Prime Minister Narendra Modi today described doctors and other health staff at the frontlines of the fight against coronavirus as "incarnations of God" and said those harassing them would face police action.
"In this hour of crisis, those in white coats are the incarnation of God. Today they are saving lives, putting their own lives in danger," the Prime Minister said, interacting via video link with the people of his constituency Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh on the coronavirus crisis.
PM Modi was addressing the Q and A session a day after he announced a 21-day total lockdown in the country to break the chain of transmission of coronavirus, which has infected over 560 in India.
"The battle of Mahabharata was won in 18 days, the battle of coronavirus will be won in 21 days," he remarked.
To a question on the harassment of doctors, nurses and other staff handling coronavirus patients, the Prime Minister said he felt pain.
"The doctors, rescue workers who went to Wuhan, Air India and other staff that have helped in operations to get back Indians from various parts of the world... these are our true heroes. We must help them. When I heard reports of them being harassed, I took it very seriously. It is a very grave issue for me. I have already told all state DGPs (police chiefs) to take the most strict action against those harassing them," said the PM.
He reminded that on Sunday, during his Janata Curfew or one-day self-quarantine for citizens, everyone came out at 5 pm to applaud those working at the frontlines of the coronavirus fight.
"You must have seen how the whole country participated extensively in the Janata curfew. And then at exactly 5 o'clock in the evening, how did people from across the country come forward to greet for 5 minutes. There is a sense of respect for all these in the mind of the society. Doctors save lives and we can never repay their debt," he said.
Condemning the harassment, he said: "Yes, such incidents have also been reported from some places, which have hurt the heart. I appeal to all citizens if any such activity is visible somewhere. If you see any ill treatment with the doctor, nurse or medical staff, then you should go there and explain to the people."
To deal with "corona", one must show "karuna (compassion)", he said.