After a “Janata Curfew” and Social Distancing on March 22, and drawing a 21-day-long “Lakshmana Rekha” of Lockdown from the midnight of March 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 14, extended it by appealing to all to continue it by taking a seven-step ‘Saptapadi’ till May 3 to combat the much dreaded COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus.
Addressing the nation on the national television, the Prime Minister said that the seven-step extension was necessitated to save the country from the onslaught of COVID-19, which had been claiming thousands of lives the world over, while the impact was being seen under control in India, proving the unity and cooperation of its people. He said that he was aware of the problems the people had been facing — some for food, some for movement from place to place, and others for staying away from homes and families. However, for the sake of the country, they were fulfilling their duties like a disciplined soldier. This is the power of “We, the People of India” that the Indian Constitution talks about. “This display of our collective strength is a true tribute to Baba Saheb Doctor Bhim Rao Ambedkar, on his birth anniversary. Baba Saheb’s life inspires us to combat each challenge with determination and hard work. I bow before Baba Saheb on behalf of all of us”, Narendra Modi added.
Praising the countrymen for their suffering and endurance against several odds to fight the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Prime Minister said that India was moving ahead with great strength and steadfastness. It was only because of people’s restraint, penance and sacrifice that India had so far been able to avert the harm caused by COVID-19 to a large extent. India took all the steps necessary to curb it and would not allow it to spread to new areas. “We will identify hotspots in all states and take all preventive steps even before they spread to new areas. We will review and reassess the situation on April 20, and see to it if we can relax the curbs in areas where it is safe to do so,” he said. This move, he claimed, found support from many Chief Ministers, with whom he had consulted.
Narendra Modi said, “Long before we had even a single case of corona, India had started screening travelers coming in from corona-affected countries at Indian airports. Much before the number of corona patients reached 100, India had made 14-day isolation mandatory for all those coming in from abroad. Malls, clubs and gyms were shut down in many places. When we had only 550 corona cases, then itself India had taken the big step of a 21-day complete lockdown. India did not wait for the problem to escalate. It took quick decisions to act as soon as it arose.” He said that in such a crisis it was not right to compare India’s situation with any other country. However, it was true that if India looked at corona-related figures in the world’s big, powerful countries, India today was in a very well-managed position. A month and a half ago, several countries had been on a par with India in terms of corona infection. But today, corona cases in those countries were 25-30 times more than that of India. Thousands of people have tragically died in those countries. Had India not adopted a holistic and integrated approach — taking quick and decisive action — the situation in India would have been completely different today.
The Prime Minister said that the preventive steps taken by India might look economically costly, but they proved to be beneficial to all the countrymen. The seven steps of Saptapadi the Prime Minister appealed to his countrymen to follow were:
First step: Take special care of the elderly in your homes, especially those who have chronic disease. We have to take extra care of them, and keep them safe from coronavirus;
Second step: Completely adhere to the “Lakshmana Rekha” of Lockdown and Social Distancing. Please also use homemade face-covers and masks without fail;
Third step: Follow the instructions issued by AYUSH Ministry to enhance your immunity. Regularly consume warm water, “kadha;”
Fourth step: Download the Arogya Setu Mobile App to help prevent the spread of corona infection. Also inspire others to download the App;
Fifth step: Take as much care of poor families as you can. Especially try to fulfill their food requirements;
Sixth step: Be compassionate towards the people who work with you in your business or industry. Do not deprive them of their livelihood; and
Seventh step: Pay utmost respect to our nation’s Corona Warriors – our doctors and nurses, sanitation workers and police force.
Earlier, as a reminder, the Prime Minister said that the people were well aware of the status of the COVID-19 pandemic all over the world today. They had been a partner as well as witness to the manner in which India had tried to stop the infection, compared to other countries.
He said: “It is clearly evident from the experience of the past few days, that we have chosen the correct path. Our country has greatly benefited from social distancing and lockdown. From an economic point of view, it undoubtedly looks costly right now; but measured against the lives of the Indian citizens, there is no comparison itself. The path that India has taken within our limited resources has become a topic of discussion in the entire world today.”
The Prime Minister said that the state governments of the country had also acted with great responsibility, managing the situation round the clock. But the way the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading amidst all these efforts, had made health experts and governments around the world even more alert. He said he had been in continuous touch with the states on how the fight against COVID-19 should progress in India. Everyone had suggested that the lockdown should be continued. Many states have, in fact, already decided and declared to continue the lockdown.
Therefore, he said, keeping all the suggestions in mind, it has been decided that the lockdown in India would have to be extended till May 3. A single new patient at even the smallest local level, should be a matter of concern to all. The tragic death of even a single patient from COVID-19, should increase India’s concern even further.
The Prime Minister said: “We will have to keep a close and strict watch on the places which run the risk of becoming hot-spots. The creation of new hot-spots will further challenge our hard work and penance. Hence, let us extend the strictness and austerity in the fight against corona for the upcoming one week. Until April 20, every town, every police station, every district, every state will be evaluated on how much the lockdown is being followed. The extent to which the region has protected itself from coronavirus will be noted.”
The Prime Minister further said provision of this limited exemption in these identified areas after April 20 has been done keeping in mind the livelihood of the poor brothers and sisters. “Those who earn daily, make ends meet with daily income, they are my family. One of my top-most priorities is to reduce the difficulties in their lives. The government has made every possible effort to help them through Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojna. Their interests have also been taken care of while making the new guidelines,” he added. He said that the harvesting of the Rabi crop was in progress. The Central and state governments were working together to minimize the problems of the farmers.
The Prime Minister assured the people that the country had ample reserves of medicines, food-ration and other essential goods; and supply chain constraints were continuously being removed. The government was making rapid progress in ramping up health infrastructure as well. From having only one testing lab for novel coronavirus in January, the country now had more than 220 functional testing labs. Global experience showed that 1,500-1,600 beds were required for every 10,000 patients. The India government had arranged more than one lakh beds today. Not only this, there were more than 600 hospitals which were dedicated for COVID-19 treatment. These facilities were being increased rapidly.
While India had limited resources today, he said, he had a special request for India’s young scientists to come forward and take a lead in creating a vaccine for novel coronavirus – for the welfare of the world, for the welfare of the human race. He expressed confidence that if all people continued to be patient and followed rules, they would be able to defeat even a pandemic like COVID-19. Therefore, he said, he was seeking people’s support for the seven steps he had prescribed to combat COVID-19.
– Contributed by Mr. J.V. Laskshmana Rao, a former National News Coordinator of Express News Service, New Delhi, and former Chief Editor of US-based India Tribune. He frequently travels between India and the US.
Picture Credits: @narendramodi / Twitter