Opposition leaders on Friday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to light candles and lamps for nine minutes on April 5 to demonstrate collective will to fight the coronavirus, saying it is empty “symbolism” and move to curate “a feel-good moment” without announcing concrete economic measures for the country.
In a video message, Modi said the “janata” curfew, or the people’s curfew, on March 22 became a model that is being emulated by other countries. He said the collective strength would take the country out of what he termed “darkness that engulfs us” in the form of coronavirus.
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra asked Modi to “get real” and to provide a fiscal package to protect poor workers. “Turn out lights and come on balconies,” she asked in a tweet. “Get real Mr Modi. Give India fiscal package worth 8-10% of GDP. Ensure immediate wages to construction & other labour during lockdown-laws exist permitting this. Stop gagging real press in name of curbing fake news.”
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram questioned why the government had not announced a second Financial Action Plan for the poor amid the three-week nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
“What we expected from you today was FAP II, a generous livelihood support package for the poor, including for those categories of poor who were totally ignored by the finance minister on March 25,” he tweeted. “Every working man and woman, from business person to daily wage earner, also expected you to announce steps to arrest the economic slide and re-start the engines of economic growth.”
He said people were disappointed on both the counts, adding that “symbolism is important, but serious thought to ideas and measures is equally important”.
“We will listen to you and light diyas on April 5,” the Congress leader said. “But, in return, please listen to us and to the wise counsel of epidemiologists and economists.”
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor also took a dig at the prime minister, saying his video message has done nothing to ease the financial burden for the poorest and most vulnerable sections. “Listened to the Pradhan Showman,” he said in a tweet. “Nothing about how to ease people’s pain, their burdens, their financial anxieties. No vision of the future or sharing the issues he is weighing in deciding about the post-lockdown. Just a feel-good moment curated by India’s photo-op prime minister.”
India has reported 2,069 coronavirus cases so far, and 53 of these people have died, according to the health ministry. Several states are still identifying and tracing people linked to a religious event held at the Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi last month. About 9,000 Tablighi Jamaat members and their primary contacts who attended the religious event – that later emerged as an infection hotspot – have been quarantined as of Thursday, the home ministry said.
Last month, Modi had addressed the nation twice – on March 19 and March 24.