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 Prime Minister Narendra 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.
Spiritual slogans and chants of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” were heard as well.
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, Prime Minister 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 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.
Interestingly, although the country is under the Prime Minister’s “total lockdown” and only shops selling essential items are allowed to function, a number of makeshift roadside shops and carts sold diyas at various places across the country on Sunday.
On Friday the Prime Minister had urged people to turn off lights, stand in their balconies and hold candles, diyas, and even mobile phone flashlights, for nine minutes in a nationwide show of solidarity.
The Prime Minister’s request sparked fears among state electricity boards that the sudden mass power fluctuations – as millions switched off and switched lights back – could overload the system.
The Union Power Ministry subsequently issued a statement allaying such fears. Nevertheless, state power boards had asked workers to be on stand-by.
Fortunately, no major power outages or blackouts were reported.
According to RK Singh, Minister of State for Power, nationwide demand for electricity went down by 32,000 MW between 8.49 pm and 9.09 pm. It began increasing after that but did so in a phased manner, meaning power supply was kept stable.
The demand went down from 117300 Megawatts at 2049 hrs to 85300 Megawatts till 2109 hrs; that is a reduction of 32000 Megawatts. Then it started increasing. Frequency was maintained within a band of 49.7 to 50. 26 Hz, which means the voltage was kept stable. (2/4)
— R. K. Singh (@RajKSinghIndia) April 5, 2020
This was the second “collective display” to show unity in the fight against the virus requested by the Prime Minister since the lockdown started. He had earlier asked people to stand in balconies and clap, or bang utensils, for five minutes at 5 pm to celebrate medical staff in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
There are 3,577 COVID-19 positive cases in the country, including at least 83 deaths linked to the virus. The nation went under the “total lockdown” on March 25 in an attempt to break the chain of transmission of the virus. Worldwide 1.2 million people have been infected and nearly 66,000 killed.
With input from ANI