My dear fellow citizens, Namaskar!
It’s summer. Everybody makes plans for their summer holidays. Since this is the season of mangoes, we crave for the flavour and taste of this fruit. Sometimes we feel a nap in the afternoon would be nice. But this year the sweltering heat has spoilt the fun for everybody.
It is quite natural for the nation to feel concerned about the unrelenting heat. On top of it, due to continuous drought over the past couple of years, the usual water storage facilities have been adversely affected. Sometimes due to encroachment, sometimes due to silting, the inflow of water into reservoirs and other water bodies gets blocked. As a result, the reservoirs store much less water than their capacity. Worse, because of this cycle that has been going on for years, the capacity itself of these reservoirs is gradually reduced. To cope with the drought and to provide relief from the water crisis, governments are making efforts. But that’s not all. I have noticed that citizens are doing commendable work to help deal with the situation. Awareness is now seen in many villages. Only those who have faced shortage of water know the real value of water. Hence, in such places they are very sensitive about water and are equally active in doing something to deal with the shortage of water.
I was recently told that in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, the Hivrebazaar Gram Panchayat and its villagers have addressed the problem of water shortage by treating it as a major and delicate issue. One can find many villages where there is a desire to store water. At Hivrebazaar the farmers tackled the issue by changing the cropping pattern. They have decided to give up cultivation of those crops that require a lot of water, like sugarcane and banana. It sounds very simple, but in reality it is not so. What a big collective decision this must have been? If one tells the owners of factories that consume a lot of water about the consequences of this consumption and requests them to shut down their units, one can well imagine what the response would be. But see the sensibility of these farmer brothers. When they realised that the cultivation of the sugarcane should be given up because it consumed a lot of water, they went ahead and did it. Instead of sugarcane, they have taken to such crops like fruits and vegetables that require much less water. Farmers in this village have taken so many initiatives such as using sprinklers, drip irrigation techniques, water harvesting and water recharging, that today their village is strong enough to cope with the water crisis that they face. I might be talking of a small place like Hivrebazaar, but there must be many other such villages. I extend my hearty felicitations to such villagers for their fine work.
I was told that in Devas district of Madhya Pradesh, the Gorva Gram Panchayat took up the drive to create farm ponds. They have already created 27 farm ponds. Due to this there has been an increase in the ground water level. Whenever water was required for crops, farmers had access to it. This panchayat has given a rough estimate that their agricultural production has increased by 20 per cent. Not only has water been saved, the quality of water has also vastly improved with the water level increasing. World over it is said that potable water can contributing factor for GDP growth. It certainly contributes to better health.
When the government used railways to transport water to Latur, it became news for the world. There is no doubt that the swift manner in which Indian Railways has acted is praiseworthy. But villagers who have taken various initiatives to save water also deserve equal amount of praise. Indeed, I would say they deserve greater praise. There are several such schemes and programmes that are run by citizens but these doesn’t get our attention. The good work done by the government sometimes does come to our notice. If we look around us, we will see that people are making an effort to combat the menace of drought by trying to find solutions that are new and innovative.
It is human nature that no matter how many perils people face, when they hear a good news from any corner, they feel as if the entire crisis is over. Thus ever since the day it became public knowledge that rainfall this year is expected to be between 106% and 110% it seems as if tidings of peace and happiness have come. There is still some time for the monsoon to arrive, but the news of good rains has already brought joy. At the same time we must remember that a good monsoon offers both an opportunity and a challenge. Can we start a drive to save water in every village from now on itself? Farmers need fertile soil in their fields to grow crops. This time why can’t we take the soil from the bottom of ponds for our fields? If we were to do this, the quality of the soil in our fields would improve and the capacity of ponds to store water would increase. Can we fill empty cement and fertiliser bags with pebbles and sand and use them to stop water from flowing out through breaches? If we were to stop water from draining out for five days, for seven days, it would seep into the ground and the water level would come up. There would be sufficient water in our water-wells. Thus we should strive to retain as much water as possible. The water of a village will be preserved there if we work for it in a determined manner collectively. Therefore, notwithstanding the current water scarcity and drought situation, we have an opportunity during coming one and half months to prepare to harvest rainwater.
I have always said that people who visit Porbandar, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, can also see there the underground tanks constructed about 200 years ago, that were built to save rain water. Water collected in these tanks remained pure.
Mr. Kumar Krishna has asked on MyGov whether “the cleaning of Ganga will be possible while we our alive”. His concern is quite natural because it has been nearly 30 years since work began in this direction. Many governments came, plans were made to clean Ganga, and a lot of expenditure was incurred without showing results. For this reason there must be crores of Indians like Kumar Krishna who have the same question in their hearts. For those who are religiously inclined, Ganga is the path to salvation for them. I too accept this importance of Ganga. But more than that, Ganga is the giver of life. We get our daily bread from Ganga, we get our earnings from Ganga, and we get a new source of energy from Ganga to live our lives. The flow of Ganga adds momentum to the economic pace of the country. Bhagirath did bring down the river Ganga for us, but to save it, we need crores of Bhagiraths. The project to clean Ganga cannot be successful without mass participation by the people. So we all will have to become agents of change to achieve cleanliness. We shall have to continuously keep on repeating this thing. There are many efforts being made by the government. We are seeking the full cooperation of all the states through which Ganga flows. We are also trying to get voluntary organisations to join us in this effort. We have taken several steps for surface cleaning and to stop industrial pollution. Every day, effluents and garbage in a large quantity flow into Ganga through drains. At Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Patna – trash skimmers have been deployed which clean the river while floating on it. All local bodies have been given this facility and they have been urged to carry on with this work continuously and clean all the garbage from the river. I have been told a few days ago that in places where this work is being carried out properly nearly 3 to 11 tonnes of garbage are being taken out of the river every day. So it would be correct to say that pollutants in such a large quantity are being stopped from getting into the river. In the coming days, we have plans to deploy such trash skimmers at other places also and the benefits of it will be felt by the people living on the banks of Ganga and Yamuna.
To monitor and control industrial pollution, an action plan has been prepared with the pulp and paper, distillery and sugar industries, and it has also been implemented to some extent. I feel it will yield good results. I am very happy that in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, where there was discharge from distilleries, there has been a change for the better. Officers have told me that they have been successful in securing zero liquid discharge. The discharge from the pulp and paper industry or the liquor industry is almost coming to an end. All these things are a sign that we are moving in the right direction and awareness has also increased. I have seen that not just on the banks of Ganga, even in far off South if one meets a person, he is sure to ask, “ Sir, will Ganga be cleaned?” This faith and hope of the common people is going to ensure success in the cleaning of Ganga. People are even giving donations for this. Thus this effort is being made quite meticulously.
My dear fellow citizens, today is the 24th of April. This is observed as Panchayati Raj Day in India. On this day, the Panchayati Raj system was implemented in our country. Panchayati Raj system has gradually spread to the entire country and is functioning successfully as an important unit of our democratic system of governance.
We celebrated 14th April as the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedekar and today we celebrate 24th April as Panchayati Raj Day. This was such a fortunate coincidence. From the birth anniversary of the great man who gave us the Constitution of India, to 24th April, the day Panchayati Raj was introduced in our country to empower our villages, which are the strongest link of our Constitution. It inspired linking these two dates. For this reason, the Government of India, along with the cooperation of the State Governments, has launched a campaign – “From Gram Uday to Bharat Uday” – From the Rise of Villages to the Ascent of India, over the 10-day period between 14th April and 24th April.
It was my good fortune that on 14th April, the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar, I got the opportunity to visit his birthplace Mhow and pay my respects at that sacred place. And today, on 24th April, I am going to Jharkhand, where mostly my tribal brothers and sisters stay. In Jharkhand I am going to celebrate Panchayati Raj Divas. At 3 in the afternoon I shall be talking to all panchayats of the country. This campaign has worked in a major way to generate awareness. How can the democratic institutions at the village level, in every corner of India, be strengthened? How can the villages become self-reliant? How can villages plan programmes for their own development? There should be due importance laid on physical and social infrastructure. There should be no school dropouts in villages and the campaign to educate the girl child (Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Abhiyan) should be successfully carried out. The birth of the girl child should be celebrated in a big way. There should be some plans to do that. In some villages people organised food donation on this occasion. It happens very rarely that so many different programmes go on at the same time in so many villages of India. I congratulate all the State Governments and the village heads. They have gone about these programmes in a very novel way for the welfare of villages, for the development of villages and for the strengthening of democracy. The awareness that has come about in villages guarantees a new progress for India. The foundation for the progress of India is the rise of its villages; so if we all keep laying stress on the progress of the villages, we shall continue to get the desired results.
Sharmila Dharpure from Mumbai has expressed her concern to me through her phone call. Sound byte-
“Mr. Prime Minister Namaskar. I am Sharmila Dharpure speaking from Mumbai. I have a question for you about the school and college education. For the last so many years, a strong need for reforms has been felt in the education sector. Either the required amount of schools and colleges are not there or else the quality in education is lacking. It has been often found that the children complete their schooling but they still don’t have knowledge about the most basic things and so they lag behind in this competitive world. What are your views? How do you wish to bring about reforms?”
Sharmilaji, your concern is quite genuine. Today in every home, the first thing that the parents dream of is to give their children good education. A house, a car - all that comes later. And for a country like India, this common sentiment of the people is a very big force. To educate their children and educate them well, this concern for the children to get good education should increase further and a greater awareness should come about. I believe that when there is awareness in the family, it impacts the school and has an impact on teachers as well. The child is also aware of the purpose for which he or she goes to school. So I would appeal to all guardians and parents to give not just enough time and attention to their children but also to everything that’s happenings in their school. And if something strikes your attention, please go to the school and discuss it with the teachers yourself. Vigilance can be of help to reduce many shortcomings in the education system. People’s participation will go a long way in achieving this.
Every Government in our country has laid stress on education and every Government has made efforts for it in its own way. It is true that for a long time our focus has been on setting up educational institutions, expanding the system of education, building schools, building colleges, recruiting teachers, ensuring maximum attendance of children. So priority has been given in a way to the spread of education. This was necessary. But today more than expanding education what is necessary is to improve the quality of education. We have already done a lot towards expanding education. Now we will have to focus on quality education. We will have to shift our priority from literacy campaign to good education. Till now we concentrated on the outlay for education. The time has come to focus on the outcome of it. Till now the stress has been on how many are attending school. From now onward, more than schooling, we will have to lay stress on learning. Till now we have heard the echo of the mantra of Enrolment! Enrolment! Enrolment! But now we will have to turn our attention to providing good education, worthy education to children who have made it to schools. You must have seen the Budget of the present government. An effort is being made to provide quality education. But it is true we still have a long way to go. If we, 125 crore Indians, resolve, we can cover that distance. Sharmila ji has rightly said that we do need to bring reforms for quality education.
You must have noticed in the Budget that we have decided to do something unconventional. In the Budget, we have made 10 government universities and 10 private universities free from government control and asked them to accept the challenge to flourish on their own. We have asked them to come up with what they would like to do to become the best universities. We have done this with the intention of giving them a free hand. Indian universities can also compete with world class universities, and they should. Along with importance to education, there is importance to skill. Likewise, technology plays a very big role in education. Long distance education and technology will make the task of education simpler. I believe that the results of this move are going to be seen in the near future.
Since a long time people have been asking me questions on one topic. Some have written on my web portal mygov.in, others have written to me on NarendraModiApp. It’s mostly the youth who write to me.
“Mr. Prime Minister Namaskar, I am Mona Karnwal from Bijnore. For the youth in today’s age, along with studies, sports are also of great importance. They should have a feeling of team spirit and the qualities of a good leader for their overall holistic development. I state this from my own experience because I have served in the Bharat Scouts and Guides and this had a very good impact upon my life. I want you to motivate the youth as much as you can, and I want the government to also promote NCC, NSS and the Bharat Scouts and Guides as much as possible.”
You people have been sending me so many suggestions that one day I felt that first of all I must talk to these people. It was under pressure from you people, following your suggestions, that I recently called for a meeting with the chiefs of NCC, NSS, Bharat Scouts and Guides, Red Cross and the Nehru Yuva Kendra. I asked them if they have ever had a meeting before, and they said that since Independence, this was the first time that they were attending a meeting like this. So first I would like to felicitate my young friends who put pressure on me, the result of which was that I held this meeting. I felt glad that I met them. I felt the need for greater coordination. They are doing a lot in their own way but if work is done collectively, in an organized manner, then these various organizations of ours can bring about huge results. They are spread so wide, reaching out to so many families. I saw an answer in the way they had spread far and wide and were filled with enthusiasm, they had the resolve to do something. It’s true that I myself have been a cadet in the NCC and so I know firsthand how one acquires a fresh perspective through such organizations. Children draw inspiration and develops a national perspective. I did get the benefit of that in my childhood. I believe that we should infuse a new life, a new force into these organizations. This time I put some issues before them. I told them that for this season why don’t all these organizations and our youth make an effort for water conservation. We could collectively try and stop open defecation in so many blocks and so many districts. What kind of programmes can we make to unite our country? Can we have a common youth song for all these organizations? We spoke on many issues.
Today, I appeal to you all as well. Please suggest the perfect ideas for these youth organizations. Do we need to add anything new in their functioning and their programmes? If you write to me on my NarendraModiApp , I will send them to the right place. After this meeting, I feel they are going to gain a new momentum. Now even you will wish to join one of them.
My dear fellow citizens, I now wish to talk about something that will compel us all to think. I view it also as something that is going to shake us all. You must have seen for yourself that the political situation in our country is such that in the previous elections political parties made promises of giving each household 9 to 12 gas cylinders. And each political party felt that if they had to politically approach the middle class society, then gas cylinder was a major issue. On the other hand, economists have put constant pressure to reduce the subsidy on gas cylinders. For this reason, many committees would sit which would receive many proposals and suggestions on the issue of lessening the gas subsidy. Crores of rupees would be spent on these committees. But the matter would remain at a standstill. This has been everybody’s experience. No one ever thought beyond this.
Today, my dear fellow citizens, I have utmost pleasure in placing before you all my own account on this. I have chosen the third way out and that is the path of placing trust and confidence in the people and the masses. At times we political leaders should trust our people more than we trust ourselves. We should have implicit faith in the people. I had once said to you that if you can bear the expense of 1500-2000 rupees per year, then why don’t you give up your subsidy on gas? This could be of use to poor households. I had said it just like that, but today I can say with confidence that I am indeed very proud of you all. One crore families have voluntarily given up their subsidy on gas cylinders. These one crore are not wealthy families. Among them are retired teachers, retired clerks, farmers, small shopkeepers. These are middle class and lower middle class families that have given up their subsidy. Now look at the other, rather unique, side of it. They could have given up their subsidy through the App on their mobile, going online or by giving a missed call over the telephone. There were many options. But it has been estimated that more than 80% of these one crore families chose to go to the distributor, stand in a queue and give in writing that they wish to surrender their subsidy.
My dear fellow citizens, this is not a small matter. If the government gives even a small concession on tax or exemption from tax, then for a whole week we hear praise for that government being splashed on TV channels and in newspapers. Here, these one crore families have given up their subsidy. And in our country subsidy has turned into a kind of a right that people expect. A thing like that they have chosen to give up.
I would like to salute those one crore families. I humbly bow to them because they have compelled political leaders to think of coming up with something new. This has also forced the economists of the country to think differently. Even the global economic experts who used to live in a world of their calculations would find this phenomenon to be beyond their limits of traditional wisdom. At some point of time they will also have to think of this novel experience that has defied conventional thinking. One crore families giving up their subsidy on gas cylinders and in return one crore poor families getting gas cylinders with the money that is saved from the one crore families that have given up their subsidy. Externally, it appears just an incident But, its extraordinary lesson is that if you place faith in the people, it leads to most handsome achievements.
I would like to specially appeal to the entire political class to place implicit faith in the people. That will fetch such terrific results that one could have never ever imagined. We should move in this direction. I have always felt this way, like when I felt why Class 3 and Class 4 employees should be made to go through interviews. We should trust the person who has given the exams and submitted the marks.
Sometimes I feel that we should publicly announce that today on this route of the railways there will be no ticket checker. Let’s see what happens when we place faith in the people of India. We can undertake several such experiments. Once we place faith and trust in the people of India, we can get incomparable results. Anyway, these are just some personal thoughts. We cannot make these into government rules but we can certainly create that kind of an atmosphere. This atmosphere has not been created by any political leader but by one crore families of India.
A person called Ravi has written to me – “Good News Everyday --- he writes -- please ask your officials to post about one good incident every day. Each newspaper and news channel has bad news for its every ‘breaking news’. Is there not anything good happening around in this country populated by 125 crore people? Please change this situation.”
Ravi ji has expressed his anger but I think he is not venting his anger on me but on the prevailing conditions. You may remember that the former President of India, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, used to always say, “Please print only positive news on the front page of the newspaper”. He used to continuously repeat that.
Some days back a newspaper had written a letter to me saying that they had decided that on Mondays they would not give any negative news but only positive news. These days I have noticed that some T.V. channels have begun setting aside some time for positive news.
So it is right to say that there is an atmosphere all around of positive news. And everybody feels that the people should get the right news and good news. It is true that even if the most highly placed men and women relate the best possible things in the best possible words and in the best possible manner, good news has a better impact than that. Good news becomes the greatest reason and inspiration to do something good.
It is true that the more we give prominence to good things, the less space there will be for bad things. If we light a lamp, the darkness is sure to be dispelled. You all must be aware that the government has started a website,transforming india. On this you get news of positive happenings, not just of the government but also of the people around. This is a portal where even you can send news of any good thing that’s happened to you. You can contribute to the site.
Raviji you have given a good suggestion, but please don’t get angry with me. We all should strive together to do something positive, talk about something positive, to spread something positive.
There is one great speciality of our country -- the Kumbh Mela. The Kumbh Mela can become the centre of tourist attraction as well. Very few know that since a long time, crores and crores of people have gathered on the river-banks for this festival. The peaceful atmosphere at the Kumbh Mela gives moments of tranquillity to the soul. These festivals, from the point of view of organization, event management and people’s participation, set new and high standards. I have been noticing for the last two days that many people have uploaded pictures of the Simhastha Kumbh Mela. I would like the Tourism Department of the Government of India and the State Government to hold a photo competition on this occasion. People should be encouraged to take the finest photographs and upload them. What an atmosphere that would create. People will also come to know of the myriad and different activities going on in every corner of the Kumbh Mela. This can surely be done.
It’s true that I met the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh recently and he told me that they have laid special emphasis on cleanliness. It is not that the cleanliness remains confined to that place. People should carry back the message of cleanliness with them. I believe that even if the Kumbh Mela is a religious and spiritual occasion, we can turn it into a social occasion. We can turn it into an occasion of imbibing good values. It can become a reason to carry good resolutions and good habits to all the villages. We should use each Kumbh Mela to make people aware of how we can increase our value for water, our faith in water; how we can spread the message of water conservation. We should do this.
My dear fellow citizens, I will surely meet you all once in the evening on this important occasion of Panchayati Raj Divas today. My heartiest thanks to you all. As always, the unshakeable bond between your inner thoughts and those of mine gives me immense pleasure.