Narendra Modi called for a nine-minute blackout at 9pm on Sunday and urged people to use candles, diyas and mobile torchlights to demonstrate solidarity and reiterate a collective resolve to beat back the challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The PM’s brief video message telecast on Friday morning aimed to keep public morale up with Modi emphasising collective action and urging people to stay the course. Reaching out to people chafing at confinement and monotony, he said, “We are confined to our own homes, and may be getting assailed by doubts as to how one can win this fight. But none of us is alone. The collective strength of 130 crore Indians is with each one of us.” He added that lighting lamps on Sunday will help rearm the resolve to prevail against
The PM underlined the need to assure people, particularly the poor, that their travails will end. “Amidst the darkness spread by the corona pandemic, we must continuously progress towards light and hope. We must continuously strive to take those of us most affected, our poor brothers and sisters, from despair to hope and from uncertainty to certainty. We must defeat the deep darkness of the crisis,” Modi said.
In the “we-are-in-this-together” video message on the ninth day of the lockdown, the PM focused on the importance of the power of the collective as well as the need to demonstrate it for the battle against the pandemic. Referring to the massive response to his call for solidarity for doctors, paramedics and others on the frontline, he said, “On March 22, the country realised that we are united in this fight. It is important that in this long fight, we continue to feel and experience the power of the collective in its colossal splendour. It renews the spirit, sketches out the objective and lights up the path to achieve it.”
“And that is why, this Sunday, on April 5, we must all together challenge the darkness spread by the corona crisis, introducing it to the power of light. On this April 5, we must awaken the superpower of 130 crore Indians. We must take the super resolve of 130 crore Indians to even greater heights,” he said.
Like in his previous addresses on the coronavirus situation, the PM underlined the need for social distancing and being at home, saying it was the only “Ram baan (Ram’s arrow)” to defeat the spread of the disease. He stressed that halting the pandemic was everyone’s fight and would need continued adherence to the lockdown norms. “You don’t have to come out on the roads and in streets. Social distancing norms are to be observed under all circumstances as it is our only option, the perfect option, against the virus,” he said.
He urged people to turn off all the lights in their homes and stand in balconies or at the doors with candles, diyas or mobile flashlights to illuminate the common purpose of the fight against the pandemic. “Turn off all the lights in your homes, stand at your doors or in your balconies, and light candles or diyas, torches or mobile flashlights for nine minutes,” Modi exhorted.
The PM’s address was, however, criticised by opposition leaders, who alleged too many overlaps of the numeral 9 was inspired by Hindu astrology and that his remarks lacked any substantial assurances. But the PM said the exercise would make all realise that no one was alone and 130 crore Indians were linked by a common resolve.
He added that the act of solidarity should not mean crowding. “However, I have one more prayer in this regard, that no one must assemble or gather anywhere while participating in this programme. Please do not go out on to roads, lanes or your localities, do it at the doorstep or balconies of your own homes. One must never cross the ‘lakshman rekha’ of social distancing,” Modi said, apparently a reference to instances of processions on March 22 when he called for a five-minute applause for medical professionals.
Recalling that the manner in which people had expressed gratitude to all those fighting against coronavirus on March 22 has been replicated by many countries, Modi said, “Whether it is people’s curfew, ringing bells, clapping hands or clanging plates; they have all made the nation realise its collective strength in these testing times.”