Government

'Rs 100/Day in Jan Dhan Accounts, More Testing, More CSR': The Speech That Could Have Been

Former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan pens a 'What Could Have Been' speech on the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Delhi: Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech announcing a nationwide three-week lockdown on Tuesday night, former Indian Administrative Service officer Kannan Gopinathan tweeted ‘the speech that could have been’.

In this imagined speech, Gopinathan listed out measures the government would take to ensure that COVID-19 does not spread further and is properly treated. He also talked about income transfers for poor sections, so that the loss of livelihood does not affect them dramatically.

Modi had mentioned none of this in his real speech. He even failed to reiterate that essential services would remain open or detail what the government would do to ensure food supply – leading to panic buying, crowding and chaos at market places on Tuesday night.

Below is the full text of the speech Gopinathan wished Modi had made.

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Countrymen, as you all know we are going through a tough time. But through our collective resolve we can, and we shall overcome this. And your govt is going to stand with you, morally, physically and financially at every step during this crisis.

Till today we have tested close to 20,000 cases in India, out of which ~500 cases have turned positive. Even though ICMR has assured that community spread has not begun in India yet, the government is aware of the gaps and has given strict instructions to scale up the testing.

From tomorrow we hope to be testing 10,000 samples per day. Mobile preliminary testing facilities are also expected to be up by tomorrow. You may call XXXXXXXXX number for telephonic diagnostics and for screening at the nearest location.

Today I had a detailed review with all the chief ministers along with the Union health minister and his team on the immediate requirement of health infrastructure and availability at district and state level.

Let me assure you that all necessary steps are being taken to ensure an isolation ward with sufficient facilities in each district. The details of the facilities available are accessible at this website.

Also read: Despite Being an ‘Essential Service’, E-Commerce Deliveries Come to a Grinding Halt

I appeal to all my fellow citizens to check the details of your district at the website. You can also find the requirements populated there. If you are in a position to help, do get in touch with the contacts mentioned there and provide necessary assistance.

To all my corporate friends, the CSR guidelines have been relaxed to encourage more CSR spending this year. Any expenditure beyond 2% towards CoronaFund either at the national, state or district level shall be allowed to be carried forward to coming years at double the rate.

After taking advice of the experts in the field and consulting with all the state governments, it is evident that we need to enforce social distancing as much as possible for at least the next 21 days to prevent the virus from spreading to an unimaginable scale.

While it would be impossible to compensate for all the losses, your govt has decided to immediately start daily allowance of Rs 100 per day to all active JDY accounts with average balance less than 5,000 during the period of lock-down. BOCWs to deposit Rs 2100 to worker accounts.

Government would take all necessary measures for procurement from farmers. Also, advance payment of next year’s PM-KISAN instalments shall be made to all eligible accounts immediately.

MGNREGA workers shall be paid wages for 21 days directly to their account and shall be adjusted against next year’s man-days. All contractual staff engaged with government shall be considered to be on duty during the period of lock-down and their payment done as earlier.

We are charting out detailed assistance plan for industries, especially MSMEs, and I want to assure them that this Govt would leave no stone unturned to help them tide out this crisis. Various steps including delayed payments for all bills & taxes are being considered.

Watch: What Can the Govt Do to Mitigate an Economic Catastrophe During a Pandemic?

Government is also in discussion with RBI for possible liquidity infusion at the earliest. We may have to live with slightly higher inflation for a while. But that is a cost worth paying in the short term to tackle what is an unexpected health and economic crisis.

But my dear citizens, all these steps are of help only if we overcome this pandemic together. And the only way we can do so is by delaying the spread through social distancing. This gives us time to scale up health facilities to deal with any eventuality that may come up.

So, in the interest of our collective health and well-being we are going to go into a nation-wide lock-down from 00:00 hrs tonight. Necessary orders under disaster management act shall follow.

I urge up on all to not panic. Essential supplies shall be made available throughout and all essential services shall also continue. Detailed guidelines shall be as mentioned in the order. But remember, it is important that we avoid all unnecessary travel and interactions.

To conclude, let me thank all opposition parties, chief ministers, ministerial colleagues and staff, international organisations, healthcare and emergency workers, and each one of you, for coming together & extending all possible support to fight this pandemic. We shall win. Jai Hind.