SOUNDING A NOTE of caution to farmers and rural areas, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday said Covid-19 was spreading to villages at a “rapid” pace, but said India will not lose courage and will fight the pandemic and win.
“I want to alert all farmers, all brothers and sisters living in villages, about Corona again. The infection is now reaching the village at a rapid pace,” he said addressing several Chief Ministers of states over a video conference after releasing the eighth instalment of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme.
Expressing hope the country will win the fight against Covid-19, the Prime Minister said, “Bharat himmat haarne vaala desh nahin hai. Na Bharat himmat haarega aur na koi Bharatvaasi himmat haarega. Ham ladenge aur jeetenge (India is not a country that loses courage. Neither India nor any Indian will lose courage. We will fight and win).”
Modi also said he felt the same pain which people have suffered for some time now and said the government was doing everything to fight the second wave. “As the Prime Minister of the country, I share every feeling of yours… Whatever bottlenecks were there with regard to resources to fight the second wave of corona, are being removed rapidly. There is an attempt to work on a war footing…,” he said.
The political leadership has explicitly acknowledged the rural spread of Covid-19 for the first time now. Just three weeks ago, on April 24, Modi had told gram panchayats that the challenge was to not allow this infection to enter villages under any circumstances. “I am confident all people and villages will be able to prevent corona from entering villages,” he had said.
On Tuesday, the Union Health Ministry had said that as many as 533 of the country’s 700-plus districts were reporting a test positivity rate of more than 10 per cent, underlining the massive spread of the infection in rural India in the second wave.
A week ago on May 8, The Indian Express had reported that compared with the first week in September last year, the number of cases and of those dead due to Covid in the hinterland or backward regions had quadrupled in the second wave.
The districts covered by the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) — 243 of the 272 for which data are available — had more than 39.16 lakh people infected with the disease as on May 5, more than four times the 9.5 lakh infections at the peak of the first wave on September 16, 2020. Similarly, by May 5, these districts had reported 36,523 deaths, almost four times the number of dead at the peak of the first wave last year.
In his address on Friday, Modi urged states to take “strongest action” against those involved in hoarding and black marketing of medicines and essential commodities. “It is an act against humanity,” he said.
Observing that such a massive pandemic is testing the world, Modi said, “We have an invisible enemy in front of us and this enemy is also an imposter (behroopiya). Due to this enemy, the coronavirus, we have lost many of our close ones.”
Earlier, the Prime Minister released the eighth instalment under the PM-Kisan scheme. In this tranche, Rs 20,667.75 crore were transferred to over 9.50 crore PM-Kisan beneficiaries, including over 7 lakh farmers from West Bengal. The farmers in West Bengal have been paid two instalments — for December-March 2020-21 and April-July 2021-22.
For the first time, the farmers of West Bengal would be getting the benefit of this scheme, the Prime Minister said. West Bengal was the only state that did not implement the scheme, which was launched in the December-March period in 2018-19.