New Delhi, Oct 22: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that India's success in administering over 100 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses in nine months has given a befitting reply to those who questioned its capabilities, and asserted that this highlights a "new India" which can set difficult targets and achieve them.
In his address to the nation a day after India crossed the landmark, Modi dwelt at length about its significance and also projected a picture of optimism and hope about India's growth after a spell of pandemic-induced setback, saying experts and world agencies are very positive about its economy.
Indian companies and start-ups are receiving record investment and generating employment, he said.
Often attacked by opposition parties and critics for his government's handling of the pandemic, Modi got back at them and asserted that the administration of 100 crore doses is a new chapter in history and reflects India's capabilities.
Some people had asked how the 'taali-thaali' initiative and the lighting of 'diyas' at the start of the pandemic would help eradicate the virus, he noted and said that these measures were a reflection of people's participation and unity. India's vaccination programme is a most robust example of "sabka saath, sabka vishwas aur sabka prayas", he added.
It is a matter of pride for all that the country's vaccination programme was "science-born, science-driven and science-based" in which there no place for any "VIP culture", he said.
Modi also talked about the apprehensions and doubts raised earlier on India's capacity to fight the pandemic.
Pointing out that several questions were raised, such as will the people of India get the vaccines or not and will India be able to vaccinate enough people to stop the pandemic from spreading, he said the 100 crore vaccine dose milestone is the answer to every question.
Modi said 100 crore doses was not just about a number but a symbol of the country's capability and a picture of "new India".
"... It is the writing of a new chapter, a country that knows how to set difficult targets and achieve them. It is a picture of that new India that has the strength to strive for achieving its goals," the prime minister said.
One impact of this milestone would be that the world would consider India safer from coronavirus and its position as a pharma hub would grow, he said.
At the beginning of the Covid pandemic, fears were expressed that it would be very difficult to fight the disease in a democracy like India. It was also asked how would there be the restraint and discipline required to combat the pandemic "but for us democracy means 'Sabka Saath'," Modi said.
Taking everyone along, the country had started the campaign of 'Sabko Vaccine, Muft Vaccine', he noted.
The country, he said, had only one mantra -- that if the disease does not discriminate, then there cannot be any discrimination in the vaccination.
"That's why it was ensured that there is no VIP culture in the vaccination drive," he said.
"No matter how big a post one holds, no matter how rich he or she is, they will get vaccination just as a common person will," Modi said.
The prime minister said there is confidence in the country today. From various strata of society to the economy, at every level and everywhere, there is "optimism, optimism and optimism", he said while also emphasising that people should not drop their guard during the festive season and continue with Covid-appropriate behaviour such as masks.
Experts as well as national and international agencies are very positive about India's economy with Indian companies not only getting record investments but employment generation also taking place, Modi said.
With record investment in start-ups, record numbers of unicorns are also being created, he said.
He prime minister urged people to keep following Covid protocol during the festival season and not drop their guard.
"No matter how good the shield is, how modern it is, there may be a guarantee of protection from the shield, but weapons are not laid down till the battle is on," the prime minister said, urging people to continue wearing masks and follow Covid appropriate behaviour.
There is no reason to get careless, he said, adding that people must celebrate festivals taking all precautions.
Modi said the government had made public participation the first line of defence in the country's fight against the pandemic.
Just like the 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan' is a mass movement, buying things made in India, buying things made by Indians, being 'Vocal for Local', has to be put into practice in the same way, he said.
The pandemic had causes apprehensions in the mind of people during the last Diwali but people have confidence now due to 100 crorse doses as the festival approaches, he said.