New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with 40 elite sportspersons from around India via video conference to discuss situation in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The likes of Mary Kom, PV Sindhu, Pullela Gopichand, Vishwanathan Anand, Hima Das, Bajrang Punia, Neeraj Chopra, Manu Bhaker, PT Usha were on the call along with Indian cricketers Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh and KL Rahul.
BCCI president and former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly was also present wit the call with PM Modi. Other Indian cricketers on the call were Rohit Sharma, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Cheteshwar Pujara.
This is, in fact, the first time that the Prime Minister interacted with sports stars since the 21-day was enforced on March 24 to help stop spread of coronavirus.
PM Modi praised the sportspersons for bringing glory to the nation through stellar performances on the field and added that they now have a very important role to play in boosting the morale of the nation as well as spreading the message of social distancing along with asking people to continuously follow advisories given during lockdown. PM Modi underlined that the traits learnt in sports training, i.e. the ability to face challenges, self-discipline, positivity and self-belief are the essential tools to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister asked them to include the following five points in their message to people: ‘sankalp’ to fight the pandemic, ‘sanyam’ to follow social distancing, ‘sakaratmakta’ to maintain positivity, ‘samman’ to respect the frontline soldiers in this battle including the medical fraternity, the police personnel etc and ‘sahyog’ at personal level as well as at national level through contribution to PM-CARES fund. PM Modi also asked them to highlight the importance of both physical and mental fitness and also popularise guidelines released by AYUSH Ministry (Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy).
The sportspersons praised the leadership of the Prime Minister in this challenging time. They also thanked him for ensuring that the frontline health care workers and police personnel involved in this battle get the respect they truly deserve for their selfless service. They talked about the importance of discipline, mental strength, following a fitness regimen and taking steps to boost immunity.
Prime Minister mentioned that it is imperative India emerges victorious in this battle against the pandemic and expressed confidence in pro-active participation by the sportspersons in this battle.
All sporting activities are currently shut and it is still not clear when normalcy will resume. The much-anticipated Indian Premier League is among the big-ticket Indian events suspended till April 15.
Athletes, who were preparing for the Tokyo Olympics have also been forced to stay in lockdown and have taken up the issue with Sports Minster Kiren Rijuju regarding their challenges to training.
The list of 49 sportspersons who in the interaction with PM Modi: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Cricket), Virat Kohli (Cricket), Rohit Sharma (Cricket), Mamatha Poojary (Kabaddi), Sourav Ganguly (Cricket), Sachin Tendulkar (Cricket), Virender Sehwag (Cricket), Mohd Shami (Cricket), KL Rahul (Cricket), Cheteshwar Pujara (Cricket), Yuvraj Singh (Cricket), Zaheer Khan (Cricket), PT Usha (Athletics), Yogeshwar Dutt (Wrestling), Bajrang Punia (Wrestling), Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling), PV Sindhu (Badminton), Mary Kom (Boxing), Hima Das (Athletics), Viswanathan Anand (Chess), Rani Rampal (Hockey), Deepika Kumari (Archery), Mirabai Chanu (Weightlifting), Neeraj Chopra (Athletics), Sharad Kumar (Para Athletics), Apurvi Chandela (Shooting), Manu Bhaker (Shooting), Tarundeep Rai (Archery), Bhaichung Bhutia (Football), Sardara Singh (Hockey)Achanta Sharath Kamal (Table Tennis), Amit Panghal (Boxing), Gagan Narang (Shooting), Anju Bobby George (Athletics), Rohan Bopanna (Tennis), Ankita Raina (Tennis), Sai Praneeth (Badminton), Srihari Natraj (Swimming), Harmeet Desai (Table Tennis), Abhishek Verma (Shooting), Avinash Sable (Athletics), KT Irfan (Athletics), Lovlina Boroghain (Boxing), Simranjeet Kaur (Boxing), Jeremy (Weightlifting), Bhavani Devi (Fencing), Pramod Bhagat (Para Badminton).
Earlier at 9 AM on Friday, PM Modi in a special video message to the nation, asked people to to switch off lights of their homes and light candles and torches on April 5 at 9 pm to display the nation's collective spirit to defeat coronavirus.
"On this Sunday, April 5, we will challenge the darkness of coronavirus threat together. On April 5, at 9 pm, I need your 9 minutes. At 9 pm, turn off all the lights in your houses and light a Diya, candle, torch or flashlight for 9 minutes at your doors, or balcony," Modi said.
The Prime Minister further said that this will send out a message that nobody among the 130 crore Indians is alone in this fight against the deadly infection.
The pandemic has caused more than 50 deaths in India. The global death toll has crossed 50,000.
India's 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of the deadly virus ends on April 14.
(With inputs from Agencies)