A passenger outside the Mumbai international airport | Representational image | PTI
A passenger outside the Mumbai international airport | Representational image | PTI
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Of the seven countries that have more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, four are the largest economies of continental Europe: Italy, Germany, France, and Spain. Other than China, the source of the virus outbreak, Asia has one country in the list: Iran. The seventh country in the 10,000+ list is the United States. As for the nine countries that have between 1,000 and 10,000 cases, all but one are also in Europe (the solitary Asian country on this second list is South Korea). The other Asian countries with the largest populations (India, Indonesia, Japan) have relatively few cases so far, with India having the least among these at about 200. Even Israel, nominally in Asia but with close to half its nine-million population of European/Russian extraction, has more than three times India’s number affected so far.

If India were to follow Europe’s trajectory, relative to population, it would have a couple of lakh affected, and an unmanageable crisis, whereas China has probably peaked at about 80,000 cases. As for other continents, Africa, with a population slightly smaller than India’s, has four or five times the number of COVID-19 cases reported so far. Latin America, with half India’s population, has more than 10 times India’s number of cases.

This is a radically different experience from earlier virus epidemics, which mostly affected people in the country or continent where they originated. The Ebola virus outbreak of 2014, which originated in West Africa, claimed most of its victims from that continent. Similarly, the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak of 2003 saw 90 per cent of the 8,000 affected being from China (the originating point) and Hong Kong; those affected in Europe and North American were only in the hundreds. And the overwhelming majority of those affected by HIV-Aids have been in Africa, the source of the outbreak. COVID-19 is very different in the pattern thus far of who gets hit most.

This must surprise. The East Asian region, with its dense aviation network, would ordinarily be considered more vulnerable because of its more limited medical resources, more crowded habitations, and poorer public health standards. These factors may still come into play. South Korea has followed one approach by doing widespread testing. It consequently has larger numbers reported; early discovery has helped take action to control the problem. In contrast, India and Japan are said to have under-tested for the disease, as has the United States. Their numbers could explode once testing is stepped up. Indeed, India’s numbers are beginning to show signs of the same exponential growth that has been recorded elsewhere.

So it is just as well that the prime minister has upped the ante with a national broadcast in which he warned that India would not escape lightly, and focused on taking the fight beyond what governments can do, and on making citizens responsible for their own well-being. The game is prevention, since mitigation efforts following any spread of the disease to epidemic scale would be hampered by inadequate medical resources. If it works, it would be Narendra Modi’s second successful experiment in social mobilisation.

The first such exercise by Modi was his campaign asking better-off consumers to voluntarily give up their access to subsidised cooking gas cylinders. Larger and faster exclusions from the subsidy regime could have been achieved through direct government action, but Modi chose to ask people to volunteer — and followed it up by saying that the money saved would go to a worthy cause. Asking the country to observe a “janata curfew” is the second such exercise and could be a precursor to more ambitious follow-through measures, though asking people to stand in their doorways and clap for five minutes is plain corny. There are more meaningful ways of showing appreciation for those busy battling a potential epidemic.

Only a leader with sufficient moral authority with voters can pull off such experiments. In a limited way this harks back to some features of the freedom movement. As another variant, Mao’s China was also known for its social mobilisation, with the added element of coercion, and underlines the point that this can be a double-edged sword.

Also read: Modi govt asks firms to submit form on COVID-19 readiness, CAs say this is not the time


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42 Comments Share Your Views


  1. “Only a leader with sufficient moral authority with voters can ….” A two time instigator of mass murder hasn’t a shred of moral authority . Mr. Ninan clearly is from the BJP propaganda cell.

    • Mr Khujali !!!! CORANA se RONA hua ?? People like you are a burden on our earth.

      Youre unable to digest Modi Ji’s Popularity and his enigma.

    • PL stop smoking weed. You are the biggest threat of India even without infected. God bless you. Do meditation to pure your soul.

  2. The only two leaders in the history of this nation have given and successfully got a response from people are, Lal Bahadur Shashtri and Narendra Modi. Irrespective of the result in finality the faith in the leader is what matters. At such times we need a leader who can be trusted, after 70 years as a democracy the majority of people of the country are matured enough to identify that leader. The lifestyles and the origins are tested in such times.
    Was the last sentence necessary ” As another variant, Mao’s China was also known for its social mobilization, with the added element of coercion, and underlines the point that this can be a double-edged sword.”
    If author had read the “WHITE SWANS” the story of a defected Chinese girl who’s family was a Mow’s supporter, he would have thought differently about adding the last bit.

  3. Unlike what Modi-haters meander with, I would say it is a great psychological shift to tame the unruly and carefree Indian attitude which is clearly seen in airplanes, trains and other crowd pulling places. They just think ye to mai baap ka hai, loft outhalein. Discipline is what is lacking terribly among Indians and now that they feel like caged entities, their selfish behaviours would be allayed and they would start making self introspections about the daily shortcomings and the need to have make-shift support changes. The measure is meant to curb the spread of the virus chain and by getting used to self-isolation, people will realise that they are doing good not only to themselves but also to the family, society and country. I would quote a medical officer in my country to conclude- ‘Isolate yourself for two weeks if you do not wish to have a dead in every family.’

  4. For those of you taking umbrage at the headline and thinking it as a click bait due to the use of the word “stab”, I think you did not get the meaning of the ‘stab’ in this context. Please take a look at the meaning at number 3 on the following page:


    ‘stab’ also means an attempt or a try. You have a phrase like “to take a stab at the problem”. That is not the same as “stabbing a person”.

    What the author means here is the this is Mr. Modi’s second attempt at a social mobilization. There is nothing sinister in saying that. Actually, what I feel is that the author is unable to find enough to pillory Mr. Modi at this point of time and hence is timidly acknowledging Mr. Modi’s attempts and only warning of it as a double edged sword. As if one can pull off in India in this day and age what Mr. Mao did in China over half a century ago with little communication infrastructure. And then not finding anything else, he is taking potshots at the “thali bajao” call. I wish he could also tell us the alternate ways to show our appreciation for those who are at the forefront fighting this pandemic; And we would follow Mr. Ninan’s advice.

    But, God forbid, if the number of Covid-19 cases grow exponentially in the coming weeks, you will see a very different Mr. Ninan in the same column. Pray that nothing like that happens for the overall well being of our Nation.

    • Librandus have an explanation for every meaningless statement of Rahul Gandhi. You have done the same here by re-meaning the word “stab”.

  5. Calling it corny is not ‘hate’. Grow up. Like Vish said it was done spotaneously. Making a ritual out of it is a bit strange. The article doesnt explain the downside of the curfew. thats true. Critising a politican is not hate. The whole point of living in a democracy is to be able to criticise your government.

  6. It will Narendra Modi’s second successful experiment in social mobilisation as if he is able to handle coronavirs crisis then he will take credit if it doesn’t work then he can pass on blame to janata and states. Either way for Modiji it is heads I win, tails you lose. He is what is known as pure politician who never has any self-doubt.

  7. what a shit article this is !! after watching theprint’s youtube channel I thought this could be a good source for news and related stuffs but after reading some of your articles I found that so many writers here are BIASED, IGNORANT and simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Just look at this article, is there any justification to title. I guess I’ll stick to the videos.

  8. There are more meaningful ways of showing appreciation for those busy battling a potential epidemic.

    Please provide five meaningful ways of doing it. We will see if it makes sense.

  9. Headline is click bait and there ends logic. Editor and writers in The Print have leftist ideology. Most of the articles are written to fill the pages. Ofcourse, every article has to have some hate Modi frame work.

  10. “… taking the fight beyond what governments can do, and on making citizens responsible for their own well-being…”
    The above is a quote from the article. The citizens have ghantis and thaalis in their hands which they can beat to their heart’s content, or go to hell. Narendra Modi has made it clear that he cares two hoots for them. A typical Gujju and not a tall leader, he knows how to wash his hands off a tricky situation, and “go beyond what governments can do.” Aa maara kaam nathi, baapu!

  11. Appreciation need not always through gestures asking people to make sound either through claps or using Thali to create huge sound and his social media army would count and throw up number to. measure his popularity by saying just one request and see how many are supporting. The action to give support to doctors and others who are taking on virus control.

  12. It foolish to think that Janata curfew is to benefit only PM Modi!! We Indians many of us don’t have Nationalism. What is meant by nationalism? Many of us fail to understand!! Even to day many of us comply with preventive measures for Covid-19? Some people running away from responsibilities!! So we all have to face the consequences!!

  13. I am wondering why Shekhar Gupta is allowing such biased authors to write for ThePrint. It looks SG keeps himself clean by being objective but allowing other ThePrint authors to continuously churn hate Modi propaganda.

  14. By saying “asking people to stand in their doorways and clap for five minutes is plain corny”, TN Ninan has once again confirmed his hatred for Modi. If TN Ninan has better ways of appreciating, Modi has not stopped him exercising his better methods. But he has to find out fault with Modi. Modi hating sick minds have no cure.

  15. I am a big fan of Mr. Shekar Gupta’s youtube videos. They rely on data and reason rather than blind faith to any particular cause. This lead me to think that the Print could be a reliable non-partisan haven in the journalistic shit storm of India. This article proves otherwise. For shame

    • TN Ninan is a sworn Modi hater. ThePrint has so many of them. SG is trying to be objective but many other journalists associated with ThePrint are infected with Hate-Modi-Virus. Like Corona virus, there is no cure for Hate-Modi-Virus.

    • Shekhar Gupta is the founder of The Print, but he picked Jyoti Malhotra as the editor, who is a rabid leftist of the Lutyens cabal. She, like her ilk, believes that Kashmiri Pandits left the Valley on their own whim. As you may know, it is the editor who runs the day to day operations, not the owner. So, you have to blame them both equally for the crap that passes off as journalism in The Print.

  16. This is a half-hearted article! why is this a double edged sword??? because Mao did something and so we’re to immediately jump to the conclusion and Modi will try something similar? A cultural revolution?? Please share your view point and give some depth to your thoughts.

  17. One gets a sense that even someone like Ninan is compelled to write every week something against Modi by sheer habit. Otherwise, there is hardly any sense in this article. Why not just take a good rest for 2 weeks and hope for the deluge of cases to write so much against Modi!

    • In Europe it was spontaneous and done by the ordinary people to show appreciation to health workers who are even dying, trying to save others. No political or religious or social leader has told them to do it. It came from the heart.

      • So what is in your heart. You can discard what Modi has said and follow your heart. Then tell us what different you have done.

        • I have written to the Health and Finance ministry to increase spending on healthcare. Also lobbied with local ruling party members to focus on healthcare. There is no reason to follow the same old failed policies of low emphasis on healthcare. Providing doctors with infrastructure and facilities to treat patients would be more useful than clapping for doctors. Let’s hope present government comes out of failed Congress policies.

      • How do you say it was spontaneous? How do millions of people suddenly decide that they want to ring bells and bang utensils at the same time and hour to show their appreciation? No, it was not really that spontaneous. It is in their culture to do that. They have done it in the past for several centuries during various national crisis. Besides, in this age of social networking, it was synchronized through calls on the social network. Besides, there is nothing wrong in adopting some culture that is good. If we can adopt all the bad practices of the Western culture (ignoring their good ones like punctuality, dedication to work, etc.), then one culture that is rather benign can always be adopted.

    • This is one of those articles written for the heck of it to fill space in ‘The Print’. Don’t take everything written by opinion writers seriously. Even the author has to earn his living and this is probably the best he can do.

  18. How can you be so negative about everything done by Modi? You are trying to connect for which doesn’t exist. China and India have completely different political systems. Furthermore, let me tell you, the swinging vote or the middle class vote which catapulting Modi to power is because of such articals. Most of the middle class and higher middle class reads these e papers and watches NDTV and India today. More you bash Modi for non-sence reasons, stronger the modi support base goes up. Hope you and editor understands this phenomenon.
    P.S – There were people who tried to explain how toilet building is affecting social culture of poor people. I hope these people learn there lessons and try to add some contents to there work.

  19. The word ‘stab’ used in the headline seems to be deliberate mischief. It points the opposite direction of the article


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