandatory quarantining. Temporary shutdown of schools, colleges, cinemas and gyms. Encouraging citizens to self-quarantine and work from home.”

But it wanted the government to take stricter measures now.

The timeline suggested by the founders:

Lockdown / Section 144: March 20 to April 12:

• All  storefront non-essential businesses, including restaurants, bars etc. shut

• All schools, colleges, cinemas etc. remain shut. Public transport travel limited to need basis only

• Religious places, places of worship shut down

• All events cancelled

• Private enterprises asked to work from home.

Precautionary phase with social distancing: April 13 to May 17:

• Reassess the situation and lift Section 144 in most if not all places

• Continue to selectively keep schools, colleges, temples and places of large gatherings shut

• Encourage private businesses to continue working from home

• Allow store-front businesses of all goods and services to reopen

Second lockdown with Section 144 from May 18 to May 31:

• May have to do a second lock-down to ensure there is no second peak after initial restrictions are lifted. In the 1918 Flu, Denver saw a second peak after quickly easing restrictions

Opening up phase with social distancing:

• From June onwards, lift all restrictions and allow schools, colleges and all other organisations to open up

• Encourage citizens to adopt caution and continue to maintain hygiene and social distancing

• Continuously monitor the situation and assess the need for a third intervention. Section 144 and lockdowns will have an economic and social cost, and steps need to be taken to prepare well

Published on March 18, 2020
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