Your Excellency Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka,
Members of the media,
I am delighted to be in Sri Lanka, in this beautiful city of Colombo.
I have eagerly looked forward to visiting one of our closest neighbours and a nation with which we share so much.
I am truly honoured by your warm welcome and friendship.
I am conscious of the significance of this visit. It is the first standalone bilateral visit to Sri Lanka by an Indian Prime Minister since 1987.
Last month, President Sirisena honoured us by making India his first foreign visit as President. I am glad to be here so soon.
This is how it should be between neighbours. We should meet regularly.
It helps us understand each other better; find solutions to mutual concerns; and, move our relationship forward.
That is what we achieved in my meetings with President Sirisena today.
Economic ties are a key pillar of our relationship.
The progress we have made reflects our shared commitment to stronger economic cooperation.
Our trade has seen impressive growth over the past decade. I am aware of your concerns about trade with India. As I said in Delhi, we will try and address them.
The agreement today on cooperation between our customs authorities is a step in that direction. It will simplify trade and reduce non-tariff barriers on both sides.
We are not just looking at addressing problems. We are also focusing on new opportunities.
Today, Lanka IOC and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation have agreed to jointly develop the Upper Tank Farm of the China Bay Installation in Trincomalee on mutually agreed terms.
A Joint Task Force will be constituted soon to work out the modalities. India stands ready to help Trincomalee become a regional petroleum hub.
I also look forward to early commencement of work on the ground in the Sampur Coal Power Project. This landmark project would meet Sri Lanka`s energy needs.
The ocean economy is a new frontier that holds enormous promise for both of us. It is a priority for our two countries. Our decision to set up a Joint Task Force on Ocean Economy is a significant step, especially because of our proximity.
People are at the heart of our relations. We have taken a number of decisions to encourage people to people contacts, improve connectivity, and increase tourism.
We will extend the facility of "Tourist Visa on Arrival - Electronic Travel Authorization” Scheme to Sri Lankan citizens from the Sinhala and Tamil New Year on 14 April 2015.
Air India will soon start direct flights between New Delhi and Colombo.
We will cooperate in developing a Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka and a Buddhist Circuit in India.
We will organize a Festival of India in Sri Lanka later this year. Sri Lanka is where Buddhism has truly flourished. We will be organizing an exhibition showcasing our Buddhist heritage as part of this festival.
The Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in youth affairs is an important long term investment in our relationship.
India is privileged to be a development partner for Sri Lanka.
We will provide a fresh Line of Credit of up to US$ 318 million for the railways sector. This will be used to procure rolling stock, and to restore and upgrade existing railway track.
We are pleased to provide assistance for the construction of the Rabindranath Tagore auditorium at Ruhuna University in Matara.
Tomorrow, I will visit, some of the projects, being financed by India, including the housing project. I am pleased that more than 27,000 houses have already been built.
The Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka have agreed to enter into a Currency Swap Agreement of US$ 1.5 billion. This will help keep the Sri Lankan rupee stable.
We discussed the fishermen’s issue. This complex issue involves livelihood and humanitarian concerns on both sides. We should handle it from this perspective. At the same time, we need to find a long term solution to this issue.
It is also important that fishermen`s associations of India and Sri Lanka meet at the earliest to find a mutually acceptable arrangement. It can then be taken forward by both governments.
I also took this opportunity to convey our admiration for President Srinisena`s efforts to build an inclusive future for Sri Lanka.
I conveyed our sincere support and good wishes for Sri Lanka`s new journey of peace, reconciliation and progress.
We stand with you in your efforts to build a future that accommodates the aspirations of all sections of society, including the Sri Lankan Tamil community, for a life of equality, justice, peace and dignity in a united Sri Lanka.
We believe that early and full implementation of the 13th Amendment and going beyond it would contribute to this process.
I also conveyed India`s commitment to further strengthening our partnership in advancing peace and prosperity in our region, including our common maritime neighbourhood.
I would like to once again thank President Sirisena for the warm welcome and hospitality.
The meeting today has been very productive. It gives me great confidence and optimism about the future of our relations.
The topic that grabbed our attention in the last few days is the Cheetah. There have been a lot of messages to talk about cheetahs. Be it Arun Kumar Gupta of Uttar Pradesh or N. Ramachandran Raghuram ji of Telangana, be it Rajan ji of Gujarat or Subrata ji of Delhi, people from all corners of the country have expressed happiness over the return of cheetahs to India. 130 crore Indians are happy, full of pride; this is India's love for nature. A common question posed by people about this is “Modi ji, when will we get an opportunity to see the cheetahs?”
Friends, a task force have been formed. This task force will monitor the cheetahs and see how much they have been able to adapt to the environment here. On this basis a decision will be taken after a few months and then you will be able to see the cheetahs. But till then I am assigning some work to all of you. For this, a competition will be organized on the MyGov platform, in which I urge people to share certain things. What should be the name of the campaign that we are running on cheetahs? Can we even think of naming all these cheetahs…. by what name should each of them be called? By the way, if this naming is of traditional nature, then it will be very nice since, anything related to our society and culture, tradition and heritage, draws us easily. Not only that, you should also share how humans should behave with animals! Even in our fundamental duties, emphasis has been laid on Respect for Animals. I appeal to all of you to participate in this competition. Who knows…you may be the first to get an opportunity to see a cheetah as a reward!
My dear countrymen, today the 25th of September is celebrated as the birthday of Deendayal Upadhyay ji, the brilliant humanist, thinker and great son of the country. The more the youth of any country take pride in their identity and honour, the more their original ideas and philosophies attract them. The biggest feature of Deendayal ji's thoughts is that in his lifetime, he had seen the great upheavals of the world. He had become a witness to the struggles of ideologies. That is why, he put forward an idea of 'Ekatma Manavdarshan' and 'Antyodaya' before the country which was completely Indian. Deendayal ji's 'Ekatma Manavdarshan' is such an idea, which in the realm of ideology gives freedom from conflict and prejudice. He again put forth to the world, the Indian philosophy which considers human beings equal. It has been said in our scriptures – 'Atmavat Sarvabhuteshu', that is, we should treat living beings akin to us and similarly treat them such. Deendayal ji taught us how Indian philosophy can guide the world even in the modern, social and political perspective. In a way, he awakened our intellectual consciousness by freeing us from the inferiority complex that prevailed in the country after independence. He also used to say - 'Our freedom can be meaningful only when it expresses our culture and identity'. On the basis of this idea, he had created a vision for the development of the country. Deendayal Upadhyay ji used to say that the measure of the progress of the country is the person at the lowest step. In the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the more we know Deendayal ji, the more we learn from him, the more we will get inspiration to take the country forward.
My dear countrymen, three days later, that is, on the 28th of September, is a special day of Amrit Mahotsav. On this day we will celebrate the birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh ji, the brave son of Mother India. Just before the birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh, an important decision has been taken as a tribute to him. It has been decided that the Chandigarh airport will now be named after Shaheed Bhagat Singh. It had been in the waiting for a long time. I congratulate the people of Chandigarh, Punjab, and Haryana and of the entire country for this decision. Friends, let us take inspiration from our freedom fighters, following their ideals and build the India of their dreams… this is our tribute to them. The memorials of martyrs, the names of places and institutions named after them inspire us with a sense of duty. Just a few days ago, the country has made a similar effort by setting up the statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on Kartavya Path and now the name of Chandigarh Airport after Shaheed Bhagat Singh is another step in that direction. I wish, the way in which we are celebrating special occasions related to freedom fighters during the Amrit Mahotsav, in the same way every youth must try something new on the 28th of September.
By the way, my dear countrymen, all of you have another reason to celebrate the 28th of September. Do you know what it is? I will say only two words and I know your enthusiasm will increase fourfold. These two words are - Surgical Strike! Hasn’t the Josh risen!! Let us celebrate the campaign of the ongoing Amrit Mahotsav in our country with full enthusiasm, sharing our happiness with everyone.
My dear countrymen, it is said - no obstacle can stand in the way of a person who has been forged by the struggles of life. In our everyday life, we also see some friends who are coping with some physical challenge or the other. There are many people who are either unable to hear, or are unable to express themselves through speech. The biggest support for such friends is Sign Language. But a big problem in India for years was that there were no clear gestures, no standards for Sign Language. To overcome these difficulties, the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Center was established in the year 2015. I am happy that this institution has thus far prepared a dictionary comprising ten thousand words and expressions. Two days ago i.e. on the 23rd of September, on the Sign Language Day, many school courses have also been launched in Sign Language. A lot of emphasis has also been given in the National Education Policy to maintain a fixed standard for Sign Language. It is being further disseminated, even by making videos of the dictionary of Sign Language. On YouTube, many people, many institutions, have started their channels in Indian Sign Language, that is, the campaign that started in the country about Sign Language 7-8 years ago, is benefitting millions of my specially-abled brothers and sisters now. Pooja ji, who hails from Haryana, is very happy with the Indian Sign Language. Earlier she was not able to communicate with her son, but after going through Sign Language training in 2018, the lives of both mother and son have become easier. Pooja ji's son also learned Sign Language and in his school he won a prize in storytelling as well. Similarly, Tinkaji has a six-year-old daughter who cannot hear. Tinkaji had made her daughter undergo a Sign Language course but she herself did not know Sign Language, and hence she could not communicate with her daughter. Now Tinkaji has also undergone sign language training and thus both mother and daughter now converse a lot among themselves. Manju ji of Kerala has also benefited a lot from these efforts. Manju ji is not able to hear since birth. Not only that, this has been the situation in the lives of her parents as well. In such a situation, sign language has become a means of communication for the whole family. Now Manju ji herself has decided to become a Sign Language teacher.
Friends, I am also discussing about this in 'Mann Ki Baat' so that the awareness about Indian Sign Language increases. With this, we will be able to help our specially-abled friends more and more. Brothers and sisters, a few days ago, I got a copy of the Hemkosh too written in Braille. Hemkosh is one of the oldest dictionaries of Assamese language. It was prepared in the 19th century. It was edited by eminent linguist Hemchandra Barua ji. The Braille Edition of Hemkosh is around 10,000 pages long and is going to be published in more than 15 volumes. In this, more than 1 lakh words have to be translated. I greatly appreciate this sensitive effort. Every such effort goes a long way in increasing the skill and capability of our specially-abled friends. Today India is also raising the flag of success in Para Sports. We have all been witness to this in many tournaments. Today there are many people who are engaged in promoting the fitness culture among the specially-abled at the grassroots level. This imparts a lot of strength to the self-confidence of the specially-abled.
My dear countrymen, a few days ago, I just met a girl from Surat, Anvi. My meeting with Anvi and Anvi's yoga has been so memorable that I want to tell all the listeners of 'Mann Ki Baat' about it. Friends, Anvi is afflicted with Down’s Syndrome since birth and she has also been battling with serious heart disease since childhood. She also had to undergo open heart surgery when she was only three months old. Despite all these difficulties, neither Anvi, nor her parents ever gave up. Anvi's parents gathered all the information about Down’s syndrome and then decided on the way to reduce Anvi's dependence on others. They started teaching Anvi how to lift a glass of water, how to tie shoe laces, how to button clothes; small things such as those. What the appropriate place of things is, what the good habits are, they tried to teach Anvi all this with a lot of patience. The way daughter Anvi showed her will to learn, displayed her talent, her parents also got a lot of encouragement. They inspired Anvi to learn yoga. The problem was so serious, that Anvi could not even stand on her own two feet…In such a situation, her parents inspired Anvi to learn yoga. When she went to the Yoga coach for the first time, the coach too was in a dilemma whether this innocent girl would be able to do yoga! But even the coach probably had no idea of what stuff Anvi was made of. She started practicing yoga with her mother and now she has become an expert in yoga. Today Anvi participates in competitions across the country and wins medals. Yoga gave a new life to Anvi. Anvi assimilated yoga and imbibed life. Anvi's parents told me that yoga has brought amazing changes in Anvi's life… Now her self-confidence has become remarkable. Yoga has also improved Anvi's physical health and the need for medicines is also lessening. I would like that the listeners of 'Mann Ki Baat' in the country and abroad do a scientific study of the benefits of yoga to Anvi. I think Anvi is a good case study, for those who want to test the power of yoga. Such scientists should come forward with studies based on Anvi’s success and introduce the world to the power of yoga. Any such research could be of great help to children afflicted with Down’s syndrome around the world. Now, the world has accepted that yoga is very effective for physical and mental wellness. Especially in problems related to diabetes and blood pressure, yoga helps a lot. In view of such power of yoga, the United Nations had decided to celebrate the International Yoga Day on the 21st of June. Now, United Nations has recognized and honored another effort of India. This is an effort, started in the year 2017 – the “India Hypertension Control Initiative”. Under this, lakhs of people suffering from blood pressure problems are being treated in government wellness centers. The way this initiative has attracted the attention of international organizations is unprecedented. It is a matter of encouragement for all of us that out of those who have been treated, about half of them are having their blood pressure under control. I congratulate all the people working for this initiative, who made it a success with their untiring hard work.
Friends, the evolutionary journey of human life has been continuously connected with water - be it seas, rivers or ponds. India is also fortunate that due to the long coastline of more than seven and a half thousand kilometers (7500 km), our bond with the sea has remained unbroken. This coastal border passes through many states and islands. India's culture, full of different communities and diversity can be seen flourishing here. Not only that, the cuisine of these coastal areas attracts a lot of people. But along with these interesting things, there is also a sad side. These coastal areas of ours are facing many environmental challenges. Climate Change remains a major threat to Marine Eco-Systems. On the other hand, the litter spread on our beaches is disturbing. It becomes our responsibility to make serious and continuous efforts for these challenges. Here I would like to talk about an effort of Coastal Cleaning in the coastal areas of the country 'Swachh Sagar - Surakshit Sagar'. This campaign, which started on the 5th of July culminated on the 17thof September, the day of Vishwakarma Jayanti. This day was also Coastal Clean Up Day. This campaign which started in the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav lasted for 75 days. Public participation in this was a sight to behold. During this effort, many cleanliness related programs were seen for the entire two and a half months. A long human chain was made in Goa. During the Ganpati immersion in Kakinada, people were told about the harm caused by plastic. About 5000 young friends from the NSS collected more than 30 tonnes of plastic. Within three days in Odisha, more than 20 thousand school students took a pledge that they would inspire their family and people along with them as well, for the Swachh Sagar – Surakshit Sagar initiative. I would like to congratulate all the people who took part in this campaign.
When I interact with Elected Officials, especially the mayors of cities and sarpanches of villages, I urge them to include Local Communities and Local Organizations in efforts like cleanliness as well as adopt innovative methods.
There is a team in Bangalore - Youth for Parivartan. For the last eight years, this team has been working on cleanliness and other community activities. Their motto is very clear – 'Stop Complaining, Start Acting'. This team has so far beautified more than 370 places across the city. The campaign of Youth for Parivartan has connected 100 to 150 (150) citizens at every place. Every Sunday this program starts in the morning and continues till noon. In this task, not only is the garbage lifted, the work of painting the walls and making artistic sketches is also done. At many places, you can also see sketches of famous people and inspirational quotes by them. Following upon the efforts of Youth For Parivartan of Bangalore, I would also like to tell you about the 'Kabaad se Jugaad' campaign of Meerut. This campaign is related to the protection of the environment as well as the beautification of the city. The special thing about this campaign is that, in this, waste such as iron scrap, plastic waste, old tires and drums are used. This campaign is also an example of how to beautify public places at a low cost. I appreciate all the people involved in this campaign from the core of my heart.
My dear countrymen, at this time there is a festive spirit all around the country. Tomorrow is the first day of Navaratri. In this, we will worship the first avatar of Goddess 'Maa Shailputri'. From here, there will be nine days of self discipline, restraint and fasting, then there will also be the festival of Vijayadashami. That is, if we look at it in a way, we will find that along with faith and spirituality, how a profound message is hidden in our festivals. The attainment of ‘Siddhi’ through discipline and restraint, and then the festival of victory, that’s the way to achieve any goal in life. After Dussehra, the festival of Dhanteras and Diwali will follow.
Friends, during the past years, a new resolution of the country has also been associated with our festivals. You all know, this is the resolution of 'Vocal for Local'. We now include our local artisans, craftsmen and traders in the joy of festivals. On the occasion of Bapu's birth anniversary on the 2nd of October, we have to take a pledge to intensify this campaign. Khadi, handloom, handicrafts…along with all these products, you must buy local goods. After all, the true joy of this festival is also when everyone becomes a part of it. Therefore, people associated with the work of local products also have to be supported by us. A good way is to include these type of products in whatever gifts we give during the festival.
At this time, this campaign is also special because during the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, we are also onwards with the goal of a self-reliant India. Which, in the real sense, will be a true tribute to the freedom fighters. That's why I request you to break all the records this time to buy these products of Khadi, handloom or handicrafts. We have seen that polythene bags are also being used a lot for packing and packaging during festivals. The harmful litter of polythene on the festivals observing cleanliness is also against the spirit of our festivals. Therefore, we should use only locally made non-plastic bags. The trend of jute, cotton, banana fibre, many such traditional bags is on the rise once again. It is our duty to promote them on the occasion of festivals, and take care of our health and environment along with cleanliness.
My dear countrymen, it is said in our scriptures – 'Parhit Saris Dharam Nahi Bhai' That is, there is no other Dharma like doing good to others, serving others, doing charity. Recently, in the country, another glimpse of this spirit of social service was seen. You must have also seen that people are coming forward and are adopting one TB patient or the other, taking the lead in ensuring a nutritious diet. Actually, it is a part of the TB Free India campaign, whose basis is public participation; a sense of duty. It is possible to cure TB with the right nutrition, with the right medicines at the right time. I believe that with this power of public participation, India will definitely be free from TB by the year 2025.
Friends, I have also come to know such an example from the Union Territories of Dadra-Nagar Haveli and Daman-Diu, which touches the heart. Jinu Rawatiya ji, who lives in a tribal area here, has written that under the ongoing village adoption program, students of the medical college have adopted 50 villages. It also includes the village of Jinu Ji. These medical students make the people of the village aware to avoid illness, also help in the recuperation, and also impart information about the schemes of the government. This spirit of philanthropy has brought new joy in the lives of the people living in the villages. I congratulate all the students of the medical college for this endeavor.
Friends,a variety of new topics are being discussed in 'Mann Ki Baat'. Many times, through this program, we get an opportunity to delve into the depth of some old subjects. Last month in 'Mann Ki Baat', I discussed about coarse cereals, and celebrating the year 2023 as 'International Millet Year'. People are very curious about this topic. I have received many such letters in which people have written how they have made millets a part of their daily diet. Some people have also referred to traditional dishes made from millets. These are signs of a big change. Seeing this enthusiasm of people, I think that we should prepare an e-book together, in which people can share their experiences and dishes made from millets, so that, before the start of the International Millet Year, we will have a public encyclopedia based on millets which can be published on the MyGov portal.
Friends, that’s all this time in 'Mann Ki Baat', but before I leave, I want to tell you about the National Games as well. National Games are being organized in Gujarat from the 29th of September. This is a very special occasion, because the National Games are being organized after many years. The previous events had to be canceled due to the Covid pandemic. My very best wishes to every player who takes part in this sports meet. To raise the enthusiasm of the players on this day, I will be in their midst. All of you must also follow the National Games and encourage our players. I now take leave of you. We will meet again next month with new topics in 'Mann Ki Baat'.