Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that migrant workers and labourers have suffered “tremendously” during the coronavirus pandemic and the countrywide lockdown enforced to contain it. In his letter to the nation on completing a year of his second term in office, Modi assured the people that his government is working hard to alleviate the country’s troubles and that India would set an example in economic revival.

“In a crisis of this magnitude, it can certainly not be claimed that no one suffered any inconvenience or discomfort,” Modi said. “Our labourers, migrant workers, artisans and craftsmen in small scale industries, hawkers and such fellow countrymen have undergone tremendous suffering. However, we have to take care to ensure that inconveniences that we are facing do not turn into disasters.”

Migrant workers were the first in the workforce to be hit by a big economic downturn. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown in March, hundreds of thousands of migrants and their families poured out of cities as they tried to get back to their native villages, after their jobs evaporated overnight. Many died. Some have been crushed by trains, others were run over by trucks, and some died of exhaustion while attempting to walk across states to get home.

Modi admitted that there are many challenges and problems that India is facing. “While on one hand are powers with great economic resources and state-of-the-art healthcare systems, on the other hand is our country besieged with problems amidst a vast population and limited resources,” he said. “Due to the global pandemic this is certainly a time of crisis, but for us Indians this is also a time for a firm resolve. We must always remember that the present and future of 130 crore will never be dictated by an adversity.”

Self-reliance is the key to overcoming the crisis, the prime minister claimed. “We have to move forward based on our own abilities, in our own way, and there is only one way to do it – Atma Nirbhar Bharat or Self-reliant India,” he said, adding that the Centre’s Rs 20-lakh-crore economic relief package was a major step in that direction.

Modi lauded the public’s collective strength and potential in fighting the pandemic and said it was unparalleled compared even to the powerful and prosperous countries of the world.

The prime minister said that “golden chapter” began in Indian democracy this day last year, when he came to power for the second straight term. He referred to the scrapping of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, saying it “furthered the spirit of national unity and integration”. He also mentioned the Supreme Court’s verdict on the disputed land in Ayodhya, which paved way for a Ram temple. Modi said the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act was an “expression of India’s compassion and spirit of inclusiveness”.

“The list of such historic actions and decisions taken in national interest would be too long to detail in this letter,” Modi added. “But I must say that every day of this year, my government has worked round the clock with full vigour, taking and implementing these decisions.”

Modi also released an audio message later in the day expressing his gratitude to the citizens and said India has acted with sheer confidence, resilience is now a self-reliant nation.

In May 2019, the BJP swept to power with a massive majority, winning 303 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha. Modi took oath as prime minister for a second term on May 30, 2019.

Amit Shah lauds Modi’s leadership

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said India’s developmental journey in the last six years under the leadership of Modi “has been amazing, unimaginable and praiseworthy”.

In an editorial published in The Times of India, Shah said that in contrast to the “anxiety, stagnation, and hollow promises of the pre-2014 era,” this time the public has seen the ability to reach targets ahead of time with strong leadership, trust in people, their cooperation and self-confidence. “Undoubtedly, the Modi government has bridged the gap of six decades in six years and has laid the strong foundation of a self-reliant India.”

Shah said the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre has implemented every promise in its manifesto. With “several historic decisions like abolition of Articles 370 and 35A in Jammu & Kashmir, paving the way for construction of Ram Temple, liberating Muslim women from the curse of triple talaq and giving citizenship rights to deprived sections of society through CAA – the Modi government has rectified the historical mistakes after Independence,” he added.

India has succeeded in stopping the spread of coronavirus to a great extent due to the lockdown at the right time, Shah said.

The home minister said that under the tutelage of Modi, the country has been able to mass produce personal protection equipment kits, ventilators and N-95 masks, in its fight against the coronavirus. “Now, around five lakh PPE kits and 2.5 lakh N-95 masks are being made in the country every day,” he added. “The indigenous versions of the ventilator are being manufactured by many institutions in the country at prices much lower than the market price. More than a million corona beds have been made available and we have also achieved a capacity of 1.5 lakh tests per day.”