Bijapur (Chhattisgarh), April 14 : Invoking Dalit icon Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar on his 127th birth anniversary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday sought to woo Dalits and tribals, saying he could become PM because of Ambedkar’s contributions to the society and exhorted Maoists to join the mainstream for development and assured that he would protect their rights as envisaged in the Constitution.
After unveiling several pro-poor programmes, including launch of “Ayushman Bharat” scheme in Maoist-affected Baster region of Chhattisgarh, the Prime Minister, who began and ended his speech with “Jai Bheema”, vowed to transform 115 “aspirational districts” of the country into “ambitious districts” by adopting different strategies, including a “mass movement”.
“Babasaheb was well educated. If he wanted he could have gone to some foreign country and could have spent a luxurious life. Instead, he devoted his life to the upliftment of the backward community, who were denied their rights. The communities, which were denied their rights, have woken up now. They now want development. They are now aspiring for their rights. This is all because of Babasaheb Ambedkar,” he said.
Under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, he inaugurated first of the 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres the government aims to set up by 2022 for comprehensive primary health care for preventive, promotive and curative care.
Modi said the Dalit icon was instrumental in getting people from backward classes their rights.
“If a person from a backward society like me can become the Prime Minister, it is because of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s contribution,” he said.
Modi — the first Prime Minister to visit Bijapur, which was earlier a part of Dantewada district — used the occasion to exhort the youth to adopt the path of development and have faith in country’s Constitution.
“I would like to tell the youth on the path of violence that the Constitution takes care of your rights. It is government’s duty to protect your rights. You need not pick arms and destroy your lives,” he said.
Modi told the gathering that the people behind the violent activities were from outside the state and it was they who were responsible for the deaths of local youths.
“None of their chiefs is from your area. They have come from outside to your state. If you read their names, surnames, you will understand who they are. They do not die. They hide safely in the jungles. They send your children in front to face the bullet. Would you leave your children to such people?”
“The government is duty-bound to ensure school education to children and remuneration to agriculture produce,” he said.
Stating that the security personnel risked their lives for smooth functioning of schools and construction of roads, Modi appealed to the people to follow the path of development.
The Prime Minister maintained that the issue of regional imbalance could be resolved through various types of connectivity like road, railway, air and information technology.
He also appealed to the people from the backward districts to join a mass movement with a different approach leveraging information technology for transformation.
He said over 100 districts in the country including Chattisgarh’s Bijapur were backward even 70 years after the Independence.
“If the district administration, public representatives and the people join hands in a mass movement, unprecedented results can be achieved. There will be no change using the old ways. If we have new targets, we need new ways,” Modi said explaining the significance of holding this event in Bijapur.
He said the government was working with a different approach for 115 backward districts, which were categorised as “aspirational districts” and “ambitious districts”.
“Each district faces its own challenges, and therefore, a different strategy is required in each case,” he said.
Modi also inaugurated the “Van Dhan Yojana”, which aims at empowering tribal communities, and dedicated the Bhanupratappur-Gudum railway line to the nation by flagging off a train between Dalli Rajhara and Bhanupratappur.
The Prime Minister appreciated Chief Minister Raman Singh for the development works undertaken in the state over the last 14 years. He made special mention of the development initiatives carried out in Chhattisgarh’s southern districts of Sukma, Dantewada and Bijapur.
“Bastar is changing now. It would soon be recognised as an economic hub,” he pointed out.
Before addressing the gathering, Modi presented a pair of slippers to a tribal woman — one of the beneficiaries of “Charan Paduka” scheme. He surprised thousands of people when he walked up to her, bent down and helped the bare-footed woman wear her new pair of slippers.
This hugely symbolic gesture of the Prime Minister was welcomed by a thunderous applause from the audience.
CM Singh and Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda, who were standing close to Modi, were also taken aback and joined the gathering in applauding him.
Singh dubbed Prime Minister’s visit as a historical moment for Chhattisgarh, saying it would inspire the state to fasten its pace of development.
He said it was Modi’s love and affection for the state that he was leaving no stone unturned for the development of the state.
(Brajendra Nath Singh can be contacted at [email protected])