Applauding people for their grit in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the biggest lesson the pandemic has taught India is to become self-reliant and complimented rural India for defining social distancing in simpler words, 'Do Gaz Ki Doori', to make people understand its importance.
Modi said skills and knowledge of people are put to test during the time of a crisis, but India's villages have displayed the best of their efforts to fight the pandemic.
"With its simple mantra of Do Gaz Ki Doori (maintaining distance of two yards), rural India has described social distancing in simple words, villages have showcased the best of their principles, traditional values to fight coronavirus," Modi, who had covered his face with a 'gamcha' while interacting with gram panchayat members via video conference, said.
The prime minister was interacting with gram panchayat heads and members to mark Panchayati Raj Divas on Friday. The programme was earlier slated to be held in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh but was held by a video bridge following the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
Modi said the pandemic has thrown up new challenges which the country never faced before, but it also made people learn new things.
"The biggest message COVID-19 has given, the biggest lesson it has taught is to become self-reliant," Modi said, underlining that it is now imperative that villages also become self-reliant for their basic needs.
Every gram sabha, every block and every district needs to be self-reliant for its basic needs, he added.
Applauding people for observing lockdown rules, the prime minister said it is because of them, the entire world today is talking about how India has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak.
"COVID-19 is a huge crisis for the world but people of India have shown grit in this fight. We are fighting this and we are moving ahead with new ideas to tackle the virus," the prime minister asserted.
Despite limited resources amid the coronavirus crisis, citizens are taking on this challenge instead of succumbing to difficulties, he pointed out.
Heads and members of gram panchayats from across the country shared their experiences in handling the crisis and conveyed to the prime minister that people are religiously following the lockdown.
During the interaction, a gram panchyat member of Jammu and Kashmir said amid this crisis respect and suspect for the people should go in hand to ensure that spread of the virus is checked.
Modi also told them COVID-19 is an unique virus, it doesn't enter homes of the people on its own, "it is you who can bring it home then it spares one."
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He asked a gram panchayat representative from Cachar in Assam whether people of the state were angry as Bihu festival could not be celebrated due to lockdown. The representative said people understood that the decision was taken in larger good. A gram panchayat head from near Pune in Maharashtra gave a similar reply when the prime minister asked whether people were unhappy with him.
In his concluding remarks, the prime minister stressed that there was need to ensure that people get correct information and are not swayed by rumours and misinformation.
"We have to get people out of every kind of misunderstanding. Correct information should reach every family ... I am confident that all of you will definitely defeat coronavirus with your collective efforts and your determination," he said.
He said well-cooked food should be consumed. He also said certain spices and home-made 'kadha' (an Ayurvedic home remedy) are good to develop immunity. He stressed that a body with strong immunity can help remain strong and healthy.
Modi said, "Coronavirus pandemic has really changed the way we work." He said earlier such programmes were held where people used to meet in person. But now events are being held via video conference, he said.
While urging people to maintain personal hygiene by washing hands regularly and covering the face with home-made masks like 'gamcha', he also pitched for downloading the Arogya Setu application for mobiles. "It is like your body guard," he said.
The government had on April 2 launched the mobile app to help people assess themselves the risk of getting infected with coronavirus and alert authorities if they have come in close contact with a person infected with the deadly virus.
He said there was a time when less than 100 gram panchayats were connected to broadband. Now, over 1.25 lakh gram panchayats have broadband, he said while talking about various initiatives taken by his government for development of the villages.
Prime Minister Modi also launched the e-GramSwaraj Portal and Mobile App to make the operations of Gram Panchayats digital.
The unified portal is a new initiative of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj to provide the village panchayats with a single interface to prepare and implement their gram panchayat development plan.
He also launched the Swamitva Scheme on the occasion, which provides for an integrated property validation solution for rural India.
Demarcation of inhabited land in rural areas would be done by the use of latest surveying methods -- drone technology with the collaborated efforts of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, State Panchayati Raj Department, State Revenue Department and the Survey of India.