Coronavirus Pandemic: In a video message on Thursday, PM Modi made an appeal to the nation.

New Delhi:

Twelve days into a total lockdown to control the spread of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19, India will turn off lights for nine minutes at 9 pm tonight after Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on Friday morning and gave a call for unity to “fight the darkness of coronavirus pandemic”.

In a video message on Friday, PM Modi made an appeal to the nation: “On April 5, Sunday, at 9 pm, I want 9 minutes from all of you. Turn off all the lights in your homes, stand at your doors or balconies and light candles, diya (lamp) or mobile flashlights for 9 minutes.”

“No one is alone during the lockdown, the collective superpower of 130 crore Indians is with every citizen,” he said. This was his third address to the nation on coronavirus that has been spreading fast across the world and has infected over a million people, killed over 50,000. In India, the COVID-19 count crossed the 3,000-mark on Saturday, 77 people have died so far.

This morning, PM Modi tweeted: “#9pm9minute”.

On Saturday, as the state electricity boards expressed concern that sudden mass power fluctuations – when millions turn off light at the same time – could lead to power surges, Union Power Ministry issued a statement to allay fears.

“There is no call to switch off street lights, computers or appliances such as TV sets, fans, refrigerators and air-conditioners in the homes,” the government said.

“Only lights should be switched off. The lights in hospitals and all other essential services like public utilities, municipal services, offices, police stations, manufacturing facilities, etc will remain on…” the statement read.

Several state power boards have asked their workers to be on stand-by this evening with necessary back-up to handle the adverse impact, if any, during or after the voluntary blackout. 

After PM’s video message on Thursday, several opposition leaders had attacked the government over its handling of the outbreak. “India is simply not testing enough to fight the #Covid19 virus. Making people clap & shining torches in the sky isn’t going to solve the problem,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted on Saturday. Among others criticising the government were Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and Trinamool Congress’s Mahua Moitra.

However, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has supported PM’s call for expressing national solidarity. “For 9 mins tomorrow at 9PM, I urge everyone in Andhra Pradesh to ignite a spark of hope; to cast away the darkness looming over us with the infinite power of light. Together we will emerge out of the #COVID19Pandemic stronger, more resilient & united. @narendramod,” he tweeted last night. 

Thanking him, PM Modi wrote: “Thank you @ysjagan Ji. This support is extremely valuable and will further the spirit of togetherness! #IndiaFightsCorona.”

Last night, PM Modi also retweeted several posts by celebrities, including filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, who said they will light diyas tonight at 9 pm.

PM Modi’s latest call comes two weeks after millions across the country observed a 14-hour self-quarantine – dubbed as “Janata Curfew” – on his appeal. The “Janata Curfew” was billed as one of the biggest national exercises in the world. The same evening, people across the country – including celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan – were seen in their balconies clapping, cheering for health workers as a part of “Janata Cufew” call.