Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday sought “forgiveness” for the difficulties caused by the 21-day nationwide lockdown, especially to the poor, while hoping that the country would put the coronavirus crisis behind in a month’s time.
Speaking at his Mann ki Baat show, the PM said he had no choice but to take tough measures. “I had to take certain decisions which have put you in a lot of difficulty. Especially when I look at my poor brothers and sisters, I definitely feel they must be thinking, what kind of a Prime Minister is this, who has placed us in this difficulty. Possibly, many would be angry at me for being locked in their homes… I seek forgiveness… I strongly feel you will forgive me,” he said.
In an over 30-minute address, the PM added, “Today every Indian is staying inside home to save one’s life. But, in the coming days, the same Indian will break all barriers for the country’s progress, take it forward… Humein yeh jang jeetna hai. Zaroor jeetenge. Mann ki Baat ke liye phir agle mahine milenge. Aur tab tak in sankaton ko maat karne mein hum safal ho bhi jayein, isi ek kalpana ke saath, isi ek shubhkamna ke saath, aap sabko bahut bahut dhanyawad (We have to win this war. We will win. Next month, we will meet for Mann Ki Baat again, and I thank you all with the hope, the good wishes that we will be able to overcome this big problem by then).”
With migrant labourers leaving big cities in droves for villages, Modi urged people to help them. “We should be more sensitive towards the poor. Our humanity lies in feeding the poor first in this time of difficulty. India can do this, this is our culture.”
Underlining the threat posed by COVID-19 again, like he had done in his previous addresses to the nation on coronavirus, Modi said the disease did not consider region or weather. “For a country the size of India, we need strong measures. Nobody likes to take such strong measures, but it is the only option, having seen what happened in other countries and learning that the disease must be dealt with at the beginning before it becomes incurable.”
Warning those “not understanding the gravity of the situation”, he said, “This lockdown is for your own protection… Those who are breaking the law are actually playing with their lives… The world over, many people nursed this delusion (that they will not be affected by coronavirus). All of them are regretting now… those breaking the rules are playing with their lives.”
The PM also urged that those in home quarantine or who had tested positive should not be mistreated. “We have to keep social distance, not emotional and human distance. Such people are not criminals… They have quarantined themselves to save others from infection… When people are taking responsibility themselves, behaving badly with them is not right. Instead, they should be shown sympathy and cooperation… Social distancing doesn’t mean stopping social interaction.”
Modi, who had asked people to express gratitude for those lending essential services on Janata Curfew day, thanked “warriors” and “soldiers” such as healthcare and sanitation workers, promising health insurance of Rs 50 lakh for around 20 lakh such people. He said small shopkeepers, drivers, bank workers, e-commerce delivery persons and IT professionals who were keeping the Internet running were putting themselves at risk to make essential services available.
The PM suggested that people should use the 21-day period they are locked in to “not go out but look within yourself, try to know yourself”, develop new hobbies.
During the programme, Modi invited coronavirus patient Ramagampa Teja to share his experience. Teja said he was initially frightened but felt reassured because of doctors and hospital staff. The PM also spoke with Agra’s Ashok Kapoor, who tested positive along with his entire family, including young grandson, after he had visited Italy. Modi told Kapoor to spread awareness about anti-coronavirus measures in Agra.
Another doctor who came on the show, Nitish Gupta from Delhi, said many hospitalised people were scared seeing news of deaths in other countries, and require counselling. Dr Borse from Pune told Modi that all the patients in his hospital were recovering well.