Five days into the 21-day lockdown , Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday reached out to citizens with an “apology for tough decisions” in the fight against the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak. He also warned that those violating the lockdown were “playing with their own lives”.
In his latest monthly radio broadcast, Mann Ki Baat , Mr. Modi said: “I would like to apologise ... and my conscience tells me that you will forgive me..”
“I have had to take some decisions that has created hardship for you, especially my poor brothers and sisters... They [the poor] must be thinking what kind of Prime Minister is this who has locked up all of us. I specifically ask for forgiveness from them. But looking at the world, this looks like the only option,” the Prime Minister said.
Striking an optimistic note, Mr. Modi wrapped up his 36-minute address by asserting that India would successfully defeat the challenge posed by COVID-19 and hoped to put it behind by his next radio broadcast in April.
On those violating the lockdown rules, Mr. Modi said, “This is sad...Many people across the world did the same mistake. Those who are defying lockdown are playing with their own lives”.
Referring to reports of social discrimination against patients infected with the virus, Mr. Modi said, while maintaining social distance, there should be an increase in social interaction.
"Social distancing is not about ending social interaction... This is the time to infuse new life in your relationships.... Increase social distance but decrease emotional or human distance,” he urged.
Speaking to patients who had recovered from COVID-19, the Prime Minister urged them to share their stories on social media and “make them viral to inspire others”.
The Prime Minister said traditional Indian knowledge has taught the country to deal with a diseases before it acquires a furious nature.
“Coronavirus has imprisoned the whole world. The virus is challenging everyone — knowledge, science, poor, weak, rich and powerful. It is neither bound by any territory nor region nor weather. This virus seems determined to kill human beings,” he said and urged “the entire human race to resolve to fight [the pandemic] unitedly”.
Describing doctors and nurses as frontline soldiers in the battle against COVID-19, Mr. Modi spoke with two doctors about their experience in dealing with the current health crisis.
The Prime Minister also thanked the nurses and reminded that the current year is being commemorated as the International Year of Nurses to mark the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale.
Talking about the importance of people who are helping maintain essential services, Mr Modi called them as “Daily Lives Heroes who ensure that your lives are not disrupted”.
Wrapping up his address, the Prime Minister encouraged people to restart their hobies or utilise their time to introspect. “Don't go outside and but use this opportunity to look within yourself,” he said.
Excerpts from Mr. Modi’s first Mann ki Baat amid the 21-day-long COVID-19 lockdown:
“Today, there is only one issue that is gripping the world. I apologise to the countrymen and my conscience says you will forgive me.
When I look at the poor people, they must be thinking what kind of the Prime Minister is this who has put you through this hardship. Some of you may be unhappy with the lockdown.
There was only this option. It is a battle for life and death.
Our scriptures say diseases must be controlled before they go out of check. Coronavirus has imprisoned everyone.
It is challenging everyone and everything.
Our scriptures say our good health is our great fortune. Those who are breaking rules are playing with their life.
We have to take inspiration from our frontline soldiers, our nurses and doctors who are battling this coronavirus.”
The PM speaks to Mr. Ram, an IT professional from Hyderabad, who recently recovered from COVID-19. Mr. Ram narrates his experience after contracting COVID-19 on his return from Dubai.
Next, he speaks to Ashok Kapur (73). "My sons, who have a shoes business, had gone to Italy. And there they got COVID-19. My son in law, who had gone too, tested positive at Ram Monahar Lohia hospital. Then we were advised test and all of us, six of our family members, tested positive. We were transferred to Safdarjung hospital. We are thankful to the doctors, nurses and staff," says Mr. Kapur.
PM Modi asks Mr. Kapur to create awareness, and if possible, feed those who are hungry. He also urges him to popularise their experience on social media.
The PM now speaks to doctors, who are the first line of attack against COVID-19.
Dr. Nitish Gupta says: "Just as the Army fights on the borders, we are also fighting. We have to inspire people that they will be well in 14 days and will go home. People get worried by seeing the figures of expired people abroad."
Mr. Modi says: "This is the year for the nurses. I salute them for their sense of dedication."
The PM also thanks the heroes in our daily lives — those who ensure water supply or electricity, the neighborhood grocers, or the delivery boys of the e-commerce platforms.
"Maintain social distancing but increase social interaction," he says while discussing the issue of instances of ill treatment of those who are in quarantine. "Don't go outside and but use this opportunity to look within yourself," he says.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation and that's why some of the decisions are also unprecedented, he says.
"This is an opportunity to display your humanity. Think of feeding the poor. Our culture advocates this and I am sure we can do this. Next time we when meet again over Mann Ki Baat, I hope we will be able to get over the challenges we face now. Thank you," says Mr. Modi as he concludes his address.