Like his earlier call on March 21 to blow conch and beat thali to boost the morale of the doctors, nurses, sanitary volunteers and policemen who have been on the streets to fight the dreaded disease, now he has, once again, urged the people to show unity and solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic by switching off all household lights and light a candle, diya or the mobile flashlight on the balcony or terrace to together resolve to fight the Coronavirus and emerge victorious.

His supporters and some senior BJP leaders view his latest move as a mechanism to lessen the impact of isolation, his choosing April 5 has generated lot of curiosity in the people. The time, 9 pm, and the period of 9 minutes for the lighting the candle have astronomical importance. He has invoked Surya and Mangalgraha (Planet Mars) in his agenda and programme. His move has strong element of Hindu religious rituals.

Significantly, this at the same time is also being perceived as a clever move to further extend the period of lockdown. It is after 4 or 5 days of the latest programme the existing lock down will come to an end. The increasing number of suspected cases and growing figure of the infected people makes it imperative that the government is unlikely to revoke the lock down. His narrative is quite strong and important: “It was important for every Indian to realise that he or she wasn’t alone I this fight. We must together invoke the spirit of Bharat Mata and ensure that the dark clouds of the virus make way for the light hope.”

He made his intentions clear by saying: “While taking part in this show of solidarity on Sunday, April 9, no one should venture out or gather in public places. The lakshman rekha of social distancing, the only way to fight the virus, should never be crossed.” It is worth mentioning that till Thursday night around confirmed 2,100 cases have been registered. There have been 53 deaths so far. As many as 156 patients have been discharged.

Modi has so far addressed the nation twice: first on March 19, when he called for a one-day Janata Curfew and second on March 24, when he announced a national lockdown to contain disease. Since the doctors and experts strongly feel that next 15 days are crucial in India’s battle against corona, it is unlikely that Modi will risk the lives of the people. He is already facing the flak for not taking care of the poor and daily wage earners.

His latest programme once again makes it explicit that he is simply concerned of the rich and the middle class. During the last seven days of the lockdown the poor and daily wage earners had to face enormous pain and ordeal, but Modi in his address did not speak about them. Modi’s call to light a candle or flash a light for 9 minutes on Sunday puzzled many. They want to know why 9 minutes and not ten?

Modi’s ‘Light & Sound’ would be a success, there is no doubt about it. But two questions are making the rounds: Did the Prime Minister miss yet another opportunity this morning to rally the nation? And, second, why did he not talk about the miseries and plights of the poor? The people had expected that India in the midst of the worst crisis, the prime minister should have spoken about poor not getting food, simmering resentment among doctors over the shortage of protective equipment and huge job losses and recession looming over the economy.

They also expected that he would have told the nation about superstition and the stigma being attached to COVID-19. He could have cautioned against vigilante action being resorted to by many villagers and some states which put returning migrant workers behind the bars. He should have allayed the fear from the minds of the people about India not capable to fight the crisis; steps taken to address the shortage of ventilators, medicine and PPEs.

But his address once again underscored that priorities did not matter and his message is primarily meant for his supporters. We must appreciate the government for showcasing the peoples’ solidarity and demonstration of their determination to fight COVID-19, but at the same time people expect that the fight must have scientific temper.

India faces two major challenges. While it has to combat corona, at the same time it has to ensure that economy does not break down. India has suffered a sharp slowdown last year, from 6.1 per cent in fiscal 2019 to 5 per cent, as a credit crunch that originated in the non-banking financial sector severely hampered bank lending. And the economic growth is likely to slow down further to 4 per cent this fiscal according to the Asian Development Bank.

India is facing extraordinarily challenging times. The coronavirus has completely ravaged people’s lives and ruined business and other economic activities. Modi has to adopt a more pragmatic approach. But for this it is imperative that the BJP and RSS must not try to divide the society and country by using Coronavirus as a ploy. Their machination has already weakened India and its economy considerably. US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback has rightly suggested; “it is wrong to pin blame on religious minorities for the spread of coronavirus. The “blame game” over the origin of the Covid-19 should be aggressively pushed back by governments across the world.”

Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo have rightly said: “The stock markets have collapsed. Middleclass income has shrunk. There will not be a consumption boom at the end of this. Therefore, we will need policies, which will be able to keep the system going. Revive the demand. People will have lost so much income and so much wealth that they will sit on what they have and not spend. That is the core worry. I think in India we are being too conservative. Print some money and do not think of inflation. We need to be quantitative in India and in large sums.” (IPA Service)