Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee said India screwed up in imposing lockdown restrictions too early and withdrew it within a short period of time, resulting in an unpleasant outcome.
The economist said India imposed stay-at-home restrictions on 25 March, within a very short time without considering the migrant crisis as there was no database about migrant workers, reports livemint on Saturday.
Successive governments did not give priority to generating high quality data, which he said, led to absence of a culture of scientifically informed decision making. The consequence of lack of such a culture was evident during the pandemic, he said.
"The lockdown was probably too early. We did it too quickly. If we knew that the lockdown will last only for a short period of time, we might have wanted it when the disease already reached a lot of people. Then it will slow the spread of the disease down when we needed it to slow down. We did instead move very early and then opened up very early because we cannot keep people locked down for a very long time. That created worse outcomes than would otherwise have been," said Banerjee.
He also said successive governments did not prioritise the task of generating high quality data as they have been suspicious of losing control over data. He was speaking at a webinar organised by 'The/Nudge', a not for profit organisation working on sustainable poverty alleviation.
"The problem was migrants had no place to live. They always lived in the construction site. When the site is closed, they had no place to live. That kind of thing needs to be documented," Banerjee said.
"We are in a place where very little hard information about India is coming out," he said, referring to former chief economic advisor in the finance ministry Arvind Subramanian's observation in June that there was a significant overestimation of India's economic growth for the period from 2011-12 to 2016-17 because of methodology changes.