Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that the biggest message arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic was for India to be self-reliant and self-sufficient for the majority of its needs, and that this was necessary for the country if it faced such a crisis again.
He was addressing a video conference of sarpanches from across the country on Panchayati Raj Day, during which he also launched two programmes, e-GramSwaraj, for monitoring of rural infrastructure works and e-governance, and Swamitva programme, which involves mapping of rural housing and land holdings via technology including drones. The Swamitva programme, Mr. Modi said, would help rural India leverage property for institutional credit and other benefits.
The main focus of the interaction, however, remained on the challenge posed by COVID-19 and how the Panchayati Raj institutions were dealing with it. “The global Coronavirus pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis but it has also given important messages with regard to the way we have lived so far. The most important message from this pandemic is that we need to be self-reliant. This self-reliance should be at the village, district, state and national level in terms of our needs and our ability to satisfy them within our own country. We should not look to other countries to satisfy our needs,” he said.
He also lauded panchayats and villages across India for implementing lockdown rules and social distancing norms, adding that it showed how “rural India has channelled our traditional values to combat the pandemic in a way that astounds those with fancy degrees from abroad.” He said that since there was no real cure for COVID-19 , the simple mantra of do gaj doori (two yards of separation) needed to be propagated.
Mr. Modi’s statement on self-reliance comes at a time when new Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rules raise barriers for investment from certain countries and the new Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient policy for wresting back India’s lost dominance in the that sector.
He also said that unity and organised, unified effort was the need of the hour. “Sanghamoolam Mahabalam (organised, unified effort is the basis of great strength),” he said. He also interacted with sarpanches from different corners of the country and had specific comments. Speaking to the sarpanch of Thaada block in Pathanakot, Pallavi Thakur, he urged her to encourage farmers in Punjab to reduce their dependence on urea as fertilizer as “its excessive use degrades the soil and mother earth.”
To Ajay Singh, sarpanch of Dharanai in Bihar, he asked that villagers speak often to their relatives and neighbours stuck in other States as migrant labourers and keep their spirits up. The lockdown has left lakhs of migrant labourers away from home in various States with dwindled income and resources.
The Prime Minister said that the coronavirus was a strange virus in that it did not go to anyone’s “house” on its own but travelled when one did. “Therefore, maintain distance, keep to your houses, and do use some of our traditional remedies to boost immunity as there is no medicine to cure COVID-19 and the body depends on its own immunity to do so,” he said.
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