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
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
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
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
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
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.
By Unnati Sharma, journalist at ThePrint