Monday, 30th October 2017

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Early warning

Readers' Speak: Bill Gates warned of a highly infectious virus; Narendra Modi's 9 minute lights off

  • Published 7.04.20, 1:58 AM
  • Updated 7.04.20, 1:58 AM
  • 3 mins read
Bill Gates Shutterstock

Sir — Speaking at a TED talk in 2015, in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak, Bill Gates had suggested that if anything kills a large number of people in the future, it is “most likely to be a highly infectious virus”. He urged world leaders to prepare and invest in building a strong global healthcare system. The inability of countries around the world to handle the spread of Covid-19 indicates that governments did not pay heed. Eventually, the pandemic will pass but before it does it will take innumerable lives. Will governments learn from their missteps and, in the future, invest more in healthcare and a stronger welfare system?

Bani Saha,


More than words

Sir — The prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, had asked citizens to switch off their lights for nine minutes at 9 pm on April 5 and instead light lamps, diyas or the flashlight of cell phones as a mark of solidarity in the fight against Covid-19 (“PM calls for light show on Sunday”, April 4). But the nation has already plunged into darkness in more ways than one as reports of the application of excessive force on people found to be disobeying lockdown directives have emerged from different parts of the country.

One must ask the prime minister what the scientific reason behind the nationwide blackout was. Modi, more often that not, resembles a religious guru in his speeches rather than the head of a nation. But this appeal for unity will not serve any purpose. Many people have been venturing out on the streets for no good reason. On the other hand, essential workers such as the police, doctors and nurses are being manhandled. Modi should have issued orders for more effective lockdown measures and asked people to cultivate a scientific temperament and follow the recommendations of healthcare service providers. He failed to outline concrete steps for overcoming the crisis.

India is a densely populated country and lacks an adequate number of doctors, nurses, paramedic staff and other healthcare professionals. We also have an acute shortage of personal protective equipment. Many are still flouting basic hygiene measures which are essential for protection against Covid-19. Modi should have discussed these issues rather than proposing another empty gesture.

Rabindranath Sarkar,


Sir — Yet again, Narendra Modi came up another meaningless gesture which had led some people to believe that switching off lights for nine minutes on Sunday will help combat the threat of the coronavirus. It is unfortunate that this comes at a time when doctors in our country are facing immense difficulties in treating Covid-19 patients owing to a shortage of PPE and scarcity of testing kits. Rather than resolving these critical issues, the prime minister is asking the citizens of India to clang utensils and light diyas.

Unless these practical issues are solved, infections will rise rapidly. It is the poor, who do not have a square meal to eat or a roof over their heads, who will suffer the most. These acts do not mean anything if the basic needs of the people are not being met. The best way to express our gratitude towards essential service providers would be by fulfilling their requirements and ensuring the best possible environment for carrying out their tasks. One hopes that in the future Modi will come up with concrete measures for battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Iftekhar Ahmed,


Sir — The prime minister’s appeal to the people to switch off lights on April 5 was criticized by several Opposition leaders. They rightly urged the government to focus on helping the poor amid the coronavirus pandemic, many of whom do not have a roof above their heads nor the money to feed themselves and their families.

Narendra Modi had asked people to stay inside their homes during this exercise. But did he think about those who have been rendered homeless by this crisis and those who can no longer spare the money to buy a candle?

Asim Suhail,

West Mumbai

Sir — The prime minister’s request that saw citizens switch off electricity and light lamps and candles last Sunday must be lauded. Not only did this move unite the nation but it also helped save electricity.

It must be remembered that any such activity should take place without flouting social-distancing norms and within one’s home. These rules were not followed during the janata curfew. The importance of this move lay in the display of the collective strength of the people and conveyed the message that if we stand united we can defeat this deadly virus.

Drishti Doel,


Magical moment

Sir — It was wonderful to learn that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, will be available worldwide for free as an ebook and audiobook throughout April (“Potter magic for bored kids: Rowling”, April 2).

This initiative must be praised, as it will greatly relieve parents and guardians struggling to find good ways to keep children engaged in this tough time of isolation and social distancing. This will also help inculcate a love of books in children.

Sourish Misra,