Mirabai an inspiration for the women of our nation: PM Modi during Mann Ki Baat

Published By : Admin | October 29, 2023 | 11:00 IST
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Mirabai remains a wellspring of inspiration for the women of our country, be they mothers, sisters, or daughters: PM Modi

My dear countrymen, Namaskar. Welcome once again to Mann Ki Baat. This episode is taking place at a time when the entire country is enveloped in the fervour of festivities. Heartiest greetings to all of you on the occasion of the festivals.

Friends, amid the zeal of the festivities, I wish to commence Mann Ki Baat with a news from Delhi itself. At the beginning of this month, on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, Khadi witnessed record sales in Delhi. Here at Connaught Place, at a single Khadi store, in a single day, people purchased goods worth over a crore and a half rupees. The ongoing Khadi Mahotsav this month has broken all its previous sales records. You will be pleased to know of another fact that earlier in the country, whereas the sale of Khadi products could barely touch thirty thousand crore rupees; now this is rising to reach almost 1.25 lakh crore rupees. The rise in the sale of Khadi means its benefit reaches myriad sections across cities and villages. Benefiting from these sales are our weavers, handicraft artisans, our farmers, cottage industries engaged in growing Ayurvedic plants, everyone is getting the benefit of this sale… and, this is the strength of the ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign… gradually the support of all you countrymen is increasing. 

Friends, today I would like to reiterate one more request to you, and insistently at that! Whenever you travel for tourism; go on a pilgrimage, do buy products made by the local artisans there. 

In the overall budget of your travel itinerary, do include purchasing local products as an important priority. Be it ten percent, twenty percent, as much as your budget allows, you should spend it on local and spend it only there. 

Friends, like every time, this time too, in our festivals, our priority should be ‘Vocal for Local’ and let us together fulfill that dream; our dream is ‘Aatmnirbhar Bharat’. This time, let us illuminate homes only with a product which radiates the fragrance of the sweat of one of my countrymen, the talent of a youth of my country… which has provided employment to my countrymen in its making. Whatever be our daily life’s requirements, we shall buy local. But you will have to focus on one more thing, this spirit for Vocal for Local, is not limited only to festival shopping and somewhere I have seen, people buy Diwali diyas and then post ‘Vocal for Local’ on social media - No… not at all, this is just the beginning. We have to move ahead a lot, in our country. Now every necessity of life… everything is available. This vision is not limited to just buying goods from small shopkeepers and street vendors. Today India is becoming the world’s biggest manufacturing hub. Many big brands are manufacturing their products here. If we adopt those products, then Make In India gets a fillip and this too is being ‘Vocal For Local’, and Yes, while buying such products, try to insist on the pride of our country, the UPI digital payment system. Make it a habit in life, and share a selfie with that product, or with that artisan, with me on Namo App and that too through a made in India smartphone. I will share some of those posts on Social Media so that other people can also be inspired to be ‘Vocal for Local’. 

Friends, when you brighten up your Diwali with products Made In India, Made by Indians; fulfill every little need of your family locally, the sparkle of Diwali will only increase, but in the lives of those artisans, a new Diwali will shine, a dawn of life will rise, their life will become wonderful. Make India self-reliant, keep choosing ‘Make in India’, so that the Diwali of crores of countrymen along with you becomes wonderful, lively, radiant and interesting. 

My dear countrymen, 31st October is a very special day for all of us. On this day we celebrate the birth anniversary of our Iron Man Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. We Indians remember him, for many reasons and pay our respects. The biggest reason is – his incomparable role in integrating more than 580 princely states of the country. We know that every year on the 31st of October, the main function related to Unity Day takes place at the Statue of Unity in Gujarat. Apart from this, a very special program is being organized on Kartavya Path. You might remember that recently I had urged you to collect soil from every village, every house in the country. After collecting soil from every house, it was placed in a Kalash and then Amrit Kalash Yatras were organized. This soil collected from every corner of the country, these thousands of Amrit Kalash Yatras are now reaching Delhi. Here in Delhi, that soil will be put in an enormous Bharat Kalash and with this sacred soil, ‘Amrit Vatika’ will be built in Delhi. It will remain as a grand legacy of the Amrit Mahotsav in the heart of the country’s capital. The Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, which has been going on for the last two and a half years across the country, will conclude on the 31st of October. All of you together have made it one of the longest running festivals in the world. Be it honouring our freedom fighters or Har Ghar Tiranga, in the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, people have lent a new identity to their local history. During this period, wonderful examples of community service have also been observed. 

Friends, today I am sharing with you another good news, especially to my young sons and daughters, who have the passion, dreams and resolve to do something for the country. This good news is not only for the countrymen, but it is special for you, my young friends. Just two days later, on the 31st of October, the foundation of a very big nationwide organization is being laid and that too on the birth anniversary of Sardar Sahib. The name of this organization is - Mera Yuva Bharat, i.e. My Bharat. My Bharat Organization will provide an opportunity to the youth of India to play an active role in various nation building events. This is a unique effort of integrating the youth power of India in building a developed India. 

Mera Yuva Bharat’s website My Bharat is also about to be launched. I would urge the youth – I would urge them again and again that all of you Youth of my country, all you sons and daughters of my country, register on MyBharat.gov.in and sign up for various programs. The 31st of October is also the death anniversary of former Prime Minister Smt Indira Gandhi Ji. I also pay my heartfelt tribute to her. 

My family members, our literature is one of the best mediums to deepen the sentiment of the spirit of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat. I would like to share with you two very inspiring endeavours related to the glorious heritage of Tamil Nadu. I have got the opportunity to know about the famous Tamil writer Sister ShivaShankari Ji. She has done a project - Knit India, through literature. It means - to knit over a common thread and connect the country through literature. She has been working on this project for the last 16 years. Through this project she has translated literature written in 18 Indian languages. She travelled across the country several times, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and from Imphal to Jaisalmer, so that she could interview writers and poets from different states. ShivShankari Ji travelled to different places and published the accounts along with travel commentaries. This is in both Tamil and English languages. There are four big volumes in this project and each volume is dedicated to a different part of India. I am proud of the strength of her resolve. 

Friends, the work of Thiru A. K. Perumal Ji of Kanyakumari is also very inspiring. He has done a commendable job of preserving the story telling tradition of Tamil Nadu. He has been engaged in this mission for the last 40 years. For this, he travels to different parts of Tamil Nadu, discovers the folk art forms and makes them a part of his book. You will be surprised to know that till now he has written around a 100 such books. Apart from this, Perumal Ji also has another passion. He likes to research on the Temple culture of Tamil Nadu. He has also done a lot of research on leather puppets, which is benefitting the local folk artists there. ShivShankari Ji and A.K. Perumal Ji’s efforts are exemplary to everyone. India is proud of every such effort to preserve her culture, which not only strengthens our national unity but also enhances the glory of the country, the honour of the country… infact, everything. 

My family members, the entire country will celebrate the ‘Janjaatiya Gaurav Diwas’ on the 15th of November. This special day is associated with the birth anniversary of Bhagwan Birsa Munda. Bhagwan Birsa Munda dwells in the hearts of all of us. We can learn from his life what true courage is and what it means to stand firm on one’s resolve. He never accepted foreign rule. He envisioned a society where there was no room for injustice. He wanted that every person should be entitled to a life of dignity and equality. Bhagwan Birsa Munda always emphasized on living in harmony with nature. Even today we can say that our tribal brothers and sisters are dedicated in every way to the care and conservation of nature. For all of us, these endeavours of our Adivasi brothers and sisters is a great inspiration. 

Friends, tomorrow i.e. the 30th of October is also the death anniversary of Govind Guru Ji. Govind Guru Ji has had a very special significance in the lives of the tribal and deprived communities of Gujarat and Rajasthan. I also pay my tribute to Govind Guru Ji. In the month of November we solemnly observe the anniversary of the Mangadh massacre. I salute all the children of Ma Bharati who were martyred in that massacre. 

Friends, India has a rich history of tribal warriors. It was on this very land of India that the great Tilka Manjhi sounded the trumpet against injustice. From this very land Sidhho - Kanhu raised the voice for equality. We are proud that the warrior Tantiya Bheel was born on our soil. We remember Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh with full reverence, who stood by his people in difficult circumstances. 

Be it Veer RamJi Gond, Veer Gundadhur, Bheema Nayak, their courage still inspires us. The country still remembers the spirit that Alluri Sitaram Raju instilled in the tribal brothers and sisters. We also get a lot of inspiration from freedom fighters like Kiang Nobang and Rani Gaidinliu in the North East. It is from the tribal community that the country got women brave hearts like RajMohini Devi and Rani Kamlapati. The country is currently celebrating the 500th Birth Anniversary of Rani Durgavati Ji, who inspired the tribal society. I hope that more and more youth of the country will know about the tribal personalities of their region and derive inspiration from them. The country is grateful to its tribal society, which has always held the self-respect and upliftment of the nation paramount. 

My dear countrymen, during this festive season, at this time in the country, the flag of sports is also flying high. Recently, after the Asian Games, Indian Players also achieved tremendous success in the Para Asian Games. India has created a new history by winning 111 medals in these games. I congratulate all the athletes participating in the Para Asian Games. 

Friends, I wish to draw your attention to the Special Olympics World Summer Games, as well. It was organized in Berlin. This competition is a wonderful opportunity for our athletes with intellectual disabilities, to display their capabilities. In this competition, the Indian Team won 200 medals including 75 Gold Medals. Be it Roller Skating, Beach Volleyball, Football or Lawn Tennis, Indian players won a flurry of medals. The life journey of these medal winners has been quite inspiring. Haryana’s Ranveer Saini has won the Gold Medal in Golf. For Ranveer, who has been suffering from autism since childhood, no challenge could reduce his passion for Golf. His mother even says that everyone in the family has now become a golfer. 16 year old T-Vishal from Puducherry won 4 medals. Siya Sarode of Goa won 4 medals including 2 Gold Medals in power lifting. Even after losing her mother at the age of 9, she did not let herself get discouraged. Anurag Prasad, resident of Durg Chhattisgarh, has won 3 Gold and 1 Silver medal in power lifting. Another such inspiring story is that of Indu Prakash of Jharkhand, who has won 2 medals in cycling. Despite being from a very ordinary family, Indu never let poverty become an obstacle in the path of her success. I am confident that the success of Indian players in these games will also inspire other children with intellectual disabilities and their families. I also urge you all to go with your family and visit such children in your village, or in the neighbourhood, who have taken part in these games or have emerged victorious. Congratulate them. And spend some moments with those children. You will undergo a new experience. God has instilled within them a certain strength that you will also get a chance to observe and feel. Do visit. 

My family members, all of you must have certainly heard of the pilgrimage site in Gujarat, Amba Ji Mandir. This is an important Shakti Peeth, where a large number of devotees from India and abroad arrive to have a Darshan of Ma Ambe. Here on the way to Gabbar Parvat, you will be able to see sculptures of various Yoga postures and Asanas. Do you know what is special about these statues? Actually these are sculptures made from scrap; in a way, made of junk and which are very amazing. That means these statues have been made from used items that have been thrown away as scrap. Along with the darshan of Mother Goddess at Amba Ji Shakti Peeth, these statues have also become the center of attraction for the devotees. Looking at the success of this effort, a suggestion is also coming to my mind. There are many people in our country who can make such artefacts from waste. I request the Gujarat government to start a competition and invite such people. This endeavour, along with enhancing the attraction value of Gabbar Parvat, will also inspire people for the ‘Waste to Wealth’ campaign across the country. 

Friends, whenever it comes to Swachh Bharat and ‘Waste To Wealth’, we see countless examples from every corner of the country. A school named Akshar Forum in Kamrup Metropolitan District of Assam is relentlessly performing the task of inculcating Sanskar & values and values of sustainable development in children. The students studying here collect plastic waste every week, which is used in making items like eco-friendly bricks and key chains. Here students are also taught to make products from recycling and plastic waste. This awareness towards the environment at an early age will go a long way in making these children dutiful citizens of the country.

My family members, today there is no area of life where we are not able to see the capacity potential of woman power. In this era, when their achievements are being appreciated everywhere, we also have to remember a woman saint who showed the power of Bhakti, whose name is recorded in the golden annals of history. This year the country is celebrating the 525th birth anniversary of the great saint Mirabai. She has been an inspiring force for people across the country for many reasons. If someone is interested in music, she is a great example of dedication towards music; if someone is a lover of poetry, Meerabai's bhajans, immersed in devotion, give one an entirely different joy; if someone believes in divine power, Mirabai's rapt absorption in Shri Krishna can become a great inspiration for that person. Mirabai considered Saint Ravidas as her guru. She also used to say-            

Guru Miliya Raidas, Dinhi Gyan ki Gutki. 

Mirabai is still a source of inspiration for the mothers, sisters and daughters of the country. Even during that period, she listened to her inner voice and stood against conservative notions. Even as a saint, she inspires us all. She came forward to strengthen Indian society and culture when the country was facing many types of invasions. We come to know from the lifetime of Mirabai how much strength there is in simplicity and modesty. I bow to Sant Mirabai. 

My dear family members, that’s all this time in 'Mann Ki Baat'. Every interaction with all of you fills me up with new energy. Hundreds of stories related to hope and positivity keep reaching me in your messages. I again urge you to emphasize on Aatma Nirbhar Bharat campaign. Buy local products, be Vocal for Local. Just as you keep your houses clean, keep your locality and city clean. And you know, on the 31st of October, the birth anniversary of Sardar Saheb, the country celebrates it as Unity Day; Run for Unity programs are organized at many places in the country. You too should organize the Run for Unity Programs on the 31st of October. You should also join in large numbers and strengthen the resolve of unity. Once again, I extend many best wishes for the upcoming festivals. I wish you all celebrate with joy, with your family; stay healthy, stay happy. And yes, at the time of Diwali, no such mistake should be made that any incidents of fire may occur. If someone's life is in danger then you must take care; take care of yourself, and also take care of the entire area.

Many best wishes. Thank you very much.

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PM Modi's Interview to The Statesman
May 24, 2024

In an exclusive interview to The Statesman, PM Narendra Modi underscores the need for a strong government and a clear vision for India’s progress. He discusses plans for the middle class, youth employment, successes in Jammu and Kashmir, and Bengal’s future, highlighting the importance of a significant electoral mandate for effective governance and a Viksit Bharat by 2047.


Q. The middle class has been a consistent support block for the national brand of Modi. The opposition alleges that the middle class has not got its due from your government. Would you agree? And what are your plans for the middle class?

A: Over the last 10 years, we have worked tirelessly to ensure progress and prosperity for our middle class.

The first area is expanding the middle class and to lift people from poverty. For a long time since Indian independence, for 70 years, there was a push from the top – where the middle class was being pushed into poverty and the poor into abject poverty. But today, we have effectively reversed this system; since 2014, we have recognised and celebrated the parishram of our madhyam varg. Our government ensured that while your darja in society increased, the kharcha did not – because our policies are not meant to extort, but to support.

Twenty five crore people have risen up to join the neo middle class and most importantly, we have changed the narrative that the middle class is one bill away from slipping into poverty. The growth we have achieved is irreversible and here to stay – the only way to go is to climb upwards.

Rs. 11 lakh crore has been spent for infrastructure development in the country encompassing diverse sectors – from road and rail to education and healthcare infrastructure. People belonging to the middle class are the biggest beneficiaries of this development as new opportunities in jobs, contracts and other avenues open up for them.

We have worked hard to enhance the Ease of Living for the middle class. Be it travel or the day-to-day access that they have when the government is concerned, we have ensured that the entire experience becomes quick, comfortable and hassle-free. As far as travel is concerned, the number of airports has doubled, there are 20 cities with metro rail, there are over 100 Vande Bharat trains, we have state-of-the-art expressways, the EV sector is booming and growing. On the other hand – you see how the process for getting passports, filing income tax, registering grievances or registering new companies has been made transparent, quick and without challenges.

We have ensured that the disposable income for the middle class has increased. Where every GB of internet data cost over Rs. 300, in just 10 years – the per GB cost of internet data is down to under Rs. 10. This is saving thousands of rupees every month.

The women belonging to the middle class have been empowered and are becoming job creators in their own right with MUDRA Loans, Stand Up India, GeM portal and so on.

Additionally, six crore new EPFO subscribers since 2017 and greater participation for the labour class shows that not only has employment generation increased, the absolute percentage of people participating in the nation’s growth has also increased. 5.14 crore person years of employment have been generated every year since 2014, as a recent SKOCH report has also recognised.

While all this is happening, you have to understand that there are other things at work as well – average inflation for the last 10 years has been kept under 5 per cent, income tax rates have been greatly reduced. A significant section of the middle class resides in our cities and towns, and under PMAY-Urban – for over 25 lakh beneficiaries, an interest subvention of more than Rs. 58,000 crore has been provided. So, while there are greater incomes, there is also greater savings and this has led to greater investments. Almost 7 crore beneficiaries are enrolled in the Atal Pension Yojana. Today, the middle class is partnering and investing in India’s growth – there are now over 15 crore DEMAT accounts, is this not a sign of prosperity?

Q. Are you satisfied with your efforts at providing jobs for the youth?

A: India is blessed with a demographic dividend. And this blessing comes with a responsibility of ensuring suitable and sufficient opportunities.

If you look back on the last 10 years, you will notice that we have opened up opportunities in many new and emerging sectors for our youth such as in space, defence, drones, EVs, semiconductors, AI, and much more. In many of these fields, India is now emerging as a key player on the global stage.

Today, India is the world’s third-largest start-up ecosystem. We have gone from a few start-ups in 2014 to nearly 1.37 lakh startups today, generating employment for lakhs of people. We have over 100 unicorns and our start-ups have registered over 12,000 patents. This is also led by the youth who are making the most of the opportunities they are getting.

We have provided lakhs of government jobs as well as opened up self-employment opportunities for everyone on a massive scale. The MUDRA loans sanctioned have given birth to crores of new businesses, which have started a chain reaction of employment addition and expansion of the economy. Initiatives like Stand-Up India, Make in India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat have helped change the mindset at the grassroots level. Today, the youth of the country envision themselves as job creators.

India’s digital economy grew 2.4 times faster than the economy between 2014 and 2019, creating around 6 crore jobs. With the advent of AI and new-age Digital technology, we aim to expand job generation in this area, too.
The roads, highways, houses, and tunnels constructed require people to work. Direct and indirect jobs have been generated through the construction of Infrastructure. Infrastructure and productive capacity investments have a large multiplier impact on growth and employment. In the 2024-25 budget, we proposed increasing capital investment to Rs 11.11 lakh crore, creating additional jobs because of the multiplier impact.

EPFO payroll data shows that over six crore new subscribers have been added in the last 6 years, indicating a surge in youth employment. PLFS data shows that between 2017 and 2023, the participation rate of the Worker Population increased to over 56 per cent, and unemployment is at a low level of 3.2 per cent. So, we have employed more people compared to the population growth rate.


Q: Handling of Jammu and Kashmir is hailed as one of the great successes of your government. From a completely peaceful abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 to historic elections in 2024, everything seems to have gone to plan. What next for the region?

A: First of all, I would like to begin by expressing my heartfelt gratitude to the people of Kashmir for their overwhelming participation in the historic Lok Sabha elections of 2024. The record-breaking voter turnouts, be it in Baramulla with a whopping 59 per cent voting, breaking a 4-decade record, or the Srinagar seat witnessing 38 per cent voting in the fourth phase, the highest in 35 years, they clearly show that the decisions we took were in the right direction.

Since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, our government has worked tirelessly to restore normalcy in the region. We have achieved a drastic reduction in terror cases in the valley, thanks to the unwavering commitment of our security forces and the support of the local population. This has laid the foundation for sustainable development and growth in the region.

One of our key priorities has been to deepen democracy at the grassroots level. We have conducted elections at the panchayat and block development levels, which has led to a significant trust-building exercise. The peaceful conduct of the Lok Sabha elections is a clear indication that the people of Kashmir are ready to embrace democracy and participate in the decision-making process.

The next logical step in our plan for Jammu and Kashmir will be to restore the state assembly and statehood to further strengthen democratic institutions and ensure that the people have a greater say in the affairs of their state. We are committed to working closely with the elected representatives to address the concerns of the people and to accelerate the pace of development.

Our vision for Jammu and Kashmir is to enable the region to regain its status as a leader in various sectors. We want Jammu and Kashmir to become an educational hub, a tourism hub, an IT hub, a horticulture hub that exports to the world, and a hub for handicrafts and handlooms. We are confident that with the support of the people and the commitment of our government, we can achieve these goals and transform Jammu and Kashmir into a model of development and progress.

We will continue to work closely with the people and their elected representatives to ensure that the region achieves its full potential and becomes a beacon of hope for the entire nation.


Q: Just a century ago, West Bengal was seen as a leader when it came to industry, arts, culture and other sectors. What is your view on the current scenario and what according to you is the way ahead?

A: West Bengal has been a state that the whole nation has looked up to. Whether it is intellectual leadership or industrial activity, science or spirituality, literature or art, music or mathematics, the people of Bengal have played a big role in various sectors, not only nationally but also globally.

There would hardly be anyone who is untouched by the greatness of Swami Vivekananda, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Jagdish Chandra Bose and many such leaders.

When it comes to the freedom struggle, the role of Bengal goes to a different level altogether with a galaxy of leaders and revolutionaries coming from this region.

The excellent foundation that the pre-independence generation of Bengalis had set for the state was squandered completely by the Congress, Communists and Trinamool Congress governments.

Ruling for many decades, each of these parties subjected the state to misrule, mafias, corruption and poverty. Congress was always worried about the welfare of one family. TMC has become very similar. And the Communists were always anti-development. So, the people of West Bengal were subjected to great hardships and the state was turned into a laggard state.

But the core elements that made Bengal a shining star – spirit of its people, culture and ethos – are as strong as ever, just waiting for an opportunity to express themselves. I think that time is coming.

Despite having a hostile state government, we are working to leverage West Bengal’s unique strengths and address its specific challenges.

I am sure that with focused multi-sectoral reforms and good governance, the people of Bengal will make its future even brighter than the glorious past of the state.

First and foremost is that there is a need to focus on law and order. If the crucial foundations of safety and security are ensured, every sector of the economy can make great things happen.

Next, the industrial and agricultural ecosystem needs to be addressed. West Bengal has a rich history in sectors like jute, tea, and textiles. Streamlining regulations and creating a conducive environment for industrial growth can attract new investments and also strengthen the investment climate for existing players. Supporting farmers with policies that help them across things such as soil health, cold storage, irrigation, insurance and market access will give great results.

Additionally, investing in infrastructure, particularly in improving the connectivity of ports, road and rail networks, will further boost trade and industry.

West Bengal’s rich cultural heritage is also a significant asset. Celebrating and promoting the art, culture and festivals of West Bengal can attract domestic and global tourists. When combined with good infrastructure and law and order, this can go a long way in creating opportunities for young people.

The young people of Bengal are some of the brightest in the world. No matter which field they are in, they need no introduction. But due to the TMC’s misrule, today, they are often being forced to go out of the state to find high quality jobs and growth prospects. But with a planned effort to make the state a powerhouse in higher education, services, manufacturing, IT and innovation, their dreams can be fulfilled right here in Bengal itself.


Q. Women are acknowledged as the biggest supporters of brand Modi across India. Do you have a special message for the women of Bengal?

A: Bengal is a land blessed by Maa Durga. The Nari Shakti of Bengal, the women, is an embodiment of the divine Shakti. When they decide to bless someone, their blessings are enough to help achieve great heights.

I want the women of Bengal to know that their courage is admired by the whole nation. The way women from the poorest sections of society have stood up to the powerful goons of the ruling party in Sandeshkhali and many other places is inspirational. At the same time, women from the urban areas of Bengal have raised their voices for justice, showing solidarity. It shows that when women unite and decide that enough is enough, no force in the world can stop them.

While I admire the courage of the women of Bengal, I am also deeply pained at what they have to suffer at the hands of an insensitive ruling party that bestows impunity upon those who harass women.

The misdeeds of the TMC are fast adding up and paving the way for an exit from Bengal. The people have decided to punish the TMC, first in the Lok Sabha and later in the state assembly too.

We would like to assure the women of West Bengal that the BJP stands with you. By bringing in Rekha Patra Ji as one of our MP candidates, we have made our intentions clear that we are with the women of Bengal.

Further, we will continue to implement the existing pro-women welfare schemes such as taking tap water and gas connections to poor women for free. We will also implement our new schemes to benefit lakhs of women in Bengal.
Our initiative of creating crores of Lakhpati Didis through Self Help Groups, increased threshold for MUDRA loans, etc., will help women become more and more self-reliant. A number of new sectors like space and defence have now been opened up for women. In line with our vision of ‘Vikas bhi, Virasat bhi’ many new avenues and opportunities have been created for those who have interest in art and culture with the opening of new museums and centres.

So, my message to the women of Bengal is, the dawn of freedom from TMC’s tyranny is near.


Q. Kolkata earlier used to be the cultural capital of India. The city also used to be the economic hub for the entire East and North East India. What is your plan for reigniting the economic and cultural activity in Kolkata and also developing other major cities in Bengal?

A: I think the state of Bengal and Kolkata are symptoms of a larger neglect of eastern India that has been seen post-independence. In the priorities of successive Congress governments, there were no specific plans for eastern India and whatever were there, stayed on paper.

However, I have always drawn attention to the fact that eastern India needs focused work and we have worked with an ambitious plan for it.

In our rural electrification initiatives, a majority of the beneficiaries were in Eastern or Northeastern India. Whether it is the work that is going on for the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor or the work that has happened for National Waterways along the Ganga, whether it is the operationalization of many airports in eastern India or the record creation of national highways, we have been giving great importance to eastern India’s infrastructure needs.

If we speak of just railways in Bengal, the average rail budget for Bengal, which was around Rs 4,000 crore before 2014, has now increased to nearly Rs 14,000 crore. Vande Bharat Express trains are running across Bengal. Railway stations from Bengal are included under the Amrit Bharat station scheme, which aims to modernize more than 500 stations.

Automatically, such a big infrastructure push across the East will also result in increase in investments, industry and economic activity. As the pre-eminent city of eastern India, Kolkata stands to gain significantly from the overall development of the region.

Further, when it comes to Kolkata specifically, the first focus is on urban infrastructure, cleanliness and ease of living.

Recently, I had the privilege of inaugurating the underwater metro tunnel in Kolkata which is an engineering marvel that is also boosting connectivity between two important economic hubs of Kolkata.

Further, work has recently been completed on the Kavi Subhash – Hemanta Mukhopadhyay Metro section and the Taratala – Majerhat Metro section.

Over the last ten years there have been multiple such works that have happened in Kolkata and many more such works are envisaged in the future as well.


Q. In the past 10 years we have seen that Kashi’s infrastructure has transformed completely. Everyone who visits says this is not the Kashi that we saw 10 years back. How did you make this happen?

A: Kashi is a timeless city. It is a city that everyone in India pines to visit at least once because it has such great spiritual and cultural significance.

At the same time, this city and its infrastructure had been taken for granted completely. Over the last many decades, very few efforts had been made to get even basic infrastructure creation or upgrades done. But we decided that this would change.

Since you mentioned the sight of Kashi 10 years ago, I am sure you all remember the massive number of power cables clumsily dangling over all the beautiful streets. We invested hundreds of crore rupees into taking all these cables underground, ensuring a more beautiful view of the city.

Everyone knows about the connectivity and infrastructure troubles Kashi faced 10 years ago. Since then, we have invested almost Rs 1,000 crore to construct or upgrade 15 bridges or flyovers. The road to Babatpur Airport, Varanasi Ring Road, Lahartara-Phulwariya-Shivpur four-lane road, I can give you many such examples of the construction or upgradation of high quality roads across the region.

Further, over 20 road widening projects worth over Rs 3,500 crore are changing the face of Varanasi and the roads that connect it with other cities.

This apart, the upgradation of the airport and railway stations, construction of world class facilities like the Rudraksh Convention Centre, etc. are also making everyone feel this is a new Kashi.

However, Kashi and its soul remains the same. The only thing that has been added is ease of living for the local people as well as tourists.


Q. Kashi is an eternal city associated with our glorious past. How do you envisage the place of such cities in the future of Viksit Bharat?

A: Our vision has always been that Vikas and Virasat go hand in hand. So, heritage and modernity go together.

While I spoke of all the infrastructure creation in and around Kashi, the most striking transformation has actually happened in the heritage sections of the city.

The Kashi Vishwanath Dham is there for everyone to see. We have kept in mind the spiritual soul of the temple while building the temple complex. Lakhs of pilgrims are returning happy to see the larger temple complex and its facilities. The streets around the temple are more accessible and cleaner.

The Ganga is cleaner than ever before. Maa Ganga is slowly being restored to her beauty. Sewage treatment plants are being newly built or upgraded.

Many boatmen have been helped to use environment-friendly boats. For those who would like, more cruises have been made available, including the world’s longest river cruise which starts from Varanasi.

The Ghats along the Ganga are spotless and clean. They have become world class spiritual spaces where one can sit with a clean mind, in clean surroundings and connect with the deeper spiritual vibe of Kashi.

At the same time, Varanasi is also being strengthened as a hub for tourism, culture, weavers, farmers and businesses.

So, I see a Kashi which will play an even more important role in the future of India than it did in the past!


Q: How do you describe your relation with Kashi?

Sometimes, when I think of Kashi, Maa Ganga and the people of Kashi, emotions overwhelm me and leave me without words.

I have said even earlier that Maa Ganga has adopted me as her son. At the same time, lakhs of families of Kashi have adopted me as their son or brother. I have always been treated like a family member. The love and affection I get is deeply moving.

It has been my firm resolve that I will repay this affection with record development. A lot has been done but a lot more is in store for the wonderful people of this ancient city.


Q. Five phases of elections are over. Now only 114 seats remain to go to polls while the fate of 429 seats has been decided. What is your assessment now nationally for the BJP and NDA in terms of seats and vote share and has it changed from your assessment before the elections began?

A: Our target for 400 seats came from the people and hence it remains the same. This time it seems as if it is the people who are fighting the election and supporting us in an unprecedented manner.

After the polling on five phases I can assure you that BJP has comfortably crossed the majority mark on its own and NDA is looking to return with a historic mandate. The way the opposition has collapsed in one phase after the other, the voters have made their decision quite clear.

The way the opposition is acting can be read like an exit poll. A senior leader like Sharad Pawar said that regional parties do not have any future now and should simply merge with the Congress. On the other hand, the Shehzaada of Congress knew that he would lose from Wayanad and so contested from another seat. Mamata Banerjee, who was one of the founders of INDI Alliance has deserted the alliance. She is speaking of supporting the alliance from outside.


Q. You have several times talked of a 100-day agenda and now a 125-day agenda. What does it look like?

A: I have divided my plan into 2 phases, 100 days for the entire nation, and the second one, which has 25 days, would be dedicated towards policies for the Yuva Shakti and how they would like the nation’s development to take shape as we move towards building a Viksit Bharat by 2047.

It is not the first time that I have set a 100-day plan as we head for an election. If you go a little back in time, you would find that post elections in 2014 and 2019, we took historic decisions within 100 days of being elected that transformed India’s growth path and, in a way, destiny. In my first term, in the first 100 days, I introduced Jan Dhan Yojana, providing bank accounts to people who never had a bank account and were kept away from formal banking. In my second term, in the first 100 days we abrogated Article 370, and Triple Talaq. In the third term, we will make historic decisions that would serve all sections of the society.

In the 25-day agenda of the youth, we will focus on the aspirations of the youth and giving wings to their ideas.


Q: Why do you want a big majority in these elections? Critics argue that coalitions are better.

A: The question has never been about a coalition or a single-party government. Even though we have had a simple majority for the last two terms – we have continued to lead the National Democratic Alliance.

The question is whether we have a strong government with a definitive vision to move forward and support national growth or if we have a mish-mash band of non-cooperative allies devoid of any vision or track record of development.

The difference is between the vision and the confusion – the former is a must while the latter is to be avoided at all costs.

I believe that alliances should be made with conviction and not compulsions, for cooperation and not corruption, for the nation and not for one’s own family.

As far as the big majority is concerned, it is essential for the forward and swift movement of our vision. In the last 10 years we have taken several decisions which have benefited the nation and her people greatly. Today, the entire world respects us because it knows that we have a huge mandate from the people. Whatever India says, it says with conviction and the world listens, because we have a strong majority.

The people have seen the benefits of a strong government over the last 2 terms and are determined to ensure we get a strong government for yet another term.

Following is the clipping of the interview:

Source: The Statesman