The Prime Minister recently requested all citizens to switch off their lights for 9 minutes at 9 pm on Sunday and asked them to light diyas, candles or use the flashlight of their mobile phones as a sign of solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The instructions were followed by thousands across the country, with many hailing it as a nation-building activity to boost the morale of everyone affected by the virus outbreak of the country. Many flocked to their terraces at the stipulated time, light candles and paid homage to all those on the frontline fighting for our safety.
After the activity was over, social media was bombarded with visuals of how the entire country got together and showed their unity in times of crises. Hashtags like #9baje9minute and #indiaagainstcovid started trending as well.
While this was going on in one corner of the internet and the world, there was another side to the story as well. Many people actively decided to not indulge in the exercise.
When they decided to state their opinions on social media as to why they didn’t follow the Prime Minister’s request, naturally they got trolled for it. From being called anti-nationals to calls for them to go to Pakistan, they had to bear the brunt of all.
However, their reasons for refraining from the activity are anything but anti-national. From questioning the government on its measures, while calling for transparency in the use of funds, people used this opportunity to raise legitimate questions the government should be bound to answer.
Everyone who used this opportunity to voice their dissent deserves to be heard as much as someone who was in support of the decision. So here’s what the people who kept their lights on yesterday have to say about their decisions:-
Why People Didn’t Turn Off Their Lights
“I completely get why it is important to boost the morale of the nation and even the medical authorities in times such as these. That’s why I participated in the appreciation of our frontline forces at 5 pm during the Janta curfew. The reason why I didn’t do the same is that the job of my Prime Minister is to not just boost the morale of its citizens. Take this instance for example. I didn’t switch off the lights because it’s my way to show dissent, to show that I’m not happy with the way my government is handling this pandemic.
Before I give in to their marketing exercises, I want them to answer my questions first. Why haven’t we scaled up testing? How are we using the PM CARES funds? How are we taking care of the migrant workers? Why do our doctors have to use raincoats and helmets when they treat patients instead of proper equipment? You can’t just ignore these issues and divert the majority’s attention every week with these exercises. A time will come when we will have to deal with this pandemic strategically and scientifically, and not with morale-boosting and astrology. That time is now and that’s why I decided to not turn on the lights”
-- Hrihaan, 21
“All these gimmicks are fine as long as our dear Prime Minister addresses the real issues like PPE Units, Testing Kits, Ventilators, the severity of the virus & how prepared are we to tackle it. Assure us that the Govt. is doing what it can and then ask us to do what we can with actions like Thali Bajao - Diya Jalao. Plus showing solidarity with these acts only means something if it comes organically to the people just like in other countries, not when people just do it because their PM has told them to do so without really caring about our heroes who are fighting the virus on the front lines and facing so many challenges.”
-- Aprtim, 28
"Hi, friends who consider this to be an “ Act of Rebellion” and a little extra as it doesn’t take much to turn off the lights and light up a candle/Diya. Just want to say you are absolutely correct, it doesn’t and that’s what I’m angry at. I am angry at the government for not finding real-time, quick and lasting solutions to some of the major issues across the country right now. This is my little way of expressing my anger against all the candle marches that went unseen, to all the riots that went unheard, to the medical staff still working without proper safety gear, to the allocated state money that still hasn’t reached the states, to an everlasting tragic walk by poor men and women just so that they could reach their homes.
Also, to not giving in the Prime Minister Modi’s ways of addressing the nation like a dictator where he doesn’t talk about any of the issues and how the government is handling this pandemic which as a citizen we need to know, we need that assurance from him. Instead, he feeds into the superstitions of a nation already hungry for superstition. Today people who burst crackers on the streets and celebrate this like Diwali are not to be blamed. As a leader, you need to know your citizens, and for this our PM is responsible. Therefore this time, instead of lighting a few diyas, I decided to light a few asses up."
-- Shelly, 28
"I feel nation-building and such exercises also have some importance. At the same time, however, I feel it should come with a lot more responsibility and thought into it. Like when the first Thali bajana exercise was done, everyone got into it. But at that point, our country also needed answers on real issues like what’s going to happen to the daily wage workers, the people crossing borders, how the country is going to run for the next 21 days etc. Because even though we’re in a 21-day lockdown, for now, it might increase and worsen till we don’t find a vaccine for it.
That’s why I feel for a country like ours at this time we needed some solid answers than just everyone going out and putting up diyas. All this doesn’t make sense if people continue to go out and walk and not take this seriously. Somewhere, the value of the PM’s address gets lost in all this because now it seems like he’ll just come every week and give us a new assignment to do. Even then, the true message gets lost because of people bursting crackers and the incorrect WhatsApp messages circulated. I feel instead of lighting Diya’s as a nation-building exercise we could focus on other things to show our unity such as raising funds for the daily wage workers, feeding stray animals around us etc. We need to look at solid tangible solutions right now instead of just commemorative ones. That’s why I didn’t do it because I felt it wasn’t the priority right now."
-- Abhijay, 22