Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team have been virtually burning the midnight oil,in India’s fight against the Covid-19 crisis.

The results have been exemplary too.India’s recovery rate at 31.15% is the best,amongst a galaxy of countries. China’s recovery rate is 10.52% and USA’s,barely 1.39%. It took India 101 days to cross 60000 cases,while it took UK,just 40 days.

Italy and Spain took 52 and 56 days respectively,to breach the 60000 mark, while the USA took 65 days. With over 6.8 lakh isolation beds and just 1.1% of the Covid-19 affected patients on ventilators,India’s fight against Coronavirus speaks volumes about the gigantic efforts by the Modi government in containing this pandemic.

Globally,with over 2.9 lakh fatalities and over 4.2 million confirmed cases, the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly been the biggest challenge for world leaders in the last 100 years.India,with a little over 2400 deaths,is a classic textbook case of how the tremendous work by team Modi,on a war footing,has helped the country to minimise collateral damage.

A total of 7740 dedicated Covid-19 facilities in 483 districts,over 100 million “Aarogya Setu” subscribers,476 fully functional labs,over 430 internal flights with over 786 tonnes of essentials supplied,over 16.73 lakh tests done,over 2.5 lakh PPE kits and over 2 lakh,N-95 masks,being produced on a daily basis, are initiatives that showcase how the Modi government has beefed up India’s resolve and of course, its health infrastructure,to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.

The national lockdown was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24th 2020.The “Vande Bharat” mission,the largest global evacuation mission in well over a 30 years,which is a massive repatriation operation by the Indian government to bring back stranded Indians in different parts of the world in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis,has been seamless in its execution, notwithstanding the umpteen adversities due to a lockdown,in most parts of the globe. In the first phase that started on May 7th, more than 60 “non-scheduled, commercial” flights to 12 countries to bring back 15000 citizens,was a resounding success. The second phase of the “Vande Bharat” mission from 16th May, is expected to cover European nations and will bring almost 25000 Indians from 28 countries.The Modi government will operate over 100 flights to complete the mission. In total, thanks to the “Vande Bharat” mission,the government of India will bring 67833 people stranded in other countries.

Citizens in distress will be brought back on commercial aircraft and naval ships too, based on lists prepared by India’s embassies.The Navy has named its evacuation effort, “Operation Samudra Setu”.Over ten lakh Indians are expected to return home, and more than two lakhs from the UAE alone, due to the “Vande Bharat” and “Samudra Setu” operations.Indian Navy’s INS Jalashwa and INS Magar are operating to bring back Indian citizens from Maldives,with INS Shardul and INS Airavat,from the UAE. 

As part of the “Mission Sagar” program, the deployment of INS Kesari is in line with India’s role as the first responder in the Indian Ocean region and builds on the excellent relations existing between India and countries like Mauritius, Maldives, Seychelles and Madagascar,to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and its resultant difficulties. The deployment is in consonance with Prime Minister Modi’s vision of security and growth for all in the region. “Mission Sagar” highlights the importance accorded by India,to relations with her neighbouring countries.

India has conducted several large-scale evacuations in modern times, particularly in the Middle East where there is a high concentration of Indians,with several conflicts in recent history.The 1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait has been recognized as the world’s largest civilian airlift, with over 110000 people evacuated. Domestically,”Operation Rahat”, which the Indian Air Force,said, was the biggest civilian helicopter evacuation ever, airlifted over 19600 people from Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh,during the 2013 floods. However,once the “Vande Bharat” mission and operation “Samudra Setu” are completed,Modi’s Covid-19 evacuation would be the biggest ever,the most extensive and intensive ever and the most successful ever,in contemporary history.

Any discussion on the lockdown,its phased exit and evacuation, is incomplete without addressing the recent evacuation of migrant workers,which had grabbed international headlines.As always,driven by their visceral dislike for Modi, large sections of an absolutely biased, ignorant and left-leaning international media,chose to gloss over hard facts and blame the Modi govt. The sharp truth however is that,the Modi dispensation has done a tremendous job with respect to transporting migrants amidst the lockdown.The Indian Railways,on Monday,11th May 2020,said that the “Shramik Special” trains for migrant workers will now run with a full capacity of 1700 passengers,well ahead of the current capacity of 1200 passengers.Railways has the capacity to run 300 trains per day at short notice and it intends to maximise it in order to transport as many migrants as possible over the next few days. 

Over 5.5 lakh migrants have already been transported back to their home states since 1st May,with 468 trains doing the needful.From Mumbai alone,just on a single day,on 9th May,over 6000 people were ferried by the Railways,back to their native states,thanks to the alacrity and sensitivity of the Modi government.On 11th May alone,over 30000 PNRs were generated and 54000 reservations were made via the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation(IRCTC), portal.

Again,as per the official guidelines issued, no separate passes are required for movement of trucks and goods carriers, including empty trucks. This is essential for maintaining the supply chain of goods and services across the country during the lockdown enforced, to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Needless to add,the Modi government has been painstakingly ensuring that even the minutest details are documented, to avoid any ambiguity and to ensure that all states and UTs do the needful by engaging district authorities and field agencies.Yet,time and again,few states have chosen to simply abdicate every shred of their responsibility and blame the centre for just about everything.

For instance,while trains are operated by Indian Railways,which comes under the aegis of the Union Railways ministry,the “Shramik” trains are being operated specifically at the behest of specific states. Evacuation of migrants from the resident states,ensuring they board the trains without being troubled with unnecessary paperwork and ensuring their safe passage to the destination or native states, is largely a function of the administration of the resident states or host states and once the migrants reach their final “stop”, the onus is on the destination states.

Sixteen migrant workers were mowed down by an empty freight train in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district on 8th May,on a Friday. The migrants who wanted to board a “Shramik Special” to return to Madhya Pradesh, were sleeping on the railway line, when the mishap occurred at Satana village, between Badnapur and Karmad stations in Nanded Division of Maharashtra.The freight train from Hyderabad,was on its way to Nashik,in Maharashtra.

While nothing can compensate for this unfortunate tragedy,as usual,India’s leftist media and large vestiges of an ignorant international media went ballistic, blaming the Modi government,instead of asking tough questions of the Uddhav Thackeray led inept alliance in Maharashtra,that has been floundering from one crisis to another,in an embarrassing display of incompetence and lethargy.Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party, which is a part of the ruling alliance in Maharashtra, has never bothered to explain why and how Mumbai, India’s financial nerve centre,has transformed into the epicentre of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Images of dead bodies lying next to patients in Sion and KEM hospitals, three patients sharing a single bed at Nair and Cooper hospitals,the lynching of sadhus at Palghar,Arthur Road prison turning into a Covid-19 hotspot and reports of community transmission in slums like Dharavi,have been unnerving.The Shiv Sena and Congress, were busy in the MLC elections, amidst all the reigning chaos,reflecting utter apathy by the “Maha Vikas Aghadi”,(MVA),which has dumped Vikas,with brazen impunity.

Instead of asking for accountability from the Thackeray led administration for the migrant workers’ crisis, India’s biased, left-leaning media decided to blame the Indian Railways,which if anything,is doing a stellar job of transporting migrants and pilgrims.While Railways is a part of the “Union List”, health is a subject under the “State List”.In the case of the horrific Aurangabad tragedy, transfer of migrant workers was being made possible by the Railways,but that does not make the central government or the Railways,culpable in any manner of speaking.

The responsibility of the upkeep,health and safekeeping of these hapless workers till they reached their respective home states or native states/ destinations,was clearly with the host state or resident state.The host state in this case was Maharashtra and since the tragedy occurred in Aurangabad district in Maharashtra,the onus,for this avoidable tragedy falls fair and square on the shoulders of the Uddhav Thackeray led “MVA” alliance.

Interestingly, while the “MVA” alliance was busy in deflecting responsibility and callously blaming the centre for its own incompetence,it was the BJP led government in Maharashtra that announced a sum of Rs 5 lakh each,for the kin of the deceased in the Aurangabad mishap,as these migrant workers were from Madhya Pradesh,which was their native or home state.

Needless to add,milking the Aurangabad tragedy to set a false narrative against the Modi government,by media propagandists, and a vanquished opposition,has found no takers and Prime minister Modi’s popularity has hit a new high of 79%, during the lockdown. However,nothing should take away from the fact that the growing trend amongst some states to completely disown every remnant of governance, cannot be condoned.

The Uddhav Thackeray led alliance has stiff competition from the wily Arvind Kejriwal.After threatening to cut off the electricity and water connections of migrant,daily wage earners from Uttar Pradesh(UP), working in the Delhi National Capital Region (Delhi NCR) and,then packing them off like a bunch of sardines in Anand Vihar bound Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses,in the last week of March 2020,Kejriwal had the galling audacity to blame the UP administration. Kejriwal’s botched up handling of the Coronavirus in 2020,is a nasty reminder of how he let down the people of Delhi in 2016,when the city was plagued by Dengue and Chikungunya.Despite more than 1000 cases and 4 deaths,in September 2016,at the peak of the Dengue inflicted crisis in Delhi,Kejriwal was confined in the plush Jindal clinic at Bengaluru,for a minor throat infection,for 10 days.

His deputy, Manish Sisodia,was galavanting in Finland to study some obscure education system,Satyender Jain was in Goa,while Labour minister Gopal Rai was in Chhattisgarh and, Environment minister Imran Hussain, was on a Haj pilgrimage. Kejriwal and virtually his entire cabinet was missing in action in 2016. In 2020,they are again not in action,and again in the news, for all the wrong reasons.

It is time to realise that as per the spirit of List-2, 7th Schedule,Article 246,of the Constitution,functioning of “public health,sanitation, hospitals and dispensaries” fall under the aegis of state governments. Hence the Chief Minister of Maharashtra has no room to make any excuses for his absolutely dismal handling of the lockdown, which smacks of  administrative harakiri.Why is the media not questioning the Thackeray led alliance about hospitals and dispensaries which are not adequately equipped with ventilators in ICUs and special wards? Why is the ruling Shiv Sena led “MVA” alliance not being held accountable for shortages in medical personnel, including specialists, doctors, nursing staff and others,to treat those affected by COVID-2019?Why has the media not questioned the lethargic Thackeray led administration even once, for the horrific incident where ailing patients from Sion hospital were abandoned under the Hindmata flyover? 

Coming back to Prime Minister Modi,that he is a leader born once in a millennium,is now amply evident to even his harshest critics.At the stroke of 8 p.m. on 12th May 2020,Modi stunned everybody with a Rs. 20 lakh crore stimulus package,akin to almost 10% of India’s GDP. The big takeaway from his historic address on 12th May,is his focus on big bang and bold reforms,with no room for incrementalism. An ordinary leader would have simply soothed frayed nerves with a pep talk,but Modi is an extraordinary leader and he knows that. He is aware of the 1.37 billion aspirational Indians who look up to him with hope and faith.

Seizing the opportunity thrown at India,by the Covid-19 pandemic,he exhorted fellow Indians to support localisation with a “vocal for local”, call,while endorsing globalisation and all its attendant benefits,too. That the Modi government is not xenophobic is corroborated by Facebook’s recent decision to buy a 9.9% stake in Reliance Jio for Rs 43574 crore,by far the biggest FDI inflow into India,in one fell sweep.

The Rs 20 lakh crore package will focus on land, labour, liquidity and laws, and will cater to various sectors including the cottage industries, micro, small & medium enterprises (MSMEs), the working class, middle class and industry, among others.The package will also focus on empowering the poor, labourers and migrant workers, both in the organised and unorganised sectors. It will seek to increase efficiency and ensure quality,via reforms.

The reforms will include supply chain measures for agriculture, rational tax system, simple and clear laws, capable human resources and a strong financial system,to promote business, attract investments, and further strengthen ‘Make in India’.  In the final analysis, it would be apt to conclude by saying that, be it the world’s most ambitious and largest evacuation mission,the “Vande Bharat” mission,be it standing in solidarity with the over 18 million Indian diaspora abroad or for that matter,the hapless migrant workers who move the wheels of the Indian economy in many ways,Narendra Modi,does what he does and does it unapologetically,with an “Atma-Nirbhar Bharat”, being his only calling. 

“IT + IT + IT—Indian Talent + Information Technology = India Tomorrow”; this quote by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself,is something that essentially captures the essence of a self reliant India.

Ms Sanju Verma is an Economist,Chief Spokesperson of BJP Mumbai and Author of the Bestseller, “Truth & Dare–The Modi Dynamic”.

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