After getting Indians to bang pots and pans on their balconies on March 22 to show their appreciation for the doctors, nurses and others on the frontline of the battle against Covid-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared on television on Friday to ask his fellow citizens to light candles and switch on mobile flashlights for nine minutes on April 5 to mark the fight against the disease.
The announcement was met with scorn, anger and ridicule on social media. Many users questioned the utility of this gesture, as Indians continue to cope with a 21-day lockdown. By Friday, India had recorded 2,301 cases, with 56 deaths, the Union health ministry said. As many as 336 cases have been reported in the last 24 hours. Many Indians have been struggling to access food, as jobs have disappeared. Questions have also been raised about the preparedness of India’s health system to face the rising number of cases.
The seeming self-congratulatory nature of the exercise drew comment from one user, who forwarded an image that frequently does it way around Indian WhatsApp groups around Diwali time, purporting to depict the celebrations in India.
Some users noted that just as the idea for clanging utensils was possibly borrowed from Brazilians, ironically to protest against their respective governments’ handling of the Covid-19 crisis, Modi’s new idea was possibly inspired a spontaneous show of support by quarantined Italians in Rome on March 16.
Some of the humour took a dig at the sort of WhatsApp messages that spread fake news such as the claim that Modi’s idea of a 14-hour “janata curfew” would halt to the transmission of the virus since it was claimed to have a lifespan of only 12 hours.
Meanwhile, one Twitter user claimed he had already got a pseudoscientific WhatsApp message hailing Modi’s latest idea as a “masterstroke”.
Bharatiya Janata Party MP Ramdas Athawale who had lit candles to drive away the disease while chanting “Go corona go” was hailed as a visionary.
Someone creatively edited the final moments of the superhit 2019 South Korean film Parasite to Modi’s speech.
One user noted that Modi gives more time to Indians to prepare for less stressful community tasks in comparison to his sudden decisions that have serious effects on people’s lives.
Here’s a prediction.
And looking at how Modi’s earlier utensil-clanging plan turned out, with reports from several towns and cities of people taking to the streets en masse and making noise, here are some rather scary scenarios to expect on April 5, starting with a reference to the alt-right rally of 2017 in Charlotesville in the United States.