New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interaction with gram panchayat members Friday morning to get feedback on how they are tackling the coronavirus outbreak became an eulogy session — with one sarpanch (village head) from Uttar Pradesh saying it would have been difficult to handle the situation if Modi was not the PM and another from Maharashtra reciting a poem in praise of Modi.
Briefing the PM via video conference about what all they are doing in their respective villages to contain the spread of the virus, none of the sarpanches said anything about any issues they are facing on account of the lockdown that has disrupted economic activities across India.
Barring one, nobody mentioned the challenges being faced by migrant workers from the villages who are stuck in other cities.
Bihar’s Ajay Singh Yadav, sarpanch of Dharniya gram panchayat, was the only one who raised the migrant issue.
Yadav said he has told migrant workers from his village, who are stuck in other states, to stay put until 3 May. This prompted the PM to tell Yadav that villagers should keep talking regularly to their near and dear ones stuck outside so that they don’t feel isolated.
This was the first such outreach by the PM to gram panchayats since the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. Although rural India has mostly remained untouched by the virus but hundreds of migrant labourers who have returned from cities pose a great risk of carrying the infection home.
Villages showed world mantra of social distancing
Modi also used the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day Friday — every year on this day the best-performing gram panchayats and sarpanches are honoured by the prime minister — to drive home the importance of being self-reliant.
“Coronavirus pandemic has thrown up new challenges, which we never faced before but it has also made us learn new things. It is now important that villages become self-reliant for their basic needs,” Modi told the sarpanches.
The PM also said that it’s the villages in India that have given the world the mantra of “do gaj deh ki doori” (two-foot distance between people) to define social distancing in simpler terms to fight coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s because of your efforts that today people across the world are talking about how India is fighting the outbreak,” Modi said.
Highlighting the importance of social distancing in the fight against Covid-19, the PM further said the virus is unique in the sense that it does not go to anyone’s house on its own. “It reaches there only when someone takes it there,” the PM said.
Modi said that notwithstanding the limited resources at its disposal, India has taken the challenge proactively and showed its resolve to move forward with new energy and new ways.
e-GramSwaraj portal, Swamitva scheme launched
From putting barricades at the entry and exit points of villages to stop people from moving without valid reasons to taking sanitisation measures, distributing masks and holding awareness sessions, sarpanches from seven gram panchayats shared with the PM how they are trying to contain the spread of the virus in their respective villages.
Varsha Singh of UP’s Nakti Dei gram panchayat told the PM that people in her village are following all the protocols and are very satisfied with the arrangements. “They are discussing about what would have happened had you not been the PM,” Singh said.
Modi replied that it is heartening to know that this kind of trust exists between the people and the government.
Asked if villagers are not tired because of the lockdown, Pune’s Priyanka Medankar of Medankarwadi gram panchayat told the PM that villagers know and understand that the PM is doing this for their good health. “So despite the fact that they are tired, they don’t mind adhering to the norms.”
Medankar also recited a poem in praise of Modi and said that in the fight against coronavirus, Modi is showing the entire world what needs to be done.
Modi also launched e-GramSwaraj portal, which will help ensure real-time monitoring of gram panchayat development plans, and Swamitva scheme to map rural inhabited lands. The scheme will help provide clarity over property rights in rural areas.