Narenadra Modi

‘Janata Curfew’, made in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to the people to watch a “Janata Curfew” on Sunday as an isolation drill against the coronavirus pandemic, seeking to organize the country for possible hardships within the national interest and borrowing an Italian example.

In a 29-minute address to the state, Modi said the pandemic posed a “bada sankat (big crisis)” and announced the formation of a “Covid-19 economic task force”, sounding out a “huge impact” on the economy.

The Prime Minister said the task force led by the minister of finance would get feedback from the economic stakeholders and take necessary steps within the near future. He didn’t give out the other details about the task force.

The 24-hour notice for the Prime Minister’s address had revived memories of the November 2016 note ban and fuelled speculation starting from a “total lockdown” to the declaration of an emergency, triggering panic-buying of essentials.

Modi didn’t announce any such drastic step. He underscored that panic buying must be avoided.

No essential items, including medicines, should be hoarded, he said, adding that his government was working to make sure their supply.

As a preparatory measure for “sankalp (resolve)” and “saiyam (control)”, Modi urged all citizens, except those engaged in ensuring essential services, to watch the “Janata curfew” by remaining in their homes from 7am to 9pm.

Modi said the one-day drill would prepare Indians for “aatm saiyam” (self-control) within the “national interest” and for the challenges of the approaching days, possibly signalling tough measures within the future.

He urged citizens to exit into the balconies or move to the windows for five minutes at 5pm on Sunday to applaud those risking their lives within the service of the folk.

Paanch minute tak taali bajakar, thaali bajakar ya ghanti bajakar (By clapping, beating metal plates or bells for five minutes)” they ought to applaud those just like the doctors and nurses engaged in serving people in these difficult times, he said.

At noon last Saturday, many Italians leaned out of windows or stood on balconies within the locked-down country to applaud health care workers caring for coronavirus patients. At exactly 6pm last Friday, there was an identical response across Italy to a web call to sing the anthem or play it on an instrument. Some Italians banged pots and called out: “We will make it.

Modi sought to impress on the citizens the importance of “social distancing” to battle the pandemic, saying this was the sole thanks to escape the virus and remain healthy.

“There is not any cure for this, so we’d like to stay healthy. We’d like to avoid crowds and stay home. Social distancing is critical,” he said, stressing that the virus posed a much bigger challenge to humanity than war I and II.

“If you think that you’ll roam around as was common and feel you’ll not be in danger, this is often incorrect; you’re endangering yourself and your family.”

Modi urged businessmen and therefore the rich to point out compassion by not shedding or cutting the salaries of their workforce, stressing that the poor needed their support to guard their families.

The Prime Minister, however, didn’t say anything on how equipped and ready the country’s health system was and what steps were being taken to satisfy the challenge of treating people afflicted with the virus.

Modi is scheduled to carry a video conference with the chief ministers of all the states on Friday.

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