Coronavirus: How Modi’s Lockdown Speech Created Panic Among Public
PM Narendra Modi 
PM Narendra Modi (Photo Courtesy: YouTube Screengrab)

Coronavirus: How Modi’s Lockdown Speech Created Panic Among Public

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on Tuesday, 24 March, announcing a 21-day lockdown across India, may have ended up causing more panic and, in some areas, led to the opposite of what he was trying to achieve.

During his address, PM Modi told the people of India to “stay indoors” and “draw a Lakshman Rekha outside their doorstep”. He further said that no one will be allowed to go outside.

The PM began his speech at 8 PM on 24 March and said that the curfew would begin midnight onwards.

The prospect of not being allowed to step outside their homes for three weeks caused a great deal of panic and across India, there were reports of people queuing outside grocery stores, medical stores and ATMs.

A Twitter user posted this video from Thane.

Activist Kavita Krishnan posted a picture from East Delhi and accused PM Modi of causing panic among the public.

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Pictures of huge crowds outside shops after Modi’s address, such as the below visual from Kandivali in Mumbai, also meant that the entire purpose of urging social isolation stood defeated.

PM, CMs Forced to Clarify

Due to panic on the streets and the possibility of the virus spreading due to crowds, several chief ministers were forced to issue statements assuring people that there will be no shortage of essential commodities.

Here’s Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s statement soon after PM Modi’s address ended.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Karnataka CM BS Yeddyurappa made similar statements.

With reports of large crowds outside shops coming from across the country, even Prime Minister Modi had to issue a clarification urging people not to resort to “panic buying”.

Should PM Modi Have Spoken Differently?

In one word: Yes. Prime Minister Modi should have stressed in his speech that the supply of essential goods and services will continue. Given the circumstances, the people naturally feared the worst, that they would not be able to step out for three weeks even to buy groceries or that the stores would run out of supplies. The experience post demonetisation only added to the panic.

Many feared that the four hours between Modi’s speech and midnight was all the time they had to buy as many supplies as they could.

These fears should have been assuaged during the speech itself.

Even chief ministers were left confused and Uddhav Thackeray had to contact the PM for clarity as he was concerned that the Centre’s curfew norms were different from what was being followed in Maharashtra.

After speaking to Modi, Thackeray tweeted: “I spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The (lockdown) norms are the same as what was declared by the Maharashtra government. Essential goods and services will be supplied. Please don’t hoard or panic or gather in a crowd at markets and shops”.

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