Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the nation’s poor for forgiveness yesterday, as the economic and human toll from his 21-day nationwide lockdown deepens and criticism mounts about a lack of adequate planning ahead of the decision.
Modi announced the three-week lockdown on Tuesday to curb the spread of coronavirus.
But the decision has stung millions of poor people, leaving many hungry and forcing jobless migrant labourers to flee cities and walk hundreds of kilometres to their native villages.
“I would firstly like to seek forgiveness from all my countrymen,” Modi said in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ nationwide radio address.
The poor “would definitely be thinking what kind of prime minister is this, who has put us into so much trouble,” he said, urging people to understand there was no other option.
“Steps taken so far… will give India victory over corona,” he added.
“Those who are defying the lockdown are playing with their own lives,” Modi said.
He also spoke to people who had suffered from the virus attack and had recovered.
Modi asked them to take their stories forward.
He spoke to doctors and asked them how they were dealing with the attack.
A doctor who appeared on the radio programme said personal protection equipment should be provided to doctors because if they have to fight the war against Covid-19, adding that without sufficient gadgets, they would to lose it.
Mahendra Atmaram Borse told the prime minister that all of his patients were recovering from the deadly disease.
In an interview to IANS, Borse said the unavailability of sanitisers, facemasks and other protective equipment were making the work of doctors very difficult and urged the government to provide them to the doctors, nurses and medical staff.
“Personal protection equipment should be made available to us because we are fighting a war at the forefront.
If you direct them to fight it with insufficient gadgets, they are going to lose it,” he said.
Borse, who works at Pune’s Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital and Research Centre, said that more than 80 nurses in the city have resigned following the outbreak of the pandemic.
“Nurses have no place to live. They come with packed suitcases and at the end of the day, have nowhere to go. Hospitals have somehow managed to provide them hostels for now,” he said.
Borse said in Pune, doctors and nurses are being asked to move out of their rented apartments.
“People, who themselves do not follow the instructions, are now evicting sisters and doctors,” the doctor said, adding that beating pots and clapping will not help the medical staff.
Borse said that the 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed will help only if people strictly follow it and stay inside.
“The way people are roaming around on the roads, I do not think the lockdown will be fruitful. It should be strictly followed,” Borse added.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India rose to 979 yesterday, with 25 deaths.
The government announced a $22.6bn economic stimulus plan on Thursday to provide direct cash transfers and food handouts to the poor.
In an opinion piece published yesterday, Abhijit Banerjee and his wife Esther Duflo – two of the three winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2019 – said even more aid for the poor is needed.
“Without that, the demand crisis will snowball into an economic avalanche, and people will have no choice but to defy orders,” they wrote in the Indian Express.
The lockdown is expected to exacerbate India’s economic woes at a time when growth had already slumped to its lowest pace in six years.
Meanwhile, a Kerala couple who have been cured have a message for others: Be calm and just listen to and follow the instructions of health professionals.
Robin and his wife tested positive for coronavirus in early March and were quarantined. Their 21-day ordeal is finally over, with the experience making them more strong.
They got the infection from Robin’s brother-in-law who had arrived from Italy on February 29.
Their young child too stayed with them in hospital. On Saturday, all three were discharged from the Kottayam Medical College Hospital after a series of routine tests came negative.
Robin said the 21-day quarantine, especially in the initial days, were tough.
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