‘Govt Doesn’t Have Exact Data on COVID-19 Cases in India’: Sibal

Kapil Sibal speaks on exams, admissions, online classes, and govt role amid COVID-19 crisis, in an exclusive chat.

2 min read

In an exclusive chat with The Quint's Editorial Director Sanjay Pugalia, Congress MP and former HRD minister Kapil Sibal speaks on exams, admissions, online classes, and government's role amid COVID-19 crisis in the country.

Sibal said that the government doesn’t have exact data on the COVID-19 cases in India and so, it is not possible to conclude whether the nationwide lockdown has helped reduce the total number of cases or not.

Has strict lockdown positively impacted the spread of COVID-19 in India? Many are of the opinion that due to the lockdown, the spread of the virus could be curbed significantly, in comparison to other countries. Is that true?

It’s not possible to say that for sure. Exact figures are not available for rural areas. Official figures in Panchkula show 14 people are infected, but 160 people have been admitted to private hospitals. Therefore, to say that the lockdown has reduced infection, is baseless. The prime minister had said that at least 8 lakh people would be infected if there was no lockdown. On what basis did he say that? At this point, we do not know for sure how many COVID-19 cases are there in the country.

Is health not a matter for States? Doesn’t the government only have an advisory role in it?

After the enactment of NDMA in 2005, it rendered other laws on disaster management useless. Given the current scenario, a national plan could have been made under this act, to give relief to labourers, businessmen and others. There should also be a state-wise plan and a district-wise plan. The central government should make a plan after talking to the state governments.

Was there negligence on the part of the government? Did the government underestimate the seriousness of the situation?

By the end of January, WHO had described coronavirus as a pandemic. But India announced a lockdown only on 24 March. In the meantime, he (PM Modi) had to make a national plan. But on 13 March, the government refused to acknowledge that there is a crisis in the country. Hence, it is clear that the government didn’t think of it as a serious enough outbreak.

Can judges and lawyers work online?

People are facing problems in terms of facilities and infrastructure. The entire judicial process should not be done online. But even under a crisis, hearings in urgent cases must be done online. It will take time but it is the need of the hour.

Is complete online education possible in India?

Virtual classes are not interactive and may not be easy to grasp for students who are used to learning with their peers in a classroom environment. Further, the skewed teacher-student ratio and the inability of many to teach online are hurdles in the process of online learning. If you try and do online teaching, students don’t understand. They ultimately fail. What do you do then? For no fault of the students.

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