“Road ahead is a long one. We are fighting a pandemic about which little was previously known,” he said.
Modi said there was renewed interest across the world, from “Hollywood to Haridwar”, in the healing powers of Yoga and Ayurveda. “Truly, Yoga is good immunity and unity,” he said.
On the subject of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, the PM chose to read out a letter he received from a listener from Bihar. The letter is significant for its content.
Modi said Himanshu from Bihar has written to him that “he dreams of the day when India will have reduced imports to the bare minimum”, be it the import of petrol, diesel, fuels, electronic items, urea or even edible oils.
“I understand his sentiments. There are many products that find their way into the country from outside resulting in wasteful expenditure on part of the honest taxpayers. Their substitutes can easily be manufactured in India,” he said.
The PM said people across the country are taking the reins of the leadership of the Atmanirbhar Bharat in their own hands.
“Many have mentioned that they have made lists of products being manufactured in their vicinity. These people are now buying only these local products, promoting ‘vocal for local’. In order to encourage ‘Make in India’ everyone is expressing one’s own resolve,” he said.
In the context of millions of migrant workers heading back home to their towns and villages, particularly to eastern India, Modi said “the need of the hour is devising a new solution — a paradigm” in that direction. He said his government is “constantly taking steps in that direction”. “There is no class of people who did not suffer because of this outbreak, but poor, labourers were hit the hardest,” he said.
He said, for example skill mapping of labourers is being carried out at places, while at other places start-ups are engaged in doing this. He said the establishment of a migration commission is being deliberated upon.
“Recent decisions taken by the Central government have opened up vast possibilities of village employment, self-employment and small-scale industry,” Modi said, adding that this will help attain the objective of ‘Make in India’ and ‘self-reliant India’.
“Had our villages, towns, districts and states been self-reliant, problems facing us would not have been of such a magnitude as is evident today,” he said.
In the context of migrant workers having to suffer because of the lockdown, the prime minister said it is “representative” of the need for development in the country’s eastern region, which can become the “growth engine” of the country.
Incidentally, West Bengal and Assam have assembly polls scheduled for May 2021, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will look to defeat the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in Bengal and retain its government in Assam.
The prime minister also spoke of the significant service done by his government’s Ayushman Bharat scheme to provide treatment. He said the number of beneficiaries have crossed 10 million.
“Do you know what more than 10 million patients means? It means the cumulative population of two Norways and two Singapores have been provided free treatment in such a short time,” Modi said.
He said the poor would have had to cough up more than Rs 14,000 crore if they had to pay for the treatment post-hospitalization. He said 80 per cent of the 10 million beneficiaries are from rural areas, about 50 per cent are women, and most of the beneficiaries were suffering from diseases which could not be treated with standard medicines. Of these, 70 per cent people have had surgical intervention, he said.
Appealing people to continue to take precautions, Modi said all “have to bear in mind that after such austere penance, and after so many hardships, the country’s deft handling of the situation should not go in vain. We must not let this fight weaken. Becoming careless or lackadaisical cannot be an option.”