Democracy is often criticised for the fact that tough measures are difficult to make and that democratic governments take time to make decisions despite urgency required due to difficult circumstances. People often take China’s example to say the Communist Party took quick decisions after the outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan because China is not a democratic nation and its government can take harsh measures. But India, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown that democracy means people’s participation in decisions taken by the government for the welfare of citizens.
PM Modi has provided decisive leadership in asking Indians to stay home for three weeks until 14 April so that we as a nation are collectively able to defeat this global coronavirus pandemic. The nationwide lockdown has united the resolve of 1.3 billion Indians to undertake sacrifices to defeat the virus, which has cast a black shadow of isolation on our lives.
The prime minister was successful in conveying a clear message to the people of India that in fighting this pandemic, we have to be united and that our collective future depends on our resolve to maintain social distancing. The fact that 1.3 billion citizens instinctively and voluntarily agreed to follow the Janata curfew and applaud our health care and essential service workers, followed by majority of the population’s willingness to support the 21-day lockdown, shows that India is a mature democracy in which citizens support even the drastic measures of the government if it is in national and larger health interest.
The prime minister displayed boldness in taking a strict and immediate decision, knowing that it will cause some economic and temporary hardship to some sections of society, especially the poor and downtrodden, for which he even apologised on his Mann Ki Baat address. The prime minister rose above any political or vote-bank considerations and took the unprecedented step of locking down the entire country so that our large population can be spared the disastrous effect of the killer Covid-19 virus.
Data show that lockdown has been successful in the initial phases. The number of new cases in India so far seems to be under control. India had the second slowest jump from 100 to 1,000 Covid-19 cases — 15 days — after only Japan, which took 29 days. Though the initial gains in flattening the curve received a setback due to a gathering of Tablighi Jamaat members in Delhi with the rate of confirmed cases doubling every three days as of last week of March. Overall, the data clearly suggest that PM Modi’s bold move of lockdown and strict implementation by state and local authorities has ensured that many lives are saved.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also been very appreciative of the tough measures being taken by the government. Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India, spoke highly of India’s efforts against the outbreak and the prime minister’s initiatives to contain the deadly virus. “The commitment from the government, from the Prime Minister’s office and the Prime Minister himself has been enormous and highly impressive. This is why India is doing well.”
The Director General of WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, was equally impressed by India’s actions of lockdown and social distancing and described them as, “very, very important”. The government has also been mindful of the economic consequences of a shutdown and high risk faced by workers living on daily subsistence. In the initial days of the lockdown itself, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package for the weaker sections of society.
Even globally, PM Modi has been leading the fight against Covid-19. He was the first world leader to give the call to all nations to unite against Covid-19 and took the initiative of hosting a video-conference of all SAARC country leaders. This resulted in a combined regional approach. A unique G-20 leaders’ meet done by video-conference was also the brainchild of PM Modi. This has helped India being at the forefront of steps being taken to combat the menace of coronavirus.
The author is a BJP youth leader. Views are personal.