Washington, DC – With the world reeling under the continuing onslaught of COVID-19, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a bold step to rein in the coronavirus spread in the country of more than a billion people. Modi declared a blanket lockdown today (March 24) with the clocks striking midnight to usher in March 25, telling Indians, “There will be a total ban on coming out of your homes.”
There was immediate tweet welcoming the decision by his top ace-diplomat as Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar tweeted: “A clear and strong message from PM @narendramodi: a national lockdown is critical at this stage. Reflects the lessons drawn from other countries. Social distancing only solution. Self discipline of India must prevail.” Jaishankar added, “Stay home, break the chain. #IndiaFightsCorona”
Richard M. Rossow, Wadhwani Chair in US India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank in Washington, DC told IAT in a statement: “Taking proactive measures is critical as India tries to learn from other nations’ experience in dealing with COVID. Yet we need to see what types of carve-outs may be included to maintain essential services–including allowances for functioning of India-based back office operations of “essential service” providers.”
Neena Gill, CBE and a former British Member of European Parliament (MEP) welcomed the lockdown saying, “The lockdown has proven to date, the only effective tool to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 and avoiding a spike in the number of cases that require medical intervention.”
Highlighting the challenges facing the Modi government, Gill said, “One cannot underestimate the difficulties, in a country of 1.4 billion people, how challenging it’ll be to realize this ambition. With many people living cheek by jowl in the big cities, it’ll be an Herculean task.” Gill noted, “What’s absolutely necessary from the UK experience, is that clear communication is necessary from the government, ambiguity leads to public confusion and reduces the effectiveness of the measures.”
“Along with this it’s important that the public recognizes that they’ve to act responsibly and ensure that their friends & family take the measures seriously,” Gill emphasized.
From the US:
Attorney Ravi Batra from New York, which is badly affected by the spread of Coronavirus, said, “India is lucky to have a clear-eyed and firm-handed Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading it – be it promoting India, or protecting India.” With COVID-19 now threatening the country of more than a billion, Batra applauded Modi “for doing everything to protect the public health,” as Modi decided to “lockdown the country to put his weight foot on the back of Community Spread, to flatten the curve of new infected Indians.” Batra termed the lockdown move as “an essential brake.”
“Modi’s firm and decisive action stands in stark contrast to the thinking coming from the White House. Modi appears to be focused on saving lives and we as Indian Americans applaud his leadership,” said Atul Jain, acclaimed entrepreneur and positive life coach based in Virginia, US.
Amit Roy, an IIT Kharagpur alumnus and former president and chief executive officer of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and now a Marylander in the US, told IAT in a statement, “Prudent step but very difficult for people who live hand to mouth and have to fend for themselves on a daily basis outdoors. With the complete country under lockdown, no trains running which are the lifeline of the country and no aerial transport within or from abroad, the announcement is welcome for stopping the spread of deadly COVID-19 but some questions remain like what about essentials and health emergencies among others.”
Commending Prime Minister Narendra Modi “for taking this bold decisive action,” Jasdip Singh Jesse, founder of Sikhs of America organization based in Maryland, urged, “all of India to please follow Prime Minister Modi’s 21 day lockdown.”
Kanwaljit Singh Soni, USA Chairman of Sikh Affairs Wing, Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party (OFBJP) – the ruling party of India, led by PM Modi – pointed out that China, where COVID-19 originated, tried to “to hide it from the world,” but noted, “Prime Minister Modi has put India total lock down for at least 21 days and that’s the only way to stop the spread of this virus (COVID-19).” Urging all the citizens of the United States and India and the world to follow this request from both the countries, Soni said, “In the meantime let’s all pray for the well-being of everybody.”
Citing the example of Italy and other nations wrestling with this growing deadly threat, Puneet Ahluwalia, Executive Director of South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation, feared that the threat “will be far greater in India due to the large concentration of population and limited resources.” He added, “As responsible citizens, it is our civic duty to support the leadership and nation during these dire times.”
In a dispatch from India, Shipra Mathur, Consulting Editor, IAT writes: “Amid COVID-19 scare Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation today (March 24) at 8.00 pm for half an hour. He said that all essential services in the country shall continue and remain functional. He urged people to strictly practice social distancing and step out of homes only in emergency conditions. He announced a 21 days lockdown in India and also explained to the layman how this virus spreads. He said it took this virus to spread in 1 lakh (hundred thousands) people 67 days but just 11 days to attack 2 lakh and then only in 4 days period the number of people infected with this virus reached to 3 lakh. Expressing his gratitude to the private sector in helping the government to fight this battle, Prime Minister Modi also announced 15000 crores ($150 billion) allocation to improve medical facilities, and detection equipment.”
Rajesh Sundaram, seasoned international journalist, author and IAT Editorial Consultant, noted from New Delhi, India: “The lockdown was inevitable. Some critics say it should have come a few weeks earlier. But going forward the biggest challenge for the Union government would be to ensure that the most economically and socially vulnerable sections of the population do not starve as a consequence of the lockdown.”
Sundaram called for “a massive effort, to ensure that millions of migrant workers, daily wage earners, homeless, displaced and poor do not face mass starvation, must be put in place immediately,” cautioning, “Given the 1.3 billion population in India, Some experts say any delay in this could see consequences worse than a full blown COVID-19 outbreak.”
Government Orders and Details:
The order from the Government of India circulated to all government offices reads: “there is a need for consistency in the application and implementation of various measures across the country while ensuring maintenance of essential services and supplies, including health infrastructure.”
The government also issued guidelines on the measures to be taken by Ministries/ Departments of Government of India, State/Union Territory Governments and State/ Union Territory Authorities for containment of COVID-19 Epidemic in the Country. While those give strict orders for complete lockdowns, the listings also include clear-cut directions for leaving essential services like the health sector; shops, including ration shops, dealing with food, groceries, fruits etc., and banks among others.