Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked Indians to stay more vigilant than ever against the threat of COVID-19, a day after the Union government notified a phased opening up of the economy termed Unlock-1.
He was addressing the nation via his monthly radio broadcast Mann ki Baat. “We should not be careless in our fight against corona. We have to continue to follow social distancing and other protocols, as there is no vaccine or even precedents on how to combat the disease,” he said.
Under the Ministry of Home Affairs orders, strict lockdown of the kind that prevailed since March 25, will be limited to containment zones – areas sealed because of a large number of COVID-19 cases – at least till June 30.
“Large humanitarian crisis”
Prime Minister Modi also spoke of the large humanitarian crisis over inter-State workers, who he said had faced the worst of the pain during this period.
“It has also brought to the fore the vulnerability of our eastern States whose labour has contributed to building our country and who have the potential otherwise to be the economic engine of the country. There are many lessons to be learnt from this situation to improve our future. Many have already been taken to heart by some States. Some are setting up Migrant Commissions, others are mapping skills of returning workers, some are encouraging start ups. Apart from that, certain decisions taken by the Centre would also contribute to the development of our rural areas as economic centres and contribute to their self-reliance,” he said.
He commended the Indian Railways, which has been under fire for the treatment of inter-State workers on Shramik Specials or labour trains taking them home.
“Indian railways has been working to get people home. They have worked round the clock for it,” he said.
He singled out several philanthropic individuals, who on their own contributed to relief work during the lockdowns. “Those who serve are positive, vital and confident, and it was a pleasant discovery for me on how Indians across the country have pitched in to serve,” he said.
Tax payers commended
Ayushman Bharat, or the universal health insurance scheme of the government of India, clocked over one crore beneficiaries last week, a fact marked by Prime Minister Modi.
“For our poor, medical help is expensive and a choice has to be made between sinking further into poverty and not getting the required treatment. I am happy that over one crore beneficiaries, 80% of whom are from rural areas, and 50% of whom are women, got help under the scheme. Our honest tax payer also needs to be commended as it is through his/her tax that all these welfare programmes are funded,” he said.
Prime Minister Modi reiterated that the phasing out of the lockdown cannot be seen as an end to COVID-19, but that social distancing and other measures should be followed.