Prime Minister Narendra Modi has time and again proved his leadership skills and his ability to turn every crisis into an opportunity. There is no doubt that his experience as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, in handling critical challenges, have shaped him into what he is today- a decisive, pragmatic leader who believes in sensible yet bold governance.
At the early phase of the Coronavirus outbreak in March 2020, when foreign governments were still in dilemma over the kind of response that should be given, it was Modiji’s pragmatism which ensued the suspension of all India-bound international flights in March which in result aided in controlling virus infections in India. A Nationwide lockdown to curb virus from reaching the rural spaces of India, followed thereafter. All this while the Central Government through Indian embassies and High Commissions across the world ran rescue operation of historic proportion to bring back Indians who were stranded abroad. Given the unknown character and infectious nature of the virus, the lockdown also gave ample time to the government to prepare for any surge in cases and Indian doctors the time to learn from experiences of other countries.
In a country of 1.35 billion people, Government enforcing a nationwide lockdown was unthinkable. Nevertheless, on 19th March 2020, Prime Minister Modi in his address to the nation appealed to his fellow countrymen to follow Janta Curfew (People’s Curfew) on 22nd March, overnight turning the government response into a Jan Andolan (People’s movement). Credited to Modi’s charismatic persona and his mass appeal, people throughout the country voluntarily constrained themselves to their homes and Janta Curfew came out to be a grand success. No leader other than Modi Ji could have pulled this off.
Even amidst raging pandemic and complete lockdown, Modi Ji’s frequent communication with the nation- through his national addresses and ‘Mann Ki Baat’- kept the mood of the general populace positive and the spirit high. He also led the nation into recognising the heroic efforts of essential services personnel, Police forces and media personnel who worked tirelessly and selflessly even during the pandemic, a stance rarely seen in Indian polity. Indian Railways, although its services initially suspended, owing to the leadership of PM Modi ran hundreds of special trains to help ferry a large number of migrant workers to safe harbours. Railways’ vast rail network across the country was tactically used to install mobile train based Covid-19 hospitals.
At the very outset of virus breakout, Modi’s pragmatic self had envisioned a new role for a new India. Just as on the domestic front he led efforts to help build a national consensus on fighting coronavirus by consulting Chief Ministers of all states and UTs to ensure that directives of the Central Government are put on the ground effectively pan India, on the international front he ran a strategic campaign to ensure that we, the People of India, get the vaccine on priority. First, in as early as April 2020, PM Modi formulated a high-level committee with science and technology advisor to PM K Vijaya Raghavan as its head to formulate a plan for time-bound development of Covid-19 Vaccine. The Department of Biotechnology under the Ministry of Science & Technology was entrusted with the responsibility of keeping track of all global efforts on vaccine development and to make concerted efforts for domestic vaccine trials. In the second leg of his campaign, Modi leveraged India’s stature as the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer to forge international ties and consultations which not only envisioned provision of vaccine for India but also a major role for Indian companies in delivering vaccine to the world. These efforts culminated into 60 foreign envoys visiting Hyderabad based Indian Covid-19 vaccine facility in December 2020.
The economy too wasn’t left to perish. To make India a bigger and more important part of the global value chains in the aftermath of the pandemic, PM Modi formulated ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ or ‘Self-Reliant India’ policy outlining his vision of a self-sufficient India. To boost the rural economy and incentivise MSMEs and dairy and Meat processing private companies which were most dearly hit by the pandemic, PM Modi chaired Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs sanctioned Rs. 15,000 Crore for setting up of Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF). Likewise, for the development of marine and inland fisheries, Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojna worth Rs 20,000 crore was announced. For the first time, a loan scheme to help 50 lakh street vendors- their livelihood hit by the pandemic- resume their businesses in the urban areas, PM SVANidhi Scheme was announced. Food-grains were distributed to millions of migrant workers and ration cardholders, thus reaffirming Modiji’s commitment to Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s concept of ‘Antyodaya’- rise of the last person– that has also been the guiding principle of BJP. While the long term impacts of such government schemes remain to be seen, the record GST collection of more than Rs 1,15,000 crore in December is evidence enough that Modiji’s efforts are and will continue to yield greater dividends for the Indian economy.
From contact tracing of Covid-19 infected persons to developing a vaccine, Modi Ji has been instrumental and a key bridge between all organs of the government. It isn’t without a reason why Modiji’s leadership, in a recent study by a US firm Morning Consult, received the highest domestic approval ratings among world leaders. BJP’s victory in various elections held in different parts of the country is evidence that Modiji’s leadership in this testing time has been wholeheartedly accepted by the people. Modi’s push for digital innovation and digital governance over the course of last 4-5 years has helped prepare Indian economy- in general- to deal with the pandemic more effectively as bank currency notes could’ve been a grave carrier of the virus and in midst of lockdown economic transactions continued without any impediment and without people flocking to ATMs for cash. While remembering and cherishing the heroic efforts of our scientific community, lets not even for a moment forget the leap of faith that Modi Ji took in supporting and encouraging our scientific community which as a result paved the way for 2 ‘Made in India’ Covid-19 vaccines. Even as today when death tolls in developed countries are increasing and new lockdowns and night curfew are being reimposed, India breathes freely with the lowest death toll (1.5 % per 100 cases) and looks forward to the rollout of world’s largest vaccine drive as vans carrying Covid-19 Vaccines reach various states of India and the world lines up for India’s vaccine(s). Modiji’s leadership has truly been a grace for all proud Indians.
(The author is a Graduate from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is currently the National Youth Vice President of Delhi based NGO, NHRCCB.)