No individual is above the law, including the leader of a country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today during his 17-minute televised address to the nation, as he warned people against disobeying rules in force to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The Prime Minister said "negligence in social and personal behaviour" had been seen since "Unlock1" - the first stage in the government's "calibrated" re-start of economic activity and normal life - came into effect on June 1 and said this could prove disastrous as India looks to get the outbreak under control.
"We notice (increasing) negligence in people's social and personal behaviour. We used to meticulously wash hands, used sanitisers, wore masks, maintained social distancing (do gaj doori) and avoided shaking hands. This is not happening as strictly anymore," Prime Minister Modi said.
"This is a serious matter. We must maintain discipline. People not following the rules need to be stopped and made aware. Nobody is above the rule in India, even if it is the leader of the nation," PM Modi added, calling for a return to cautious behaviour in public, especially in containment zones around the country.
"We are entering "Unlock2". We are also entering a season in which cold, cough, fever increases. I appeal to all of you, please take care of yourself. Please don't be careless," he appealed.
Several states have already specified punishments for those without face masks in public or at their workplace. In May Rajasthan said those disobeying the law would be fined Rs 200, while Chhattisgarh (Rs 100) and Uttarakhand (Rs 5,000 and six months in jail) came out with similar laws this month.
National capital Delhi - the worst-affected metro city - said in April that those violating the National Directive would be fined between Rs 200 and Rs 1,000 and could spend up to six months in jail.
There has been a frightening spike in cases since June 1; over 8,300 new cases were reported on that day, compared to the 18,552 reported on Monday. India reported a total of 1.9 lakh cases by June 1. Today, thirty days later, the total number of COVID-19 cases has crossed 5.6 lakh.
The National Directives for COVID-19 Management, which have been a part of every phase of lockdown since the first one in March, are rules governing behaviour in public spaces like offices and shops.
They include mandatory wearing of face mask when outside the home, maintaining social distance (keeping at least six feet from each other) and frequent use of hand sanitisers.
These directives have been stressed on repeatedly by the Prime Minister, politicians and experts to help prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading.
In his speech today the PM also said a scheme to distribute free food to India's poorest will be extended to November to provide relief during the festival season. The scheme will provide 80 crore people with five kilograms of free rations and a kilogram of dal at a cost to the government of around Rs 90,000 crore.