Har Har Mahadev!
My greetings to all the revered people from the sacred land of Kashi! It is the month of Saawan. In such times, everyone feels like surrendering at Baba's feet. But when I got a chance to interact with the people belonging to Baba's city, it seems that today I have got the privilege of getting a Darshan. First of all, my best wishes to all of you on this favourite month of Lord Bhole Nath.
It is due to the blessings of Lord Bhole Nath that even in this crisis of Corona, Kashi is full of hope and enthusiasm. It is true that people are not able to visit the Baba Vishwanath Dham these days and I can understand your pain for not being able to visit in the holy month of Saawan. It is also true that everything such as the Manas temple and Durga Kund are closed and the Sawan fair in Sankat Mochan has been suspended.
But it is also true that at this time of massive crisis, my Kashi, our Kashi, has firmly fought against it. Today's programme is also a part of the same. No matter how big a disaster is, no one can match the spirit of the people of Kashi. You have shown that a crisis like corona is nothing in front of the city that gives momentum to the world.
I have been told that because of corona, people have stopped going to the tea rings in Kashi that used to be so popular; so now the digital mode have been started. The people from different regions have revived this tradition. The music tradition here was enriched by great musicians like Bismillah Khan Ji, Girija Devi Ji and Hiralal Yadav Ji. Today, the new generation artists of Kashi are taking the tradition forward. Many such works have been done continuously in Kashi in the last three-four months.
During this period, I was constantly in touch with Yogiji and the various people of the government. The information used to come to me from Kashi and I used to guide them about what to do or what not to do. And there are many of you in Varanasi, I used to talk to on the phone regularly and seek information and feedback. And I am sure that some of them are also present in this programme with whom I would have talked on phone.
Who is taking what steps to prevent infection, what is the condition of hospitals, what arrangements are being made, what about the quarantine, how much are we able to make arrangements for the labour friends coming from outside. I keep asking about all the things continuously.
Baba Vishwanath and Mother Annapurna both reside in our Kashi. And there is an old belief that at one time Lord Mahadev himself had asked for alms from mother Annapurna. Since then, there has been a special blessing on Kashi that no one would sleep hungry here; mother Annapurna and Baba Vishwanath would arrange food for everyone.
It is a great privilege for all of you, for all the organizations, for all of us that this time God has made all of us, especially all of you, the medium of service to the poor. In a way, you have become the messenger of Mother Annapurna and Baba Vishwanath to every needy person.
In such a short time, you have come up with a food helpline, built an extensive network of community kitchens, developed help lines, used modern science and technology, data science, and have made full use of the Control and Command Centre of Varanasi Smart City for this purpose. That is, everyone has worked with full capacity to help the poor at every level. And let me also say, the spirit of service in our country is not a new thing; it is embedded in our culture. But serving people this time is not an ordinary work. This time it was not just about wiping the tears of someone unhappy or giving food to a poor person; it also had a risk of catching disease, Coronavirus. And so, besides the spirit of service there was a spirit of sacrifice. And so the people who have worked during the corona crisis in every corner of India are not doing a small thing. It is not about merely fulfilling the duty. There was a fear and a great danger before them and they were facing it voluntarily. This is a new form of service.
And I have been told that when the district administration ran short of its vehicles for the distribution of food, the postal department had put to use its postal vans that were lying unused for this purpose. Just imagine, earlier the image of the government and the administration was such that everything was refused. Departments used to fight over jurisdiction. ‘This is my department. Why should I give it to you?’ But here we have seen that everyone is helping the other. This solidarity, unity has made Kashi more magnificent. And we have the administration here, Gayatri Parivar Rachnatmak Trust, Rashtriya Roti Bank, Bharat Sevashram Sangha, our Sindhi brothers and sisters, Bhagwan Avdhut Ram Kusht Seva Ashram, Sarveshwari Group, people associated with banks, trade associations and countless such people who are helping the poor and the needy and have enhanced the glory of Kashi. But I could talk only to 5-6 people now. There are thousands of institutions and people who have dedicated themselves to the service of mankind; but I couldn't talk to all of them. I salute everyone's work today. I salute everyone involved in this task. And when I am talking to you today, I am not just seeking information but also getting inspiration from you. People like you have worked even more during this crisis, and I am seeking your blessings. And may Baba Bholenath and Maa Annapurna give you more strength!
This corona crisis has completely changed the way people think, work, eat and drink. And the way you served has made a big impact on societal life. I used to hear in my childhood that there was a Goldsmith. He used to work in his house and make gold items for some families. But he had a habit. He used to buy 'Datun' from the market. In the morning we use brushes these days but in those times, we used to brush teeth with datuns. And he used to go to the hospital and count the number of patients and their relatives and in the evening he would go and give datuns to them. You will be surprised that he had made a small habit of helping these people with datuns. He was popular in the whole area. Everyone talked of his spirit of service so much so that they preferred going to him for any work related to gold. That is, although he used to serve the people, but he had created a distinct credibility for himself. He had become a trusted person of every family. That is, our society considers the spirit of service as something greater than just give and take. And the one who receives the service also decides that whenever he gets an opportunity, he will also help someone. This cycle goes on. This is what inspires the society.
You must have heard that such a horrible pandemic had swept through the world hundred years ago, and now another pandemic has gripped the world after hundred years. And it is said that at that time India did not have such a huge population. But at that time, India was among the countries where the maximum number of people had died in that pandemic. Crores of people had died. And so during this pandemic, the whole world was afraid to take the name of India. Experts were saying that, hundred years ago India was ruined due to the pandemic; so many people had died in India and today India's population too has grown so much, there are so many challenges. They started questioning India. They thought this time too India will be ruined. But what happened? You must have seen that people had a lot of doubts about how Uttar Pradesh, with a population of 23-24 crores, will this be saved. Some used to say that there is a lot of poverty in UP, there are many migrant workers. How will they follow the distance of two yards? They will die of hunger if not from Corona. But your cooperation, the hard work and strength of the people of Uttar Pradesh, have destroyed all fears.
In a big country like Brazil, which has a population of about 24 crores, more than 65 thousand people have died tragically of Corona. But in UP, which has almost equal population; about 800 people have died of Corona.
That is, in UP, thousands of lives, which were likely to be lost, have been saved from Corona. Today the situation is such that Uttar Pradesh has not only controlled the pace of the spread of the infection but those who are suffering from corona are also recovering fast. And the major reason for the same is the awareness, service and pro-activeness of many great people like you. It is the service by social, religious and philanthropic organizations like you, your resolve and your values which have given every person of the society the strength to fight against Coronavirus in this difficult time and it has helped a lot in the most difficult times.
We are residing in Kashi. And Kabirdas ji has said-
सेवक फल मांगे नहीं, सेब करे दिन रात ||
The one who is serving others does not ask for the fruits of the service. He is engaged in a selfless service day in and day out. These values of selfless service to others are now helping the countrymen in this difficult time. It is in this spirit that the central government has also made continuous efforts to share and reduce the sufferings of the citizens during the Corona pandemic. We are trying to ensure that the poor get ration, have money in their pockets, have employment and can take loan for their work.
Today over 80 crore people are being given free ration in India. It's immensely benefitting the poor and the workers of Varanasi too. You can imagine that India, with twice the population of America, is helping and maintaining them without taking a penny. And now this scheme has been extended till 30th of November, i.e. till Deepawali and Chhath Puja. We are trying to ensure that no poor is short of food during festivals. Besides food, free gas cylinders are being given to the beneficiaries of the Ujjwala scheme for the last three months so that the poor don't face problem in getting fuel for cooking due to lockdown.
The government has worked consistently and has taken historical decisions be it the decisions to deposit thousands of crores of rupees in the Jan Dhan accounts of the poor, or to provide easy loans to the poor and small industries and hawkers, or workers' employment, or decisions on agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries etc.
A few days ago, a fishery scheme of 20 thousand crores has also been approved. This will also benefit fish farmers of this region. Besides, another special campaign for employment and self-employment has been organized here a few days back in UP. Under this campaign, jobs have been arranged for lakhs of workers like artisans, weavers, other artisans or the labourers who have returned from other states.
This Corona crisis is so big that one has to work continuously to deal with it. We cannot sit at ease. I want to assure our weaver brothers and sisters, boat sailors, businessmen and traders and everyone that we are constantly trying to ensure that everyone faces the least difficulty and at the same time Varanasi also keeps moving forward. A few days ago I had a long meeting with the administration and our legislators, through technology, about the development work of Varanasi. I discussed in great detail. I monitored every single thing through technology and drones. In this, detailed information was given to me on the status of Baba Vishwanath Dham Project along with all other projects like roads, electricity, and water. I too shared some important information. Sometimes there are obstacles, so steps were taken to get rid of them.
Presently, work on various projects worth about 8 thousand crore rupees is going on at a rapid pace in Kashi itself. Projects worth 8 thousand crore rupees! That is, many people get livelihood out of it. When conditions return to normal, the old glory of Kashi too will return.
We have to prepare for the same from now onwards. Hence, the focus is on completion of all the projects especially the tourism related projects like cruise tourism, light and sound shows, revival of Dashashwamedh Ghat, installation of audio-video screens for Ganga Aarti, and other arrangements on ghats at a rapid pace.
In the coming days, we all want to see Kashi becoming a major hub of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and it is the responsibility of all of us. After the recent decisions of the government, new opportunities of business will open up for the saris here, besides other handicrafts, dairy, fisheries and bee-keeping. Bee-wax has a lot of demand in the world. We can try to fulfil it.
I would urge the farmers, even the young friends, to ensure a greater participation in these types of businesses. It is our responsibility. With the efforts of all of us, Kashi can grow into a big Export Hub of India. We should also develop Kashi as a source of inspiration for Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
I am really glad that today I got a chance to see you all and it is a great privilege to get a glimpse of Kashiwasis in the month of Saawan. And I am really grateful to you for the manner in which you have served the people and are still continuing it with a lot of passion.
You have inspired everyone through your work of philanthropy and service and you will continue to inspire in future too. But yes, one thing we have to do repeatedly, we have to do it with everyone and take personal steps. We want freedom from single-use plastic. We must not neglect this issue. We have to change the habit of spitting on the roads. Secondly, we should not give up maintaining the distance of two yards, wearing face mask and the habit of washing hands nor we should allow others to do so. Now we have to make it our culture, make it our habit.
May the blessings of Baba Vishwanath and mother Ganga be with all of you, with this wish I end my speech! Once again I salute the great work that you are doing!
Thanks a lot! Har- Har Mahadev !!!