Upon the outbreak of Covid-19 last year, Prime Minister Modi was the epitome of inspiration and sterling leadership in the most trying, challenging and unprecedented catastrophe of the pandemic. The patriotic and deft manner in which he had taken on this challenge, with an unflinching resolve, was unparalleled. Immediate proactive steps were taken in unison, to enforce the lockdown including strengthening our medical infrastructure as also all other conceivable enforcement, containment, medical, safety and relief measures for the benefit of every section of society. India’s prompt, preventive and pre-emptive response to the foray by this invisible viral adversary helped it cope better or else the situation would have been unimaginable.
Having adroitly succeeded in the initial fight for life survival, in the effort for human survival and economic revival, a very sagaciously graded and staggered program for opening up of the key sectors was effectuated. A stimulus for industry was also announced. Assistance was provided to small businesses and workers. Full scale operations of agricultural activities, from the farms to markets, were ensured. Around 200 million women from low-income groups were provided support, through the direct benefit transfer scheme in their Jan Dhan accounts. Further, under the PM-Kisan scheme, Rs. 2000 was transferred to 84 million farmers; 80 million beneficiaries of Ujwala LPG scheme received three cylinders free of cost. India had the biggest food security programme in the world in which 800 million people were given 5 kg of wheat/rice at Rs. 2 a bag. The Prime Minster announced a Rs. 20 lakh crore economic package to benefit farmers, entrepreneurs, the poor, the migrants and industry, with major incentives for the MSME sector.
Our recovery rate, as on 26 January 2021 was nearly 97% – one of the highest in the world and fatality rate was 1.4% – one of the lowest in the world. As on 29 June 2020, India had 1600 COVID-19 dedicated laboratories, 1055 dedicated COVID hospitals, 1,77,529 isolation beds, 23168 ICU beds, 78,060 oxygen supported beds, 2400 dedicated health centres and 9519 COVID care centres with 8,34,128 beds and had achieved a daily testing capacity of 10 lakh persons.
In the battle against coronavirus, many democracies had used authoritarian and emergency measures and also called in the military, on the streets, to implement restrictions. It was to the great credit of the Prime Minister that he had neither invoked any emergency powers nor resorted to authoritarian measures, but reposed this trust in 138 crore Indians by involving each one them as equal and voluntary stakeholders in the fight against coronavirus. And his leadership and measures were praised all across the world by the WHO, IMF and Bill Gates. The Prime Minister’s approval rating on April 21 was 83 per cent according to Morning Consult, a US based Survey and Research Firm. The IANS-C voter COVID-19 tracker showed that trust in his leadership jumped to 93.5 percent on April 21 from 76.08 percent on March 25, 2020.
All this during and post improvement of the situation, the Government kept emphasising the need to take adequate precautions like social distancing, sanitizing and compulsory wearing masks all the time.
Then having greatly succeeded in our fight against this pandemic, we felt there would be no second wave and did not take the DO’s and DONT’s, being reiterated by the Government, seriously. We thronged market places and public places, most of us without masks or wearing them as chin straps. Attendance at weddings and functions was several times the permitted numbers – again violating the norms of social distancing. We divorced caution, lowered our guard and became careless in a denial mode that corona was over – when the Prime Minister and the Government kept emphasizing the need to follow COVID appropriate behaviour and norms. As a result, cases rose in geometric progression. Hence, it is incorrect for some sections to criticise the Government. Between Jan 1, 2021 and March 10, 2021, India was averaging about 20,000 new cases a day. Many self-styled experts had written articles as to why India will not go through a second wave, even though other countries were, and that restrictions imposed by the Government should go. Despite this the Government kept issuing advisories and continued to test aggressively and ramp up infrastructure. Prime Minister stressed upon Chief Ministers to be on constant vigil and to enforce Covid-19 protocol.
Today PM Modi with, unstinted grit and conviction, and his dedicated team, have left no stone unturned to take coordinated measures to counter the onslaught of the pandemic by increasing supply of oxygen, medical resources / equipment and vaccination for all adults. India’s testing journey and our vaccination drive – the world’s largest – is a remarkable achievement in itself. It is only because of the stature of the PM that there is global support and solidarity with India in medical assistance, from all quarters.
No government could have visualised or anticipated the scale of the monster crisis. The USA, with immense resources, infrastructure and a developed health care system, too suffered multiple waves of this devastating pandemic.
In the calibrated war against this unknown enemy, there are far too many imponderables. In the absence of any cast iron standard as to the adequate required duration of a lockdown for complete success, or the barometer of immunity or behaviour of the virus or strains of the virus with exactitude, we are truly constrained. Despite this Prime Minister Modi converted a peace time process into a war time machinery.
The persevering endeavour of PM Modi in this war, which requires unity of purpose and participation of all us indomitable Indians, has ensured that cases have drastically reduced and the monster wave has been controlled. To prevent a third wave, we must all be one in strengthening the hands of the government in our support to follow all Covid norms and win the war against COVID-19.
(The writer is a former DG ITBP. His views are personal)