Modi’s fine fight with COVID-19
Narendra Modi is credited for the fact that, probably, he was the first political leader who understood the importance of social media and leveraged it to the benefit of BJP in 2014 elections and even thereafter he used this tool to get to motivate and to put straight facts before the society in real-time. He also used radio with great effect to connect with the people through his most popular “Mann Ki Baat” programme.
I can vouch that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who could sense the danger of the coming Corona Pandemic in December itself when China was infected. That time there was no patient in India. First Indian patient was tested positive on 30.01.2020, but he used to tell us after every Cabinet meeting that this Corona virus and infection would not stop in China. It will spread all over. It is serious and all are totally unprepared. Therefore, India needs to prepare itself. India started with screening the incoming international passengers and then made it universal and after few days itself as the danger grew, air and rail travel was suspended. The doubtful travellers were kept in a facility of Ministry of Home Affairs at Manesar. At that time, we realized how grave the situation would be. From that day onwards he started implementing his plans to prepare India to fight COVID19.
· There was no concept of dedicated COVID hospitals. Today, we have nearly 700 dedicated COVID hospitals with 2 lakh plus isolation beds and 15,000 ICU beds.
· Personal Protective Equipment’s (PPEs) is aimed to save the doctors and staff who treat COVID patients. India had no facility. So, first big orders were given for imports. Nearly 10 million units’ order was placed. Now, in India we have 39 factories manufacturing and stitching PPEs.
· We were not manufacturing any mask, leave alone N95. Already 8 million masks have been distributed and in India also many new factories have started working on N95 masks as well as many small units have started preparing and stitching home-made masks for use of common people.
· We had only one lab to test. That was in Pune. Our testing capacity was just 200 per day. Now there are nearly 300 labs to conduct tests and give results. Now we can test 20,000 plus tests a day.
· Ventilators were few to the tune of 8400. With initial orders, now we have nearly 30,000 ventilators. Already Indian manufacturers have started manufacturing ventilators and we expect to produce domestically 30,000 ventilators.
Simultaneously, he remained connected with the world, talked to various leaders, shared their and our experiences, learned from each other and implemented everything that he found useful. Simultaneously, he thought of the impending lockdown and its impact. Therefore, he declared a huge package of Rs.1,70,000crores to protect the poor. India has the biggest food security programme under which all vulnerable classes and some more people totalling 80 crores who are given 5 kg of wheat / rice at Rs.2 /3 a kilo. Now, for April, May and June he decided to give per-person 15 kg rice / wheat plus 3 kg dal free of cost. This took the basic care of ration in the house.
20 crore women from low income groups were given direct benefit transfer of Rs.500/- per month for next 3 months in their Jandhan accounts. Further, 8.4 crore farmers were transferred Rs.2,000 in their bank accounts straightaway. 8 crore beneficiaries of Ujwala LPG scheme have been offered 3 cylinders free of cost. He offered facility of withdrawal from Provident Fund to fight COVID and nearly 9 lakh workers have withdrawn nearly Rs.36 crores.
Modiji also declared to help small businesses and workers together by promising that Provident Fund contribution of owner and worker will be deposited by Government for 3 months. This is also a huge amount. RBI has released liquidity of Rs.4 lakh crore through various measures in Repo rates. The middle class was given facility for deferment of EMIs and other mandatory submissions.
Central Government gave 15,000 crores for dedicated treatment of COVID and released 11,000 crores as State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF).
Rs.31,000crore were released to help construction workers and all States were asked to distribute them at the earliest.
He ensured farm to market complete operation of agricultural commodities. Thereby, facilitating faster movement, more sowing, bumper crops and money being paid to the farmers at the earliest in order to ensure that agricultural economy started working normally.
Lockdown is a massive decision. It will never be successful till people participate voluntarily. Prime Minister has a continued dialogue with people. Poorest of the poor person also feels that the Prime Minister is working for their progress and he cares for them. So, he could prepare them psychologically for the long lockdown, suspension of activities and face the resultant hardship. He announced that on 22nd March, people will observe People’s Curfew – “Janata Curfew”. In a country with 130 crore population, practically, 99% of people observed it and made it a huge success. On that evening at 5.00 PM, he asked people to ring thalis, bells, crounch and clap for COVID workers. This really helped to motivate people to fight COVID unitedly and instill discipline.
He also gave the simple four steps to safety:
· To put on mask
· To wash hands regularly
· To keep social distancing, and
· To stay at home
By and large, people have observed this. Many sections of the society are in learning curve and as its behavior changes, after that, he asked people to light lamps for 9 minutes at 9.00 PM and the whole country participated enthusiastically. Even the slum dwellers and some homeless also lit the light. When they were asked they said we are saved because of Modi so we will listen to him. He continued his dialogue in between. On 3rd May, a new innovative programme of saluting Corona Warriors from sky and water was a huge spectacle which inspired people.
Thus, Modiji planned in advance, planned in detail, practised meticulously, communicated effectively, kept world in the loop and, therefore, India could succeed in better managing the COVID crisis than many other advanced economies.
The author is Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change; Information & Broadcasting