India nudges to contain COVID-19 pandemic: A reactive public policy analysis using machine-learning based topic modelling.
India locked down 1.3 billion people on March 25, 2020, in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. The economic cost of it was estimated at USD 98 billion, while the social costs are still unknown. This study investigated how government formed reactive policies to fight coronavirus across its policy sectors. Primary data was collected from the Press Information Bureau (PIB) in the form press releases of government plans, policies, programme initiatives and achievements. A text corpus of 260,852 words was created from 396 documents from the PIB. An unsupervised machine-based topic modelling using Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) algorithm was performed on the text corpus. It was done to extract high probability topics in the policy sectors. The interpretation of the extracted topics was made through a nudge theoretic lens to derive the critical policy heuristics of the government. Results showed that most interventions were targeted to generate endogenous nudge by using external triggers. Notably, the nudges from the Prime Minister of India was critical in creating herd effect on lockdown and social distancing norms across the nation. A similar effect was also observed around the public health (e.g., masks in public spaces; Yoga and Ayurveda for immunity), transport (e.g., old trains converted to isolation wards), micro, small and medium enterprises (e.g., rapid production of PPE and masks), science and technology sector (e.g., diagnostic kits, robots and nano-technology), home affairs (e.g., surveillance and lockdown), urban (e.g. drones, GIS-tools) and education (e.g., online learning). A conclusion was drawn on leveraging these heuristics are crucial for lockdown easement planning.