Coronavirus: Did You Hear Modi Speak on 24th March, 2020?


By: R. Veera Raghavan, Advocate, Chennai

Did you hear Prime Minister Modi on television yesterday 24th March 2020? Listening to him, if an Indian was not moved or impressed, be sure he put his politics in the first place, his ego in the second and his country in the third.

I heard the prime minister last evening when he announced a nation-wide 21-day lockdown to battle the novel coronavirus for which there is no vaccine or cure as yet.  It was a touching speech, cajoling and compelling – not formal or authoritarian.

He was like a concerned father talking to his little son, bending to him, meeting him eye-to-eye. I felt like raising my hand, clutching his fingers and eager to go by his affectionate guidance. I didn’t feel that the long curfew would be a command of the law, though it really is. That was the beauty of his speech.

What made Modi’s address to the nation click?

First, the man himself. Modi has built an image of a leader concerned about the welfare of the people and working for it tirelessly and efficiently. Second, the substance of his speech which, as always, matched the image of the man and fulfilled expectations around him, far and wide. Third, perhaps the most crucial, the way he uttered his well-chosen words, in a caring impassioned tone, beseeching his people to respect the curfew for their own good – and he did this most humbly from the seat of the prime minister. All these combined to convince.

To be sure about the effect of Modi’s appeal, just imagine that, instead of Modi, Manmohan Singh of the Congress, the man who was previously prime minister, or still worse Rahul Gandhi, that party’s projected prime minister, is our prime minister today appearing on national television at this difficult time. Then you would sense the strong arm of the law shoving you, and not a gentle hand leading you. To be still more sure, picture Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav or Mamta Banerjee – or Lalu Prasad Yadav too – coming on national television as prime minister in the middle of a serious national health crisis and announcing a 21-day curfew. Now you know the difference between Modi and others so sharp, don’t you?

Let’s not think that, when a lethal virus is slowly spreading in the country, people in different walks of life would instinctively accept a three-week curfew, no matter whether Modi or any other prime minister introduces it, as it is meant for everyone’s health and safety. It is not easy to mentally prepare large sections of the people for a long curfew when the virus is yet to show its menacing face on our land, convince them on the viciousness of the virus when it is lying low and at the same time instil in the people hopes for turning the corner.

Modi did it in his speech admirably, better than any other leader.  In humility and with folded hands he said: “I am speaking not as the prime minister of today, but like your family member. Please patiently follow the 21-day lockdown”. That way, Modi respected the dignity of the common man – more than leaning on the power of the law.

The 21-day curfew will temporarily eject lakhs of workers out of their jobs, many of them in the unorganized sector. It will deprive them and others of their livelihood income for an uncertain period ahead, and also leave migrant labour stranded at many places in the states, for whom the government is not geared to provide instant relief at the moment the curfew was clamped. More time is needed here. Modi had to choose whether he should wait longer to avoid immediate disruption in the economy – if he so waited, it would surely spread the coronavirus to more people leading to unmanageable hospitalisation and enormous fatalities – or instantly stop chances of the virus spreading to nooks and corners, save millions from a deadly illness, gradually and firmly control the virus and then manage and revive a bruised economy. Modi wisely chose the latter, allowing some pain now to avoid a gigantic disaster.

He felt like a responsible father in this choice too, deciding quickly. It is a blessing to have him as our prime minister right now, unifying the people. For our part, let us keep trust in him, keep hope and walk our steps right.

* * * * * (Borrowed with thanks from HERE)

Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2020

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. IPC
    Mar 27, 2020 @ 12:15:08

    Anybody can understand the seriousness of the danger of this deadly infection – called Coronavirus and having yet no effective curative remedy available – to humanity at large. India is densely populated, having people here not 130 Crores but in reality more. It this infection had been allowed – by an inaction on the part of Modi and his government – to spread a few weeks more, India would have been the epicenter of this calamity. But fortunately we had a Modi – the Prime Minister – in India and we hope GOD WILLING we will be spared of that calamity. But the greatness of this preventive measure lies more in the manner in which Modi approached the issue: He requested the people; he cajoled them; he offered them hope, if they cooperated by remaining indoors for 21 days (which period is more likely to be extended to the begining of May); he reasoned with them, “Jan hai to Jahan hai = If you have your life, only then there is a world for you” – implying that economic loss or loss of livlihood should be preferable to the loss of the very life; he folded his hands; he repeated (I think 2 or 3 times) his request with folded hands; he said, “Janta curfew plus something more” to turn his request into compulson. O God, give this man Modi healthy and long life! India would feel like orphaned without his leadership.

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  2. Santanu Dey
    Mar 28, 2020 @ 14:22:09

    It is a fact that India is truly lucky to have a PM like Modi at this juncture and many other vital moments in the last six years but BJP will have to establish a second-line leader to take his place when age takes upper hand of him, though as of date he posits like a 50-55-year-old and looks quite fit for another term starting in ’24.

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    • IPC
      Mar 28, 2020 @ 16:41:22

      To me it looks, the heavy load of responsibilities is already having a toll on the general health of this unparalleled leader of India. You see, for the last six years, he has been facing an unceasing succession of challenges: he had to convince people by his countless public addresses to get elected; he had to go to public again and again to answer the accusations of third-class Indian opposition political leaders; he had to silence them in Parliament; he had to constantly globe-trot to attend international meets and interact world leaders – all it requires a great pool of personal energy. And, now this pandemic! We pray Almighty to keep him healthy and enegetic. You are absolutely right in saying that BJP should groom and get ready second-line of similar leaders – after all age is age, even after completing his 2024 inning!

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