Honorable Reverend Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Revered Fathers, Distinguished members of Mar Thoma Church,
It is my great privilege to address this august gathering. We have gathered to mark the special occasion of the 90th birthday of Most Revered Doctor Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan. I convey my greetings to him, and I wish him a long life and best health. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma has devoted his life for the betterment of our society and nation. He has been particularly passionate about removal of poverty and women empowerment.
The Mar Thoma Church is closely linked with the noble ideals of Saint Thomas, the Apostle of Lord Christ. India has always been open to spiritual influences from many sources. The contributions of Saint Thomas and, following him, the Indian Christian community are deeply valued. With Saint Thomas we associate humility. He rightly said “Humility which is a virtue, is always fruitful in good works”. It is with this spirit of humility that the Mar Thoma Church has worked to bring a positive difference in the lives of our fellow Indians. They have done so in areas such as healthcare and education. Saint Thomas was blessed with immense wisdom. The Mar Thoma Church played a role in India's freedom struggle. The Church was at the fore-front of working towards national integration.
This Church fought the Emergency. It is a matter of immense pride that the Mar Thoma Church is firmly rooted in Indian values. The contribution of the Church has also been recognized at the national level. The former Metropolitan of Mar Thoma Church, Philipose Mar Chrysostom, was conferred with the Padma Bhushan in 2018. He inspires many.
The world is fighting a strong battle against a global pandemic. COVID-19 is not only a physical sickness that is a threat to the lives of people. It also takes our attention to unhealthy life-styles. A global pandemic implies that humanity as a whole needs healing. Let us do everything possible to further harmony and happiness in our planet.
You would be happy to know that powered by our Corona warriors, India is firmly fighting COVID-19. Earlier this year, some people had predicted that the impact of the virus in India would be very very severe. But, Due to lockdown and many initiatives taken by the Government as well as a people driven fight, India is much better placed than many other nations. India's recovery rate is rising.
Any loss of life is unfortunate, due to Covid or otherwise. However, India's death per million due to Covid is under 12. To place this in context, the death rate in Italy is 574 per Million. The figures in America, Britain, Spain, and France are also much higher than India. Lakhs of villages, home to 85 crore people, remain almost untouched by Coronavirus.
A people driven fight has given good results so far but can we let our guard down? NO, Not at all. Infact, we have to be even more careful now. Wearing masks, Social distancing, दो गज की दूरी(Do Gaj ki doori), Avoiding crowded places, Regular hand washing, these remain important.
At the same time, we have to focus on economic growth and prosperity for 130 crore Indians. The wheels of trade and commerce have to move. Agriculture has to flourish. In the last few weeks, the Government of India has addressed both short-term and long-term issues relating to the economy. From the sea to space, From the farms to the factories, people-friendly and growth friendly decisions have been taken.
The call for Atma Nirbhar Bharat, self-reliant India will ensure economic strength and prosperity for every Indian. A month ago, the Union Cabinet cleared the Pradhan Mantri Matasya Sampada Yojana. This scheme is going to transform our fisheries sector. With an investment of over Rupees Twenty Thousand Crore, this scheme seeks to boost the sector. The aim is to also increase export earnings and provide more employment to over fifty five lakh people. We want to ensure better technology, infrastructure and make value chains stronger. I am confident my fishermen sisters and brothers in Kerala will gain from this scheme.
Historic reforms have been undertaken in the space sector. These reforms will ensure greater use of space assets and activities. Access to data and technology will improve. I see several youngsters in Kerala and particularly in South India taking a keen interest in science and technology. They will gain from the reforms.
Our Government has always been guided by sensitivity and a long-term vision to make India a growth engine. We have taken decisions not from comfortable Government offices in Delhi but after feedback from people of the ground. It is this spirit that ensured every Indian has access to a bank account. Over 8 crore families have access to smoke free kitchens. Over 1.5 crore houses have been made to give shelter to the homeless.
India is home to the largest healthcare scheme in the world, Ayushman Bharat. Over a crore people have got quality treatment. For the poor, we are bringing one nation-one ration card scheme to help them where they are. For the middle class, we have brought a number of initiatives, to boost Ease of living. For farmers, we have increased the MSP and made sure they get the right price and making the sector free from middle men.
For women, we are ensuring that their health gets due attention via various schemes. And, their career path is not compromised through extension of maternity leaves. The Government of India does not discriminate between faith, gender, caste, creed or language. We are guided by the desire to empower 130 crore Indians and our guiding light is the ‘Constitution of India’.
The Holy Bible talks extensively about togetherness. Now is the time to join ranks, work together for the advancement of our nation. Think of this- how can our actions contribute to national development? Today India is saying- we will produce locally and also buy local products. This will light the lamp of prosperity in the homes of many. There are many ways to strengthen our nation. The Mar Thoma Church, in line with its values will surely rise to the occasion and play a key role in India's growth trajectory in the times to come.
Once again, I convey my greetings to Honourable Reverend Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan .
Thank you all. Thank you very much.