Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called for ensuring that the COVID-19 pandemic is stopped from spreading to villages "by all means" and every person in rural areas is vaccinated, as he noted that the challenge before the country at present is bigger than last year.
Appreciating the role of panchayats in the management of coronavirus, especially in creating awareness, Modi asked the local leadership to work towards "complete implementation of guidelines" that are being issued from time to time.
"I have this confidence that if someone is going to emerge victorious first in this fight against the coronavirus, it is going to be India's villages, the leadership of these villages….. The people of the villages will show the way to the country and the world," the prime minister said.
Modi was speaking at a virtual event to launch the distribution of e-property cards under the 'SWAMITVA' scheme on the National Panchayati Raj Day. Chief ministers of eight states and a large number of local body representatives were also connected to the event virtually.
Underlining that the pandemic was prevented from affecting rural areas last year, he exuded confidence that the success can be replicated as the local leadership now has experience as well as knowledge.
Emphasising the need to get vaccinated, Modi said, "This time we have the shield of vaccine. We have to ensure that every person in the village is vaccinated and every precaution is taken."
He also stressed the need for precaution along with vaccination and said, "Right now, the mantra of the panchayats should be dawai bhi, kadai bhi" (medicine as well as strictness).
To help the poor during this period, the Centre has decided to provide them free ration for May and June, the prime minister noted, adding this will benefit over 80 crore people and cost the government Rs 26,000 crore.
"It is our responsibility that in these difficult times, no family should go hungry," Modi said.
He said the Centre is keeping villages at the centre of all its policies and initiatives.
"Our effort is that villages of modern India should be capable and self-reliant," he said. Talking about the SWAMITVA scheme, Modi said as many as 4.09 lakh property owners were being given their e-property cards, which also marked the rolling out of the SWAMITVA scheme for implementation across the country.