New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday announced that the 21-day lockdown that ends today will be extended by another 19 days — until 3 May.
However, some relaxations are likely after April 20, as the government could allow limited agricultural and economic activities in places with no hotspots.
“Till 20th April, all districts, localities, states will be closely monitored, as to how strictly they are implementing norms. States, which will not let hotspots increase, could be allowed to let some important activities resume, but with certain conditions,” Modi said.
However, Modi cautioned that the relaxations will be withdrawn immediately if the areas report new hotspots.
“…keep in mind, this permission will be conditional, and the rules for going out will be very strict. Permission will be withdrawn immediately if lockdown rules are broken, and spread of Coronavirus risked. Hence, we must make sure we ourselves don’t become careless, not allow anyone else to do so,” her said.
As on Tuesday, India has 10,363 Covid-19 cases, with 339 deaths having been reported so far. The government, Modi said, would come out with extensive guidelines Wednesday.
‘Working to ensure farmers face minimal problems’
Sporting the Assamese gamcha (cloth towel), Modi in his third address to the nation in less than a month said the new guidelines would be made keeping in mind the interests of the poor and daily wage workers.
“Provision of this limited exemption in these identified areas after 20 April has been done keeping in mind the livelihood of our poor brothers and sisters. Those who earn daily, make ends meet with daily income, they are my family.”
Modi said the government has made every possible effort to help them through the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojna. “Their interests have also been taken care of while making the new guidelines.”
He added, “Harvesting of rabi crops is also under way. Central government and state governments are working together to ensure that farmers face minimal problems.”
Appreciating the efforts made by the people to adhere to the lockdown norms and follow social distancing, Modi said people have gone through hardships to save India. “I know how many difficulties you faced. I respectfully bow to the people of India for their sacrifice.”
Towards the end of his speech, the PM sought the people’s support on seven things.
He asked the people to take special care of the elderly, especially those with chronic diseases, in their homes, completely adhere to the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ of lockdown and social distancing besides using homemade face-covers and masks “without fail”, and follow the instructions issued by AYUSH ministry to enhance immunity by regularly consuming warm water and ‘kadha’.
Modi also urged the people to download the ArogyaSetu mobile app to help prevent the spread of infection, take care of poor families and their food requirements, be compassionate towards the employees and not deprive them of their livelihood and pay utmost respect to the country’s Covid-19 — doctors and nurses, sanitation workers and the police force.
India took quick decisions, PM says
Conceding that India may have paid a big economic price because of the lockdown, which resulted in economic activities coming to a near halt, the PM said there was no other alternative to saving human lives.
“Because of your sacrifice so far, India has been able to avert considerable damage from coronavirus. I know how many problems you had to face. Somebody has trouble getting food, somebody has trouble commuting and someone is away from home. But for the sake of the country you are performing your duties like a disciplined soldier,” he said.
The PM said this is the true tribute to the country’s chief architect of the Constitution, B.R. Ambedkar, on his birth anniversary. “This is the power, which is inherent in the ‘We the People of India’ in our Constitution. On the birth anniversary of Baba Saheb, this demonstration of our collective power and this resolution is a true tribute to him.”
Comparing India’s fight against the Covid-19 outbreak with other developed countries, Modi said India is in a much better position due to its holistic approach and quick decisions.
“Even before Covid-19 cases touched 100, India made it compulsory for foreign returnees to remain in 14 days’ isolation. We imposed a 21-day lockdown when we had 550 cases,” Modi said.
The PM said that India did not wait for the problem to escalate. “Rather, as soon as the problem appeared, we tried to stop it by taking swift decisions. I can’t imagine what the situation would have been if such quick decisions were not taken,” he said.
Enough food and medicines
The PM also assured the citizens that there is adequate stock of medicines and ration in the country.
Modi said Covid-19 testing is being done in over 220 labs across India.
According to the world’s experience of tackling the pandemic, he said, 1,500-1,600 beds are needed when cases reach 10,000. “We have over 1 lakh beds in India and over 600 hospitals to treat patients. We are expanding these facilities.”
He added, “We have moved ahead strongly in our fight against Covid-19. Now, we should not allow coronavirus to spread in other areas.”
The PM said he had interacted with state chief ministers Saturday when most of them requested him to extend the lockdown for two more weeks.
Sources in the government had pointed out that the central government could allow certain farm activities and construction to continue in a graded manner.
Soon after Modi’s speech, senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi tweeted that the PM’s address to the nation did not have any specifics about any financial package or single livelihood issue.
“Exhortation, rhetoric, inspiration…..yet hollow on specifics! No financial package, no details, no concrete item. Neither 4poor nor middle class nor industry nor businesses. #Lockdown is good but cannot end in itself! Where is single livelihood issue?” he tweeted.
Amazing #PM address. Exhortation, rhetoric, inspiration…..yet hollow on specifics! No financial package, no details, no concrete item. Neither 4poor nor middle class nor industry nor businesses. #Lockdown is good bt cannot be end in itself! Where is single livelihood issue?
— Abhishek Singhvi (@DrAMSinghvi) April 14, 2020
Singhvi also said the PM’s address was like “Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark”. “We want increased #GDP allocation; specific targeted monetary injections; #Keynesian spending; loosen #FMRB etc. not a single word!,” he posted.