India leading fight, must keep guard up, says Modi
While warning against any complacency over the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday hailed citizens for going beyond their call of duty and leading the battle against the disease as he underlined that the health crisis will bring about radical changes in the way people live their lives and work.
In his Mann ki Baat address, the Prime Minister emphasised that masks will now become an indispensable tool that everyone must use and called for restraint during festivals, including the ongoing Ramzan, and hoped that by Eid, the world would be rid of the pandemic.
The PM also strongly defended India’s decision to provide medical supply to other countries at this time, in what appeared to be a reference to the export of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and other drugs, and underscored how India’s traditional strengths – from yoga to ayurveda – were important pillars in building immunity against the disease.
While delivering the radio address on Sunday morning, PM Modi also praised the role of state governments and all other official agencies, and once again underscored the importance of ‘corona warriors’ in the efforts to combat the disease. The remarks came a day before the PM’s meeting with chief ministers to decide on India’s strategy in dealing with the pandemic. India is under lockdown till May 3 to break the chain of infections even as top government officials weigh the option of easing some restrictions to kick-start some economic activity.
Sunday marked the second time the PM spoke almost entirely on the pandemic in his monthly radio interaction; he has also directly addressed the nation four other times on the issue.
The PM began his address by speaking about the role of the citizens in the national effort against Covid-19. ‘In India, it is the people who are fighting the Corona; it is you who are putting up a fight. Along with the people, the government and the administration are fighting as well.’
He said that in the future, when the ways of battling the pandemic were studied, India’s model of a people-driven fight would find a prominent place. Tracing the instances of this effort, the PM spoke of, among others, farmers working in the field to ensure food security; citizens arranging food and ration for the poor; home owners waiving off rents; individuals donating to the PM-Cares fund; and construction workers whitewashing school buildings where they are quarantined. This, he said, tied in with the ‘altruistic bent of mind’ increasingly visible in society.
This entire effort, the PM said, will lead to fundamental changes, both at the individual and organisational level. ‘Our businesses, offices, educational institutions, our medical sector are rapidly advancing towards new operational changes.’ There were other positive changes in work culture, daily habits, and lifestyles. In particular, the PM pointed to two important changes, which he hoped would be long-lasting.
The first was with regard to masks. ‘In the changed paradigm due to Corona, masks are becoming a part of our lives… it does not mean that all those wearing a mask are sick… Mark my words, masks will now become a symbol of cultured society. If you want to save yourself and others from disease, you will have to wear a mask.’
The second was with regard to spitting. ‘People now understand the damage that can be caused by spitting in public places. It had been a part of our bad habits that we would spit just about anywhere. This presents a serious challenge both to cleanliness and to health.’ He hoped that this moment would lead to the total eradication of this habit.
The people-led effort was also visible in the way people were celebrating festivals, by staying indoors and with simplicity. The PM tied this in with Ramzan, and while greeting citizens on the occasion, said that this was a moment to mark it as an icon of ‘restraint, goodwill, sensitivity and service’. Ramzan has traditionally seen congregations of the devout in mosques. The PM praised the role of community leaders in making people aware of the need for social distancing; he said he hoped administrative guidelines will be followed and that everyone prayed that before Eid, the world was rid of the disease.
But this, PM Modi said, was not the time for complacency. ‘Let us not at all get caught in the trap of overconfidence. Let us not harbour a feeling that if Corona has not yet reached our city, our village, our street or our office, it is not going to reach now. Never make such a mistake. There should be no negligence at the local level or elsewhere.’ This, the PM said, demanded that a distance of two yards – do gaj ki doori – was consistently maintained.
India’s decision to export HCQ, following requests by a range of countries, including the United States, had come in for criticism from the opposition. The PM used his monthly address to speak of Indian culture, where there is empathy for the needs of others, and justified the decision within that ethos. ‘We took a decision in keeping with our culture. While we stepped up efforts to fulfil India’s needs, we also paid heed to the cry of help that came from other parts of the world to save humanity.’ World leaders had expressed their gratitude to the PM, which he said was a matter of pride for all of India.
Reiterating a theme that he has focused on in each of his address, the PM once again spoke of the role of front-line ‘corona warriors’ as well as those in essential services. He spoke of a government website – covidwarriors.gov.in – that linked civil society volunteers, local administrations and health care workers for better coordination. The PM also underlined the importance of a recent ordinance which provides for more stringent punishment against attacks on health care workers, and how the pandemic has made citizens recognise the importance of many workers whose work otherwise went unnoticed, from domestic help to labour, from auto rickshaw drivers to those delivering goods. He also emphasised the role of different government and private sector players in the effort against the disease, from those in the aviation sector transporting essential medical supplies to railways to ensure the supply of essential goods.
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