Modi seeks ‘forgiveness’ from India’s poor over Corona lockdown

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MUMBAI Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the nation’s poor for forgiveness on Sunday, as the economic and human toll from his 21-day nationwide lockdown deepens and criticism mounts about a lack of adequate planning ahead of the decision. Modi announced a three week-lockdown on Tuesday to curb the spread of coronavirus. But the decision has stung millions of India’s poor, leaving many hungry and forcing jobless migrant laborers to flee cities and walk hundreds of kilometers to their native villages. “I would firstly like to seek forgiveness from all my countrymen,” Modi said in a nationwide radio address. The poor “would definitely be thinking what kind of prime minister is this, who has put us into so much trouble,” he said, urging people to understand there was no other option. “Steps taken so far… will give India victory over corona,” he added. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India rose to 979 on Sunday, with 25 deaths. The government announced a $22.6 billion economic stimulus plan on Thursday to provide direct cash transfers and food handouts to India’s poor. The lockdown is expected to exacerbate India’s economic woes at a time when growth had already slumped to its low- est pace in six years. There still appears to be broad support for strong measures to avoid a coronavirus catastrophe in India, a country of some 1.3 billion people where the public health system is poor. But opposition leaders, analysts and some citizens are increasingly criticising its implementation. In particular, they say the government appears to have been caught off guard by the mass movement of migrants following the announcement, which threatens to spread the disease into the hinterlands. “The Gov’t had no contingency plans in place for this exodus,” tweeted opposition politician Rahul Gandhi as images of migrant laborers walking long distances to return home dominated local media. —Reuters

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