New Delhi, March 24: In an unprecedented move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a 21 day nationwide lockdown that will bring everything except essential services to a halt in India. From the corridors of power in New Delhi to the bylanes of Hyderabad to a village in Nagaland, the entire country shuts down starting 12 a.m. on the intervening night of March 24 and 25.
Making a case for his decision, in a televised address, PM Modi said: "India is at the stage where our actions today, will decide to what extent we can bring down the impact of this disaster. This is the time to strengthen our resolve again and again."
He warned that if these 21 days are not observed as a lockdown, it will take India back 21 years. "This lockdown will be strictly imposed in every village and every lane. According to health experts, 21 days are necessary to break the cycle of coronavirus," he asserted.
He urged fellow Indians, through his televised address - the second of this kind in less than a week - to forget the outside world for 21 days. "Forget every work except the work of staying at home. With this order, we have drawn a 'lakshan rekha' around your house from now onwards," Modi said.
Noting many able nations have failed in controlling the virus, he stressed that social distancing is the only way out.
The Prime Minister said WHO figures, on the number of days it took for the first, second, and third lakh infections to spread, to emphasise the need of the complete nationwide lockdown in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus. He said the coronavirus has now started spreading faster.
However, the first thing that comes to any and every citizen's mind soon after the announcement was - "What about ration, milk or drugs?" However, it was announced that all essential services that were functional on March 22, during the Janata curfew, will remain operational during the upcoming complete nationwide lockdown. It includes grocery stores, pharmacists among others.
Meanwhile, Modi announced a Rs 15,000 crore package for medical infrastructure to combat Covid-19. This was done to acquire medical equipment and protective gear, testing facilities and ventilators. He told the nation, "I have appealed to state governments to make the public healthcare the highest priority right now. I am also sure that private companies will also join in the efforts to curb the infection."
Rarely does a nation come to a point where it needs to be shut down completely. A shut down in India, which has 133 crore people, means a greater challenge for the administration. Soon after his announcement, long queues were spotted outside grocery stores, from across India, sparking off panic. The PM had to take to Twitter to reassure that all essentials will be made available, through this period.
As the clock strikes twelve on Tuesday night, India's unprecedented, unheard of tryst with a complete lockdown, will begin till mid-April.