Saptapadi: Modi’s Se7en steps to fighting Covid-19

Soft Hindutva undertones aplenty as PM asks public to respect the Laxman Rekha of social distancing and drink kadha made with Ayush recipe to build immunity!


Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on Tuesday morning to announce a continuation of the nationwide lockdown till May 3. In terms of new information, there was little else in his 25-minute speech. But while the speech was devoid of any new useful information or even a hint of condemnation of spreading hate against minorities, what it wasn’t devoid of was Modi’s signature style of peppering all his communication with soft Hindutva.

To begin with, he called his seven-step plan to combat coronavirus, Saptapadi. It is noteworthy that Saptapadi is a key element of Hindu culture, as it refers to the seven times a couple walks around the holy fire while getting married, as they take their wedding vows. The Prime Minister then dropped a Ramayana reference and urged people not to cross the Lakshman Rekha of social distancing. It is also noteworthy that one of the seven steps prescribed by the PM to fight the Covid-19 pandemic is to drink ‘kadha’ prepared using ingredients listed by the Ministry of Ayush! Here’s a closer look at Modi’s Se7en deadly steps against Covid.

Care for the old and sick, but where’s the plan for those whose support system has been affected?

Modi urged people to look after the elderly, especially those with existing illnesses. This is because comorbidity plays a major role in Covid related deaths.



Now, while this sounds full of compassion, it places the responsibility of caring for the old and the ailing on people, instead of mentioning the government’s efforts at offering aid and assistance to thousands of elderly citizens who live alone across the nation and do not even have access to their caregivers, nurses and housekeepers due to the lockdown!

It is unfair to assume that all children live with their elderly parents as per tradition. Many people move out of their parent’s homes to live and work in the cities where their jobs are located. Many elderly people have children living and working abroad. Moreover, women routinely leave their parent’s homes after marriage. Many elderly people don’t even have children. What happens to these people whose previous support system of ayahs, cooks or other caregivers, has been snatched away by the lockdown? Many of them require special care on account of illness and disability. How does the PM propose to help them? Does it fall upon citizens to care for them? What about the government’s responsibility?

From ‘pakore talo’ to ‘kadha piyo’?  

The PM urged people to follow advise by the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) and drink hot water and kadha made using ingredients listed by the ministry advisory.

According to this advisory, people are advised to, “Drink herbal tea / decoction (Kadha) made from Tulsi (Basil), Dalchini (Cinnamon), Kalimirch (Black pepper), Shunthi (Dry Ginger) and Munakka (Raisin) – once or twice a day. Add jaggery (natural sugar) and / or fresh lemon juice to your taste, if needed.” Other Ayurvedic Immunity Promotion Measures listed by the Ministry in this advisory include, “Take Chyavanprash 10gm (1tsf) in the morning. Diabetics should take sugar free Chyavanprash,” and “Golden Milk- Half tea spoon Haldi (turmeric) powder in 150 ml hot milk – once or twice a day.”



As a hat tip to science, the PM had, just a little while before he listed his ‘Saptapadi, encouraged young Indian scientists to develop a vaccine against Covid. But the kadha-chyavanprash pitch does make one question his allegiance to proven science over traditional home remedies. Also ‘kadha piyo’ has a distinct ring to his previous ‘pakora stall’ remedy do combat unemployment.

Social distancing as Lakshman Rekha?

The PM also urged people to stay at home and use masks prepared at home regularly. Now, we can debate efficacy of these masks till the cows come home, but one cannot overlook yet another example of soft Hindutva in the PM’s speech when he urged people to follow the Laxman Rekha of social distancing.


For those unfamiliar with the Ramayana, Lakshman Rekha was a line Lakshman, brother of Lord Ram, drew at the threshold of their home in the forest, forbidding Sita from crossing it… a line Ravan tricked her into crossing when he abducted her.

Yet another app!

Then the PM urged people to download the Arogya Setu app, and also directed people to encourage others to download it. The app developed by the National Informatics Commission (NIC) of the Government of India (GoI) in the app description, says, “The app is aimed at augmenting the initiatives of the Government of India, particularly the Department of Health, in proactively reaching out to and informing the users of the app regarding risks, best practices and relevant advisories pertaining to the containment of Covid-19.”



The privacy policy of the app states that the app will store your name, phone number, age, sex, profession and countries visited in the last 30 days on a government server and provide the uses with a unique digital ID (DiD). It further states, “The app continuously collects your location data and stores securely on your mobile device a record of all places you have been at 15 minute intervals. This information will only be uploaded to the Server along with your DiD, (i) if you test positive for COVID-19; and/or (ii) your self-declared symptoms indicate that you are likely to b infected with COVID-19; and/or (iii) the result of the self-assessment test is either YELLOW or ORANGE.” The app therefore appears to stop just shy to ringing privacy alarm bells.

No ease in availability of lockdown passes, but PM urges people to feed the poor

The PM urges people to help the poor and the needy, help them with food.


While, on the surface, this sounds compassionate, he also fails to offer any explanation as to how people who intend to feed the poor should go about doing so in the middle of a lockdown. Getting passes has already proved to be tedious with people required to jump through bureaucratic hoops.

Don’t fire people from their jobs!

This is one suggestion we can get behind. Kudos to the Prime Minister for articulating concerns of millions of people knocking on the doors of unemployment.



Unfortunately, lay offs have begun and where people aren’t losing jobs, their monthly pay cheques have shrunk considerably. According to the Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE) unemployment stood north of 23 per cent in the last week of March, shortly after the nationwide lockdown was first announced. Giving people job security amidst these trying times will help salve some wounds.

Respect for medical professionals

This is yet another welcome step by the PM who has urged people to treat all frontline defenders in the battle against Covid-19, whether they are doctors, nurses of policemen, with respect.



This is vital given how medical professionals in particular have been at the receiving end of discrimination and social ostracism, with many forced to vacate their rental homes. However, in the absence of any assurance about availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) that are becoming increasingly scarce, his concern for our medical fraternity appears to ring hollow.

The PM also made a cursory reference to the Rabi crop harvest and attempts to repair the damage done to supply chains. Both of these points were extremely essential and deserved more time in the PM’s speech with a proper listing of actual measures being taken, given how both, food scarcity and a damaged supply chain can cripple the economy.



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