Acknowledging the sacrifices made by the citizens, the prime minister said there will be a greater focus on the hotspots, including those where infection rate could escalate.
“Growth in hotspots will create fresh challenges. Hence in the next one week we will step up our fight; till 20 April the scrutiny of the entire country will be stepped up," Modi said. “In areas where hotspots do not manifest and in those which have contained them, we can consider a conditional withdrawal of lockdown."
In the world’s largest such exercise aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus, India now joins countries such as France which have extended their lockdown.
“India’s fight against the Corona global pandemic is moving ahead with great strength and steadfastness. It is only because of your restraint, penance and sacrifice that, India has so far been able to avert the harm caused by corona to a large extent. You have endured immense suffering to save your country, save your India," Modi said.
As both lives and livelihoods become the focus of tackling the coronavirus pandemic in a coordinated effort by Centre and states, the lockdown will have calibrated concessions to restart economic activity.
States had asked for the extension of the lockdown and some had already extended it, Modi said in a televised address to the nation, his third address to the nation in the last one month apart from one video message which he released.
Taking the lead in this direction, Odisha was the first state to extend the lockdown unilaterally. The move was replicated by states like Telangana, Maharashtra, and Punjab which have already extended the lockdown till 30 April.
India plans to slowly reopen its economy, while maintaining stringent curbs in covid-19 hotspots, and prevent the current upheaval from devolving into a deeper social crisis with millions of poor left hungry and jobless.
“During the next one week, the fight against coronavirus will become strict wherein till 20 April every town, every police station, every district, every state will be evaluated in terms of how the lockdown is being implemented and how that region has protected itself from coronavirus," Modi said.
Hotspots or infection clusters across India have risen three-fold to 150 in the past week, complicating the government’s efforts to contain the spread of covid-19. To make matters worse, nearly 100 districts that have such hotspots are also major manufacturing hubs of the country—posing difficulties in reopening factories quickly.
“Those who pass this test, and who are not in these hotspots with a low likelihood of turning into a hotspot may be allowed certain essential activities," Modi said.
Mint had earlier reported about India exploring a decentralized strategy to exit the lockdown that may involve dividing the nation into green, orange and red zones, with the Centre not in favour of lifting the lockdown cannot across the country in one go.
Acknowledging the need for a decentralised response given that the spread of the diseases has been varied across the country, Modi said detailed guidelines will be issued on Wednesday, which will keep in mind the needs of the informal sector and farmers.
The timing for the extension of lockdown is a cause of worry for several state governments as this is a harvesting season for winter crops and mandis need to be open for the sale of crops.
Modi said India has been able to stem the losses from the coronavirus to a larger extent, because of the troubles undertaken by the people.
“I am well aware of the problems you have faced -some for food, some for movement from place to place, and others for staying away from homes and families. However, for the sake of your country, you are fulfilling your duties like a disciplined soldier. This is the power of ‘We, the People of India’ that our constitution talks about," Modi said.
More than 90% of the country’s workforce is estimated to be from the informal sector. The Economic Survey of 2017-2018 had said 87% of the firms in the country, representing 21% of the total turnover, are operating informally and completely outside the tax and social security nets.
“I believe that it is time for us to focus more on workers in the informal or unorganized sector, which accounts for nearly 90% of the total workforce, and try and ensure provision for a better social and medical safety net," NITI Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar said in an interview to Mint.
A successful implementation of measures to prevent the pandemic by India has paved the way for the nation’s mindset reset, something that has not been tried on this scale for 1.3 billion people in a democratic country.
Modi has dipped into the public goodwill that had brought him back to power in 2019 with a greater majority than before. He said that while this is the time of festivals for different parts of the country, the way people are celebrating these with simplicity provides motivation.
“Had India not adopted a holistic and integrated approach and not taken timely decisions, then India’ condition would have been different," Modi said and added that given India’s recent experience, the path chosen has been correct.
As of Tuesday morning, there were 10,363 confirmed cases of covid-19, out of which 8,988 are active. The pandemic has caused 339 deaths so far.
Modi had earlier suggested the idea of a lock-in wherein industrial, agricultural and construction workers may be housed within their work zones and continue with their work.
To mitigate the impact of lockdown on the poor and underprivileged, the government had rolled out a ₹1.7 trillion relief package under a newly framed Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Yojana on 26 March that experts have termed inadequate.
Economists and business leaders are pitching for a massive ₹10 trillion fiscal stimulus to support people who have lost their livelihoods and for businesses on the verge of collapse.