Mitron, We live in the best times. And we live in the worst times. You may wonder, how it could it be the ‘best of times’. I owe you an explanation. We in the midst of a War on Virus. We have joined battle against the invisible enemy, as one family- all 1.3 Billion of us. All of us together in one lock and step. Such disastrous times brings the best out of us as Indians. I cannot thank you more for your disciplined compliance with the difficult call for the 21 day National Lockdown. Now, we are compelled to shutdown till May 3rd, 2020. I urge each one of you, from the bottom of my heart, to continue your disciplined ways, and I am sure that we shall overcome, together for a New India.
You lovingly elected me as your Pradhan Mantri in 2014, with a comfortable majority, a first ever occurrence, after 1984. Ever since May, 2014, I have been at your service as a Pradhan Sevak. I have not taken a day’s leave or gone on a day’s holiday. I have continued my punishing working schedule, even during Navarathri fasting days. I am not claiming any special regard or respect for it, for you have also been at work, during the time.
I admit, I promised a lot of things. I admit that milk and honey are not flowing now. I do not own a magic wand, for any overnight transformation. There is so much legacy dust and dirt that needs to be attended. It is not a complaint. It is a fact submission. It is my duty to attend to it and I assure you I am on the job.
And then in 2019, you returned me as PM, with a higher and a thumping majority. Even as we set about introducing transformative changes in the polity, governance and economy, we have been hit by this worldwide impacting Pandemic. I find that such Pandemics afflicted humanity, every century since 1720, in 1820, 1920 and now in 2020. The world is not the same. It is now globalised. Not merely interconnected, but interdependent also.
This Covid19 disease, we are facing, internationally, is a hydra headed monster. It is not only hitting our bodies, but our minds and economies too. The shutdown we are facing is a compelling constraint. Not something, we have embraced willingly. Give a choice, we can and should avoid it. But, the ground reality is otherwise. The virus determines the timeline on the opening of the economy.
I am aware of the humongous impact, it is having on us all. We are a rich country with poor people too, which is a reality. There are so many below the poverty line, whose lives have been upended by the national lockdown. I am fully alive and aware of the difficulties faced by the teeming migrant millions. Pulling the rug under the feet of these migrant populace, suddenly, was a tough ask. It could not have ever been planned and implemented to avoid zero impact. It is not practically possible or feasible. It had to be as sudden as the onset of the virus itself.
I sincerely apologised to each one of you and I apologise again for the impact the National Shutdown has on you all. I pray god that it does not continue beyond 3rd May, 2020. The entire world is astounded, as to how a nation of this magnitude and density of population is practising curfew. Yes, there are aberrations, as is inevitable. But majority compliance itself is admired and commended.
We have come up with two installments of economic package. RBI and banks are not lagging behind. I admit, as I ought to, that it is a rescue and recovery package and not a stimulus. I agree that more and more and more may need to be done. The world has not faced a catastrophe like this before. It is an apocalypse. The responses have to be commensurate to it.
I have directly spoken to you thrice now. I am on social media. Every time I speak to you, I am also trolled for suggesting ‘clapping’ or ‘Diya Jalao’, or extending the national lockdown, to express our gratitude to the Covid-19 warriors, on the front lines, the Doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, hospital administrations, essential service workers as conservancy staff, newspaper vendors, grocers, milk vendors and many many more. If that gives them satisfaction, so be it. Dissent is a safety valve in a democracy and let the trolls breathe easy.
My focus is different. It is on the health, lives and economy. We live in turbulent and tumultuous times. I am not denying or ever denied accountability. The Buck Stops With Me. That is undeniable. It is my moral, legal and patriotic obligation, as your Prime Minister, in such a difficult time, to help you from distress and prevent death. Trust me, we are trying our darnedest. We are tapping into scientists, doctors, health experts and economists and civil society. I have sought constructive and destructive criticism too, of our measures, thus far. We need to know, where we were, where we are now and where we need to go. The path is not easy. We do not have any magical tools, as the Pandemic is unprecedented in its scale and sweep. But, we shall not give up or throw our hands up. We shall fight for you, just as you are fighting the battles by staying at home and staying alive. We owe it to you.
Let me be absolutely honest. I am not claiming that each of our decisions have been totally successful, or not caused any harm or prejudice to you. But our intention has been the larger interest of the population at large. National lockdown has been largely successful, because of your disciplined compliance. And the diligence, duty, determination of our security forces, who have acted with compassion.
We are not even half way through the war. The curve needs to be smashed not merely flattened. That we are faced with far lesser number of virus positives and fatalities, is a miracle. May be, despite the governments’ efforts, as the trolls may suggest. So be it. At least, we are on the right course. We have a long way to go. Let us strive together. We will try our utmost. When the Western hemisphere with USA at the helm, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, are stretched, even with their advanced health care systems, we can claim with confidence that our Covid-19 warriors are doing a fantastic job, with all the handicaps. It is our duty to enhance the availability of the needed tools and infrastructure support.
We shall not let up on our unceasing efforts. The Covid-19 warriors need our gratitude not now, but forever. We should not forget their sacrifices. I look forward to your continued co operation and assistance to heed the advices of the scientists and medical professionals.
Stay Home. Take Care. Save Lives. We shall have to ever remember the Covid-19 warriors, as we resolve to ourselves that no matter the adversary, We Shall Overcome.
(Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan- Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)