PM Modi’s corona response enhances India’s global stature

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By Jagdish Sewhani

Today, India is seen as a country which not only takes care of its citizens and its neighbors but also the rest of the humanity to the best of its ability.

Thanks to the legendary administrative acumen of  Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visionary leadership, at their best display during the current coronavirus pandemic crisis, India’s global stature has gone up.

The coronavirus pandemic, first spotted in Wuhan city of China in November, has so far killed over 200,000 people globally and infected over three million, has emerged as the deadliest public health challenge in a hundred years.

In the past few months, economies of countries, which have the world’s best health care facilities, and have per capita income much more than India’s, are scrambling to manage the crisis. The rising number of fatalities  in countries such as UK, France, Italy and Spain, is shocking, to say the least, as it has never been seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920. Unfortunately, the United States, which is the global leader in healthcare facilities, medical research and availability of resources, has not fared any better and in fact  emerged as the global hotspot of COVID-19. Worse, the number of cases and deaths have been the highest in New York City, which is the global financial capital and boasts the best in America’s healthcare facilities.

Well, all these advanced countries will have to review post-COVID-19 as to what went wrong and how this shocking loss of lives could have been prevented.

Even as we are in the middle of this pandemic India by any standard, so far, has performed much better than other countries. Mind you, India is home to 1.35 billion people living in one of the highest densely populated areas of the world, but has a poor basic healthcare infrastructure and facilities, including a low number of per capita availability of beds and doctors. Yet it has reported a low infection rate (a little over 28,000 cases by April 273) and 886 deaths, which is nothing but remarkable.

Sitting thousands of miles away in New York, under stay-at-home orders for the past several weeks, I feel proud of my motherland  and the leadership that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his “Team India” has shown in this fight against the invisible enemy. One of the key reasons for this, I believe, is that the Prime Minister and his team acted early and decisively.

Team India, under PM Modi, has been acting like clockwork. It was on January 7 that China identified coronavirus as the causative agent. On January 8, the Indian Health Ministry held its first joint monitoring mission meeting and on January 17, India started screening all passengers coming from China. By the end of that month, the government had identified and activated to test for coronavirus and established quarantine centers.

Remember, at this point the rest of the world was very unfamiliar with the dangers that COVID-19 poses to humanity. In early February, India started evacuation of its citizens from other countries and on February 3, PM Modi constituted and chaired a meeting of empowered group of Ministers on COVID-19, which issued the travel advisory against China. States were taken into confidence and a strong monitoring mechanism was established. The list goes on.

India’s relatively low infection figure is basically attributable to the very basic principle that the Prime Minister acted on: prevention is better than cure. Here in New York, where hospitals ran out of morgue space, I wish the authorities had thought and acted on those lines. I wish both the state Governor and NYC Mayor had enforced a strong locked-down as India did nationwide. If India a country of over a billion people can do it, why cannot New York. The difference here is leadership (from federal level downward, which is not speaking and acting as one) and delayed preventive action.

In India, Prime Minister Modi brought the entire country together. For the first time probably in decades, or seen normally under war like situations, Chief Ministers from opposition parties also joined his call of action. He successfully formed “Team India.” As the first phase of three-week nationwide lockdown was about to end, it was the opposition ruled State Governments which started talking about its extension.

And at the regional and global level too, PM  Modi took the initiative and leadership role in this fight on behalf of entire humanity. He convened a video conference of SAARC leaders and set up a regional fund with an initial contribution of USD 10 million to help South Asian countries. He encouraged the same within the G-20 group. Soon Saudi Arabia, which holds the current presidency of G-20, organized the video conferencing.

And as word spread that hydroxychloroquine may prove effective in treatment in early COVID-19 patients, India under Modi started flying plane loads of this malaria drug to countries across the world. So far more than 80 countries, including the United States, have received this key India made drug. India is in the forefront of this war against a global threat.

Today, India is seen as a country which not only takes care of its citizens and its neighbors but also the rest of the humanity to the best of its ability. This is what “Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam” is all about, which is the guiding philosophy for Prime Minister’s foreign policy.


A long-time resident of New York, Jagdish Sewhani is President of The American India Public Affairs Committee.

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