Illustration: Soham Sen | ThePrint
Illustration: Soham Sen | ThePrint
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a Janata curfew from 7 am to 9 pm on 22 March, Sunday to battle the coronavirus pandemic. Modi has also urged people to practice social distancing and avoid panic buying. He added that a COVID-19 task force would be constituted by the government to deal with economic difficulties.

ThePrint asks: Janata curfew: Brilliant nudge or Modi should’ve assured more about India’s preparedness?


Modi has given us a gentle nudge; perhaps a shove is what India needed

Santosh Desai
Columnist and author

It was a very good speech. Reassuring in its tone, but delivering a strong message nevertheless. It said virtually everything that needed to be said, and PM Modi used his considerable personal equity to underline the need for everyone to take the coronavirus seriously and act as per the instructions of the experts. Given that the response by most Indians to the grave danger posed by the rapid transmission of the virus has been somewhat casual, it was important for Modi to communicate clearly but with empathy.

The underlying strategy employed is interesting. ‘Nudging’ citizens into action by adopting a voluntary ‘Janta curfew’ on Sunday, and by asking people to show appreciation for those working on the frontlines of the battle against the virus, the PM essentially made everyone a stakeholder in the battle. The hope is that by making a small personal commitment of this kind, we will be better disposed to take whatever action that will be asked of us. It also sets the stage for accepting stricter restrictions as and when they are put in place.

The speech ticked all boxes except one — timing. Had this been delivered two weeks ago, perhaps even a week back, it would have been timed perfectly. There is a real danger that we are losing valuable time. Given the exponential nature of the pandemic, a total lockdown might have been the need of the hour. Modi has given us a gentle nudge; perhaps a shove is what the country needed.


Gesture of applauding public workers during Janata curfew is about preparing India for a national emergency

Sandip Ghose
Marketing executive and political commentator

Narendra Modi could well have been the ghost-writer of the advertising line – “Zor ka jhatka dheere se lagey”. His speech on the coronavirus pandemic was a master class in communication. By using the war-time analogy of ‘black-out’ drills to explain the concept of ‘Janata curfew’, he subtly brought home the point that the fight against coronavirus is nothing short of a war.

Opposition stalwarts tried to bait Modi to declare a lockdown. Fake news peddlers fanned the rumour that his 8 pm address would be an encore of 8 November 2016 demonetisation shocker. To quell the panic, the government conveyed that no “lockdown” was on the cards.

Our social media elite expect the PM to speak what they want to hear. But Modi knows and communicates to his real target constituents in their language. If only critics hear him between the lines, they would notice the clues about what to expect. The Janata curfew is nothing but a mock-drill for a possible lockdown. Modi also understands the importance of symbols and rituals. The gesture of applauding public workers and caregivers during Janata curfew is to prepare India for a national emergency.

If the people are behind you, the details can be left to the experts to work out. Modi knows that better than anyone else. That’s why he earned the tag “Modi hain toh mumkin hain”.


We are unprepared, and all we are going to battle with is a perfunctory clapping of hands on Sunday

Dilip Cherian
Image Guru & crisis analyst

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ominous 8 pm broadcasts have a way of chilling India’s overwrought citizens. This one was no exception. Folks froze when he said he wanted a sacrifice. Inured by jokes that our grandparents had to march off to war but we would only be asked to be couch potatoes, Modi’s rolling out of a Janata curfew was oddly worrying. We are unprepared, and all we are going to battle coronavirus pandemic with is a perfunctory clapping of hands on Sunday. Certainly not anything remotely medical or scientific. Cheering being the only action expected, wasn’t, however, reassuring.

The demand for sacrifice was couched softly beneath his comforting tone, but there were clear signs that they could be substantial. Smart citizens said they wanted a bit more of a real ‘give’ from the government. There were feeble signs of a fightback but not enough.

But suddenly, with no nudge and just a cheery nod, he was done. And a nation was left asking for more. Almost all other countries had outlined revival plans, even as they rolled out their own versions of Janata curfews. We are expected to be satisfied with just a version of that hapless “CoronaGo” incantation.


Call for Janata curfew will show an India that stood together in the time of crisis

Swadesh Singh
Assistant Professor at Delhi University

In the past month, India has implemented an array of measures to contain coronavirus. The efforts began with early isolation, follow-ups and tracking of those possibly infected. It is only after this first phase of work that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a call to the nation. This is a brilliant move because it elicits the necessary involvement of people and also assures them that a mechanism is already in place – and that they simply have to join in.

We must remember that all the initiatives spearheaded by Modi in the past have had a significant share of people participation. Given his massive personal popularity and following, a call from him is perhaps the best way to sensitise people for the coming challenge and bust falsehoods. This call is not the beginning of Indian efforts — it is, in fact, an attempt to amp up the war cry.

The call for Janata curfew should be welcomed and actively taken up by everyone. It would not only help in fighting the virus, which is being billed as the greatest crisis since World War II for some countries, but also ensure that India emerges as a nation that stood together in a time of crisis.


Slow rate of testing raises concerns in India, but Modi is pushing people to do their best

Shivam Vij
Contributing Editor, ThePrint

Across the world, defeating the coronavirus pandemic needs people’s co-operation. In Italy, the government is now fining people for violating the lockdown. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to ask people to observe curfew from 7 am to 9 pm on just one day, the coming Sunday, is a good decision to prepare the public for what’s coming ahead.

Nobody is better suited to push the public to change behaviour than Narendra Modi, who has been hiding his own administrative and governance failures by asking the people of India to take responsibility. The slow rate of testing coronavirus raises concerns in India, but Modi will excel with what he’s best at: pushing people to do their best.

The Janata curfew on Sunday will help the government and society study public response. Like a dress rehearsal, it will prepare us for what might soon come ahead. Who knows how bad it is going to get? How many waves and mutations this virus will hit us with before we defeat it for good with a vaccine? And how do we get used to the idea of staying indoors most of the day?

A practice session, thus, is a good idea.


Also read: SC rules MP floor test: Ends political uncertainty or encourages culture of defections?


By Unnati Sharma, journalist at ThePrint

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19 COMMENTS

  1. curfew will only restrict few basic activities……maintaing containment zones, following rules strictly should be followed for ones safety…..rest other measures can also be followed but curfew can help only for short time not in long run……just a thought

  2. Has PM Modi set the tone with his speech that if situations get out of hand and govt is unable to handle situation then don’t blame central govt as taking care of pandemic is PRIMARILY responsibility of CITIZENS and STATES? Take a look at the massive financial and medical help response of central govts in US, UK and other countries to the crisis. I hope PM Modiji’s response will be similar in near future otherwise it will be considered as washing hands off the coronavirus pandemic.

    I hope various national service organizations belonging to RSS parivar will come forward to help Bharat Mata in the times of such crisis. Jai Hind! Vande Mataram!

  3. Nudges work where systems exist and the focus is behavior change over time. Else you will be nudging people into hopelessness, hospitals with no testing kits and making them choose hunger over health.

  4. This was a good initiative by PM Modi that, if we keep social isolation for 12hrs can break the chain of airbone covid-19, which could be spread through cough swabs, utensils, and other surfaces which can hold the virus alive. And this is the best time to show solidarity to those who are in the battle field. This also give us a preparedness to sudden emergency situations.

    Asst. Professor in Botany,
    under Kerala UniversityUniversity

  5. If the appealed lock-down is successful the credit must be given to the massive on-line transaction. If we were to face the lock down without the online facilities imagine the confusion and crowds at the banks and ATM

  6. Souuth Korea responded to threat of virus in mid Janaury. Indian opposition leader asked PMO on March 3rd to take crisis seriousely and respond to it. So what was Modiji doing since March 3 or January? All Modiji can do now as usual pass the buck to states in the name of cooperative federalism . We all know centeral govt has few duties but nore rights and perhaps no responsibilies. All we can say that late response is better than no response

    • Where is the appeal from the leader of the opposition? He could have projected himself as a statesman, but instead like a child he just pokes and run

      • Feel free to google and find out for yourself. It’s easy to find if you are willing to put in a bit of an effort.

        • Ha Ha Ha!!! Easy to find?

          Why would we have to “Search” in the first place???

          Maybe because what he says is actually of no real consequence and hence vanishes from the public eye 2 minutes before he starts speaking?

      • PM Modi’s govt should have focused on the message of oppositions ledaers if not ware of what is happening in the world. Don’t shoot the messangers it doesb’t help India.

  7. Addressing threat of any disease has normally four responses (1) Prevention (2) Diagnosis (3) Treatment (4) Post-treatment care. We all know in the the case of COVID-19 prevention and post-treatment is mainly responsibility of citizens but diagnosis & treatment is mainly responsibility of Govt. PM Modiji didn’t talk much about his govt’s medical response to the pandemic. Shri Modij is silent on govts responsibility part of COVID-19 threat to India is as usual deafening.

  8. Familiar rants of Mr. Cherian and Vij, talking to their own captive audience. If anyone ever lived in a bubble this illiberal lot surely does.

  9. I was surprised at the opinion of Dilip Cherian. I understand, the crisis is not over yet and coming days, crucial ones, going to decide the fate of raising number of cases and community spread. However, I would have expected, the so called analyst like Dilip Cherian to provide solution to problem than stating that there exists problem and saying WE have not done enough. My own small brain analysis states that that India has not closed down establishments and people movements like China or North Korea, nor we have allowed free-for-all case like many Western European countries, nor we are highly ineffective in undesrtanding the problem like Iran, nor we got into absolute blame game and total shutdown like what US has done. No matter what, India as country’s approach have been quite different, given our own drawbacks within the system. India in week 3, still the numbers reported are far less in ratio comparing the 130 crore population and the spread is more localized than epidemic. It has certainly not reached pandemic levels, but the preparedness and cautious approach is quite laudable. The best thing that happened was cancelling flights to and from affected countries, preparing airports and ports of entry for effective identification and quarantining and last but not least, effective messages through different platforms like media and social media. I am happy that I am in a India far different than India during Spanish flu spread or the great Bengal plague, where millions were left to die. We should be happy that we have leadership, both at centre and state levels managing the situations and the country has adequate financial resource to handle the crisis.

  10. Narendra Modi’s speech can be described as “hollow words”, which has in fact become the hallmark of all his speeches. He was magnanimous with poor Indians’ money by sanctioning 10 million dollars for SAARC. What about enhancement of test and treatment facilities for the poor Indians themselves?

  11. I am a simple man with monthly pension from central govt. fund . I don’t understand such big analysis by some big thinkers.But, can any body tell me how and why we will celebrate(?)( I mean observe) Sunday as a curfew day ? Will it save us from the devastating disease of Corona ? Are we , the lower and middle class people prepared for this outbreak mentally…physically…hygienically ? NO !!! We are still “Native ” Indian with nasty habit and not knowledgeable about the impact of this virus !! A one day showdown is nothing but a mockery and insult on us !!! Request to our PM…..Sir, arrange sufficient medical facilities all over the country…give strict punishment o those who violate the social hygiene, street etiquette and public decency !! That will be the first and foremost work, Sir !!! Curfew comes second !!

  12. Indians are a brave people. Without patience, fortitude and a certain fatalism, we could not have survived all that history has chucked at us for the last five thousand years. That includes drought and disease. So the question is now how about ordinary Indians will cope with this pandemic. It is really a time for the government – Centre and states – to measure up to an immense crisis. Financial resources and the physical infrastructure for health are clearly deficient. Once the crisis passes, India should create fiscal space – end farm loan waivers for sure – to spend more on health. For the moment, focus on saving lives. Some emergent relief to the most vulnerable families to see that food remains on their tables.

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