With lockdown relaxations expanding, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday cautioned people against showing any laxity in the fight against COVID-19 and asked them to be “extra alert and careful”, while acknowledging that the poor and labourers have been hit the hardest by the crisis.
The pain that the poor, working class and labourers suffered cannot be described in words, he said, stating that the current scenario is an “eye opener to happenings in the past” in the country and offers opportunity for scrutiny and lessons for the future.
In his monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ broadcast, Modi noted that a big part of the economy has opened and train and flight services have begun operating partially with more relaxations on the anvil, but warned people against letting their guards down.
After such “austere penance and after so many hardships”, the country’s deft handling of the situation should “not go in vain”, he said.
The prime minister’s note of caution came on a day India registered its highest single-day spike of COVID-19 cases with 8,380 new infections, taking the country’s tally to 1,82,143, while the death toll rose to 5,164, according to the Union Health Ministry.
Modi said, “Whether it is the mandatory ‘do gaz ki doori’ (two yards of distancing), wearing face masks or staying at home to the best extent possible, there should be no laxity on our part in complete adherence (to the laid down norms).
“We must not let this fight weaken. Becoming careless or lackadaisical cannot be an option. The fight against coronavirus is still equally serious. You, your family, may still face grave danger from coronavirus,” he cautioned.
In his address, the prime minister said all classes of people have suffered during the pandemic but it is the poor who have suffered the worst.
“Had our villages, towns, districts and states been self-reliant, problems facing us would not have been of such a magnitude as is evident today,” he said, noting that it is the people of eastern region, from where the bulk of migrant workers come from, who have suffered the most.
Everyone is working to help the poor and labourers, he said, and highlighted the railways’ exercise to transport large numbers of migrant workers to their homes.
“The path of our fight against coronavirus goes a long way. It is a calamity, a scourge that does not have an antidote in the entire world; there is no prior experience on that… We are facing newer challenges and consequent hardships,” he pointed out.
All the countries hit by the killer virus face similar problems and India is no exception, the prime minister said in his address which came on the last day of the 4th phase of the nationwide coronavirus-induced lockdown.
“There is no section in our country unaffected by the difficulties caused by the affliction — the most gravely affected by the crisis are the underprivileged labourers and workers. Their agony, their pain, their ordeal cannot be expressed in words. Who amongst us cannot understand and feel what they and their families are going through,” Modi said.
He said everyone is trying to share their distress.
“Our railway personnel are at it day and night. From the Centre, states, to local governance bodies, everybody is toiling around the clock. The way our railway personnel are relentlessly engaged, they too are frontline corona warriors,” he said.
The distress the workforce is undergoing is representative of the pain of the country’s eastern region, he said.
“The very region which possesses the capacity to be the country’s growth engine…the eastern region needs development,” he asserted.
“In the last few years, much has been done in this direction which gives me inner satisfaction. And now, considering the migrant labourers, the need of the hour is devising a new solution…we are ceaselessly taking steps in that direction,” he said.
Skill mapping of labourers is being carried out, he said.
The establishment of a migration commission is being deliberated upon. Referring to the stimulus package, he said, recent decisions taken by the central government have opened up vast possibilities of village employment, self employment and small-scale industry.
“The objective of these decisions is finding solutions to the situation, for the sake of a self-reliant India. Had our villages, towns, districts and states been self-reliant, problems facing us would not have been of such a magnitude as is evident today. But moving from darkness toward light is a human trait,” he said.
On his call for an Atmanirbhar Bharat or self-reliant India, Modi said people now have begun to take it as a movement of their own.
People are now buying only these local products, promoting “vocal for local”, he said.
“This time around much has resumed — Shramik Special trains are operational; other special trains too have begun. With utmost precautions, flights have resumed; industry too is returning to normalcy,” he pointed out.
Modi said when “we glance at the world, we can actually experience the magnitude of the achievements of the people of India”.
“Our population itself is many times that of most countries. The challenges facing the country too are of a different kind, yet coronavirus did not spread as fast as it did in other countries of the world,” he said, adding that the mortality rate due to the virus too is a lot less in India.
“All of us deeply regret the loss that we had to undergo. But whatever we have been able to save is a result of the collective resolve of the country,” he said.