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‘Mahabharat’ war on virus stops at Ram door

Hope we can win 21-day battle: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers maintain social distancing at a cabinet meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 25.03.20, 08:39 PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said healthcare professionals battling the Covid-19 pandemic were like “God” and reports of misbehaviour against them were “very painful” as he likened the country’s fight against the coronavirus to the mythological war of the Mahabharat.

Modi said he had asked the Union home ministry and police heads of all states to take strong action against those harassing or ostracising doctors and nurses over fears that they might have contracted the virus at work.

“Healthcare professionals working in white uniforms in hospitals are like God. They are saving us from the disease by endangering their lives,” the Prime Minister said, responding to a social worker in Varanasi.

The comments came amid reports from different parts of the country that some gated residential societies and landlords were harassing doctors, nurses and airlines crew and asking them to vacate the premises.

Modi was interacting through video with some eminent citizens from his parliamentary constituency on the first day of the 21-day, countrywide lockdown he announced on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister compared the fight against the virus with the mythological war of the epic. “The battle of the Mahabharat was won in 18 days but this war against the corona will take 21 days. We hope the 130 crore people of the country will be able to win the battle in 21 days,” he said.

Asked what he had to say about the harassment that doctors, airline crew and others engaged in the battle against the pandemic were facing in the name of social-distancing, Modi said it was “very painful”.

“I appeal to the citizens that wherever they see such things happening, they should raise their voice against it and warn people and make them understand that it is wrong,” he said.

Modi said he had directed the home ministry and police heads of all states to take strong action in case of complaints.

He urged people to shed misconceptions that the virus wouldn’t have much of an impact on India because of weather conditions and food habits.

The virus does not differentiate between the rich and the poor, he added, and asked people to stay home and practise social distancing. He also cautioned against any taking medication based on hearsay and superstition.

Responding to a question about the three-week lockdown’s impact on the poor and day labourers, Modi urged each well-to-do family to take a pledge to support nine poor families.

Compassion towards the poor would be the best kind of offering to the goddess (Durga), he said, referring to the nine-day Navratri that began on Wednesday. “Let’s fight corona with ‘karuna’ (compassion),” he said.

The government has been widely criticised for not offering any financial package yet for the poor and allocating a meagre amount of Rs 15,000 crore to battle the crisis while setting in motion a Rs 20,000-crore project for redeveloping the Central Vista, including a new Parliament building.

Modi explained why he had chosen to interact through a videoconference, saying he should have been in the midst of the people of his constituency but couldn’t because of the situation.


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