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India lights lamps to fight 'Darkness of Coronavirus'

NEW DELHI, April 5, 2020

India on Sunday heeded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for switching off lights for 9 minutes at 9 pm, with the national power grid managing the unprecedented ramp down and build up of electricity load in a short time duration successfully.
 
This was the second such appeal by Modi, which leveraged his popularity among Indians to enlist them in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
 
Modi had in a Friday broadcast urged the country's 1.3 billion people to switch off lights of their home at 9 pm for 9 minutes on Sunday night and light candles, lamps and even use mobile torches standing in their balconies. 
 
Modi said that such a gesture will dispel the darkness created by the coronavirus and show that people are together in their fight against the epidemic.
 
The Indian PM had appreciated the discipline shown by 130 crore Indians during the 21-day countrywide lockdown to contain the deadly coronavirus pandemic. 
 
He boosted the morale of the countrymen by saying that "no one is alone" in the fight against coronavirus as the strength of 130 crore Indians is with each of us. 
 
"Friends, amidst the darkness spread by the corona pandemic, we must continuously progress towards light and hope. We must defeat the deep darkness of the crisis by spreading the glory of light in all four directions," said the Prime Minister in a video message.
 
"And that is why, this Sunday, on April 5, we must all together, challenge the darkness spread by the corona crisis, introducing it to the power of light. On this day, we must awaken the superpower of 130 crore Indians. We must take the super resolve of 130 crore Indians to even greater heights," Modi had said.
 
Millions of people switched off non-essential lights and lit diyas (earthen lamps) and candles in their balconies and verandas on Sunday night following a call this week from Modi to "challenge the darkness spread by the coronavirus crisis", which today crossed 3,500 cases nationwide.
 
As the clock struck 9 pm tens of thousands of diyas, a traditional lamp usually seen during Diwali and other festive occasions, were lit as people wearing face masks burst firecrackers, blew conches (horns) and shouted and cheered in response to the Prime Minister's call.
 
In some big cities like Mumbai and New Delhi, residents of some housing associations stood in balconies and sang patriotic songs.
 
Although the Prime Minister had requested diyas be lit for nine minutes from 9 pm, people kept up the chanting and cheering for nearly 30 minutes, with the lamps left burning for much longer. 
 
People also kept lights switched off in their homes for much longer than the Prime Minister had asked.
 
At around 9.30 pm, Modi tweeted a photo of him lighting a lamp at his official residence in Delhi. Wearing a blue kurta, the Prime Minister also posted a short Sanskrit poem that, roughly translated, read: "Salutations to the light of the lamp which brings auspiciousness, health and prosperity (and) which destroys inimical feelings; Salutations to the light of the lamp".
 
In Gujarat, the Prime Minister's mother, 93-year-old Hiraben also joined in, lighting an earthen lamp after turning off all the lights in her home.
 
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and their respective families also lit lamps outside their homes, as did Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, and BJP chief JP Nadda.
 
The chief ministers of several states, including Tamil Nadu (E Palaniswami) Uttar Pradesh (Yogi Adityanath), Bihar (Nitish Kumar), Uttarakhand (Trivendra Singh Rawat) and Telangana (K Chandrashekar Rao), also lit diyas, as did Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and former Andhra Chief Minister N Chandrababu.
 
The entire event led to #9MinutesForIndia emerging as one of the top trends on Twitter.
 
India has been under a strict lockdown since March 25, halting public transport and closing offices and shops apart from essential services.
 
But the shutdown has badly hit rural migrant workers, leaving them jobless with hundreds of thousands trying to return to their villages, many on foot.
 
Many others have been blocked from returning home. The government has set up tens of thousands of makeshift camps and feeding centers for 7.5 million people.
 
India's power consumption has already plunged over the last 10 days, as the lockdown has forced most industries to suspend operations.
 
Even as the total number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 3577, including 83 deaths, the Indian Council of Medical Research said there was no evidence of Covid-19 being an airborne infection. 
 



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