My dear countrymen, my heartiest and best Deepawali wishes to all of you. Deepawali is celebrated with great fervor and enthusiasm throughout our country. In India almost on all 365 days of the year, one festival or the other is celebrated in some part of the country. Somebody watching from a distance would genuinely feel that festivity is a synonym for the Indian way of life, and this is natural too. Right from the vedic period to the present day, there has been a tradition of festivities in India which, of course, has matched the occasions at different periods of time. We have also witnessed the courage to do away with outdated traditions. And, the transformations in the manner of celebrating these festivals according to changing times and changing social mores have been accepted and adopted very naturally.
However, we can very well discern one characteristic that this entire journey of Indian festivals, its widespread effect, its depth, its reach to each individual are all interlinked with one spirit which exhorts evolution from the ‘self’ to the ‘whole’, the ‘collective existence’. The idea is that there should be a development of individuals and their personalities, the limited scope of thinking must expand and cover not only the whole society but, in fact, the whole universe. And this is achieved through these festivals. Indian festivals at times appear like community feasts but in that also the consciousness has been to there as to what should be or should not be eaten during that particular season. What crop has been harvested by the farmers and how that yield is to be made a part of the festivities, what food habits will be appropriate in a particular season from the health point of view.
Our ancestors had very scientifically encompassed all these aspects in our festivals. Today, the whole world is talking about the environment. Destruction of nature is a matter of great concern. India’s tradition of celebrating festivals has been one to strengthen our love for nature and to develop each individual, right from childhood, as a cultured person. Festivals have evoked a sense of responsibility towards everything, be it trees, plants, rivers, animals, mountains, birds, etc. Nowadays we observe Sunday as a holiday but in our older generations, labourers, fishermen and others from such sections of society used to observe holidays on New Moon, that is Amavasya and Full Moon, that is Poornima. And science has proved that on these days changes take place impacting the sea-water; other factors affect nature and these also influence the human mind. Thus we had developed the tradition to observe our holidays also intertwined with the phenomena of the Universe keeping the scientific aspects in focus.
Now when we celebrate Diwali, as I said, each of our festivals carries a message and teaches us something. The festival of lights Deepawali conveys the message of ‘TAMSO MA JYOTIRGAMAYA’, to move from darkness to light. And, this darkness here does not merely signify the absence of light; it is also the darkness of superstition and blind-faith, darkness of ignorance, darkness of poverty and also darkness of social evils. By lighting lamps on Diwali, we try to overcome the darkness of these social shortcomings and individual blemishes – attaining freedom from this darkness is the real essence of the festival of lights Deepawali, which we celebrate by lighting an earthen lamp, a ‘diya’.
One thing that all of us know very well is that wherever in India we go, whether to the home of the richest of the rich or to the humble dwelling of the poorest of the poor, during the Diwali festival we can see a cleanliness campaign going on in every household. Every nook and corner of the house is cleaned. The less privileged also put in all their efforts to clean their modest earthen utensils because it is Diwali time. Thus, Diwali also encompasses a campaign of cleanliness. But the need of the hour is that not only individual houses but the entire premises, all the neighbourhood, the whole village be cleaned. We have to expand and spread this habit and tradition.
Now, the festival of Deepawali is not confined to the borders of India. In almost all countries of the world, Deepawali is celebrated in one way or the other. Many Governments in the world, their Parliaments and also their ruling classes are joining Deepawali festivities. From countries of the East to those of the West, from developed nations to developing nations and from countries of Africa to Ireland – everywhere we can see the glow and revelry of Deepawali. You may be aware that in America, the US Postal Service has released a special postage stamp on Deepawali this time. The Prime Minister of Canada has shared on Twitter a picture of him lighting a lamp on the occasion of Diwali. British premier Theresa May organised a reception in London involving all communities on Deepawali in which she herself participated. And, there would hardly be a city in UK where Diwali is not celebrated with a great pomp and show. The Prime Minister of Singapore has posted a picture on Instagram and has shared it proudly with the whole world. And, what is that picture about! It shows 16 women MPs of Singapore Parliament standing outside the Parliament all clad in Indian Sarees and this photo has gone viral. All this has been done on the occasion of Deepawali. In Singapore, Diwali celebrations are in full swing in almost all neighbourhoods. The Australian Prime Minister has conveyed his greetings to the Indian community and has called upon all sections of societies to join in the Diwali festivities in various Australian cities. The Prime Minister of New Zealand had recently come to India. He told me that he would have to go back soon as he had to participate in Diwali celebrations there. What I mean to say is that the festival of lights, Deepawali is becoming a festival of inspiration for the world community also to move from darkness to light.
On Deepawali people adorn good clothes, enjoy delicious food items and along with these there is also the bursting of fire-crackers in a big way. The children and the young people very much enjoy this bursting of crackers. But, at times children indulge in reckless bravado and take unnecessary risks. They unwittingly invite a mishap in trying to create a big blast by joining and bursting many crackers together. They are not even mindful of their surroundings, which might have incendiary items leading to fire accidents. News of such mishaps, fire breakouts and even tragic casualties become a cause of big concern on Deepawali. To add to these woes, there is a situation of even the doctors in big numbers being unavailable as they too are away celebrating Deepawali with their families. I specially urge the parents and guardians to be with their children with a watchful eye when they burst firecrackers, so that there is no carelessness or undue audacity and accidents and mishaps are avoided.
In India, the celebration of Diwali lasts for a number of days. It is not restricted to just one day. With a string of festive events such as Govardhan Puja, Bhai Dooj, Laabh Panchmi till Kartik Purnima – this festival of lights goes on for quite a long period of time. Alongside the festivities of Deepawali, we also prepare to celebrate Chhathh Pooja. This Chhathh Pooja is a very important festival in the Eastern parts of our country. It is a big occasion there which lasts for four days. But this also has a unique significance in that it gives a very special message to society. Chhathh Upasana is actually an occasion to pray to the Sun God who gives us so much directly and indirectly that it cannot even be measured by us. And this Chhathh Pooja is for paying obeisance to the almighty Sun. But the adage is that people only pray to the rising sun. However, during the Chhathh Pooja, people worship the setting Sun as well. There is a very profound social message behind this tradition.
When I speak of the Deepawali festival or about the Chhathh Pooja – this is actually an occasion to convey my best wishes to you. But, there is one more thing I have to do. I have to specially thank my countrymen and express my gratitude to them. In the backdrop of the disturbing incidents taking place during the past few months, the soldiers of our defence forces have been sacrificing their all for our peace and happiness. The sacrifice, devotion and zeal of the Jawans of our security forces occupies my mind and heart, my emotional universe all the time. And from that emanated my feeling and resolve that this Diwali must be dedicated to our security forces. I invited my countrymen to join the ‘Sandesh to Soldiers’ campaign. And today, in all humility, I wish to proclaim that there would not be a single soul in India who would not have unbounded love for our Jawans, a sense of deep pride in the members of our security forces. The way these sentiments have been expressed is surely giving strength to each of our countrymen. Your messages to the Jawans of our security forces have proved to be a great morale booster which cannot be easily imagined. Schools, colleges, students, villages, the underprivileged, traders, shopkeepers, political leaders, sportspersons, people from the cine world have all lit a lamp for the country’s Jawans, have joined in this campaign of sending a message of greetings and salutation to our Jawans. The media also made this festival of lights into an opportunity and an occasion to express gratitude towards our armed forces. And why should it not be so? Our Jawans from BSF, CRPF, Indo Tibetan Border Police, Assam Rifles, Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and many more as I am not able to include all by names are valiantly facing great hardships in the line of duty. While we are celebrating Diwali in the comforts of our homes, some of these Jawans are deployed in the desert areas, others are guarding the towering Himalayan peaks, some are guarding our industrial establishments and some are maintaining security vigil at the airports. What great responsibilities they have on their shoulders! And so if we remember them also while we are in our festive mood, our remembrance gets a new vigour which gets imparted to them also and they feel a new strength. Just one message can enhance their capability and our country has shown it. I earnestly express my gratitude to all our countrymen and women for this gesture. Those who are artistically talented, have expressed themselves through their art. Some persons prepared drawings, made Rangolis, drew cartoons. Those blessed with the blessings of Goddess Saraswati composed poems and couplets. Some came up with inspiring and motivating slogans. It appears that my NarendraModiApp and MyGov have been overwhelmingly filled with emotional messages, in the shape of words, in the form of ‘Pinchhi’, colours, compositions, etc., encompassing innumerable emotions from all; I can imagine how proud our soldiers feel at this moment. Many messages and other expression forms have been received on ‘Sandesh to Soldiers’ hashtag. As a symbol of these, I would like to read a poem which has been sent by Shriman Ashwani Kumar.
Ashwani ji has written: -
I celebrate the festival, feel happy and smile
I celebrate the festival, fee happy and smile
All this is because you are there,
I want to tell you today that you are the guardian of my freedom,
My gift of joy is there just because you are there
I sleep peacefully;
I sleep peacefully, because you are guarding the borders there
The mountains, the skies and the country bow to you
The mountains, the skies and the country bow to you
I too bow in gratitude to you O brave soldier!
I too bow in gratitude to you O brave soldier!
My dear countrymen, sister Shivani, whose parental side of the family as well as her family on the side of her in- laws is full of army soldiers, has sent me a telephone message. Let's hear what this representative of a military family says:
"Hello Mr. Prime Minister, I am Shivani Mohan calling. The "Sandesh to Soldiers" campaign has been launched on this Deepawali and is proving to be a morale booster for our brothers. I'm from an Army family. My husband is an Army officer. My Father and Father-in-law both served as Army Officers also. So we are full of soldiers on both sides of the family. Our Soldiers and Officers who are guarding our border have been receiving these affectionate messages and all in the Army circle are getting tremendous inspiration and encouragement. I would also like to say that along with Army Officers and soldiers their families and their wives also make sacrifices. Hence the entire army community is receiving a wonderful message and I would also like to wish you a Happy Diwali. Thank you. "
My fellow citizens, it is true that military personnel guard not only our borders, but they stand as sentinels and fighters on every front of life. Be it a calamitous natural disaster or a law and order crisis or having to deal with enemies or to display courage in motivating misguided youth to return to the mainstream of life, Our Jawans are motivated by a sense of patriotism while rendering service to the nation.
One incident has been brought to my attention and I also want to tell you that how at the core of success small things gather and become a force to reckon with. You must have heard that Himachal Pradesh as a State is now Open Defecation Free, has attained the status of OFD. The first state to achieve this was Sikkim, then Himachal Pradesh accomplished it and Kerala is going to be OFD on November 1st.
But how is this success achieved? Well, I'll tell you the reason, one of the security personnel of ITBP called Vikas Thakur is from a small village in Sirmour district of Himachal. This village is called 'Badhana’. Now this ITBP Jawan of ours was in his village on holidays from his duty. In the village at that time there was supposed to be a meeting of the Gram Sabha, so he went to the meeting where a discussion about construction of toilets was in progress. And he found that some of the families were unable to construct toilets due to lack of funds. So, Vikas Thakur of our ITBP, brimming with patriotism felt that no! No! This stigma must be eradicated! See his patriotism for the country; it is not that he serves the nation only by firing bullets on the enemies! Out came his cheque book, and a cheque of Fifty-Seven thousand rupees was handed to the head of the village Panchayat with a request that the 57 households having no toilets be give one thousand rupees each from his side, so that 57 toilets can get constructed and Badhana becomes an Open Defecation Free village! Vikas Thakur demonstrated his heroics by contributing one thousand rupees each from his pocket to the 57 families and thus strengthening the Cleanliness Campaign. And that is how Himachal Pradesh has been empowered to become an Open Defecation Free state.
And similarly in Kerala, I really want to thank young people. It came to my attention, that in the remote forests of Kerala where there is no path to tread upon and only after walking an entire day, some villages can be reached with difficulty; a tribal village panchayat named Idmalakudi is there. It is rarely visited by people. It came to the attention of Engineering students from the nearby urban areas that this village was in dire need of the toilets. NCC cadets, NSS volunteers, Engineering students - all together decided that the toilets will be constructed by them. The building material needed to construct the toilets whether it was bricks or cement, the entire construction material was carried by the young men on their shoulders, spending an entire day walking in those forests. And they themselves worked hard to construct toilets in that village, thus achieving the goal of making a remote village in faraway forests Open Defecation Free! So that is the reason why Kerala is on the verge of being declared free from open defecation. The Municipal Councils and Corporations in Gujarat, numbering over 150 have been declared free from open defecation. 10 districts have also been declared free of open defecation. There is also good news coming from Haryana, Haryana is going to celebrate its Golden jubilee on 1st November and in next few months, Haryana as an entire state will be freed from the stigma of open defecation. As of now, seven districts in Haryana have got rid of open defecation.
Work is progressing at a very rapid pace in all of these states. I have mentioned the work being carried out in some of the places. I convey my heartfelt thanks to all the citizens in these states who have joined in the task of eliminating from our country the darkness resulting from filth.
My fellow citizens, the government plans for the welfare of the people through many of its schemes, and usually when the second scheme follows the first one then the previous scheme is supposed to be discontinued. But generally due attention is not paid to this. The old schemes continue along with the newly implemented schemes and there is also a wait for the next scheme on the anvil. This keeps on happening. Now in our country houses having a gas stove, or those having electricity in the houses do not have a requirement for Kerosene. But who bothers about such things in the government? What happens is that Kerosene is also being provided, so is cooking gas and so is electricity and then middlemen get a chance to usurp their cut from this. I wish to greet the state of Haryana, which has pioneered a method of making Haryana Kerosene free by identifying homes having cooking gas connections or electricity through ‘Aadhar’ numbers. And so far I've heard that Haryana has managed to make seven or eight districts absolutely Kerosene free. And with the pace at which this job has been undertaken, I believe that the entire state will soon be completely Kerosene free. Just imagine the change that would be ushered in, theft will stop, the environment would benefit, and we will save our precious foreign exchange and the common folk will get facilities. The only people feeling uncomfortable would be the dishonest persons and the middle-men.
My dear countrymen, Mahatma Gandhi is our guide forever. Even today, his words guide us in setting up the standards and determining the direction that our nation must follow. Gandhiji used to say that when you chalk out a plan, you must first recall the face of the poor and weak and then decide whether the scheme you are going to be implementing will be of any benefit to the poor or not, it should not bring any loss to him! Your decisions should be based on such a benchmark. It is the need of the times that we’ve to address the aspirations that have been arisen in the poor of our nation. We have to help them in getting freed from their troubles in a stepwise manner. Whatever the old dogmatic thinking might have been, but the society now must be freed from discrimination between our sons and daughters. Now our schools are having toilets for girls as well as for boys. For our daughters this is the opportunity to experience an India free from discrimination.
The government undertakes massive immunization programs for our children and yet millions of children are still left out from being immunized and fall prey to diseases. 'Mission Indradhanush' is one such operation that involves a vaccination program covering those kids who got left out during previous immunization campaigns and empowers them with immunity against serious diseases. In the twenty-first century, having darkness still prevailing in our villages is something that is not acceptable now. And the rural electrification drive to free the villages of darkness, this major campaign of electrification is proceeding successfully; in fact it is proceeding as per the time-schedule! What will happen to the health of a poor mother how has to inhale smoke equal to that from 400 cigarettes while cooking food on a Chulha which burns wood as fuel. And all this even after so many years of attaining freedom! We are trying to provide a smoke free life to 5 crore such families and we are successfully advancing in that direction.
The small trader, the small businessman, the vegetable vendor, the milk vendor, the one running a hair cutting salon has always been entrapped in the grip of the money lender, repaying interest all his life. The stand up scheme and Jan Dhan account scheme are aimed at freeing these people from the clutches of notorious moneylenders. Crediting money directly into bank accounts via Aadhar aims at directly sending money to the beneficiaries. For the common man this is an opportunity to come out of the grip of middlemen. A campaign has to be started where the target will not only be limited to bring in reforms and transformation but also to obtain freedom from the problem. And this is happening!
My dear countrymen, tomorrow, the 31st October is the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the great son of India who vowed to unite India and made this the sole object of his life. On the one hand, 31st October is the birth anniversary of Sardar Saheb, the living legend of national unity and on the other; this is also the death anniversary of Smt. Gandhi. We should and do pay homage to the memories of our great personalities. But a phone call from a gentleman from Punjab and his pain touched me: -
“Pradhan Mantriji namaskar, Sir, I am Jasdeep speaking from Punjab. Sir, as you know, 31st October is Sardar Patel ji’s birthday. Sardar Patel is the great personality who devoted his whole life to unite the country and, I think, he succeeded fully in this mission of his, he brought everybody together. But we may call it the country’s misfortune that on this day itself Indira Gandhi ji was assassinated. And, as we all know, what terrible events took place after her assassination. Sir, I want to know how we can check such unfortunate events and incidents from taking place”.
My dear countrymen, this is not the pain of an individual person. One Sardar, as history goes, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was the second great man after Chanakya who carried on the stupendous job of uniting our country. Bringing independent India under one banner and accomplishing such a herculean task – what a great man he was! We bow a hundred times to that great soul. But the pain remains that Sardar Patel, who lived for India’s unity, strove tirelessly for it, had to even endure some unpleasantness on account of it, but never ever abandoned the path of unity; but on the birth anniversary of this great SARDAR, thousands of Sardars, the family members of thousands of Sardars were killed in the aftermath of the assassination of Smt. Gandhi. These atrocities against Sardars on the birth anniversary of that great personality who lived for unity, that SARDAR, is a page of history, which causes pain to all of us.
But amidst all these turmoils, we have to march forward chanting the Mantra of Unity. Unity in diversity is the strength of our country. Different languages, different castes, different attires, different food habits and despite all these, unity in diversity remains our binding strength. That is India’s great characteristic quality. Each generation has this responsibility, the governments have this responsibility to explore possibilities of integration in each corner of the country and highlight the elements of our integration. We should keep away from the idea of separatism or the attitude of separatism and also guard the country from any such ideology. Sardar Saheb gave us one India, now this is our collective responsibility to develop a Great India, a Shreshtha Bharat. The Mantra of national unity is the very foundation of a strong and great India.
Sardar Saheb’s journey started with a struggle for farmers. He was the son of a farmer. Sardar Saheb had a big role in taking the Freedom movement to the farmers. Making the freedom movement a source of strength in the villages was Sardar Saheb’s big achievement, a result of his organizational capacity and capability. But, Sardar Saheb was not just a man of struggle but also a man who created great things. He believed in the cooperative movement. Today, we often hear the name AMUL. People of India and even those in other countries are familiar with every product of AMUL. But, only a few people would know that it was only through his farsightedness that Sardar Saheb envisioned the creation of a Cooperative Milk Producers Union in Khera district, which was at that time called Kaira district. He had given this idea in 1942 which now is before us in the shape of AMUL. It is a living example as to how Sardar Saheb had foreseen the way to prosperity of the farmers. I pay my respectful homage to Sardar Saheb. And on 31st October, on National Unity Day, we must remember Sardar Saheb wherever we may be and take a resolve to preserve national unity.
My dear countrymen, during Diwali festivities, Kartik Purnima is also a festival of lights called PRAKASH UTSAV. Guru Nanak Dev, his teachings and blessings are very relevant even now and are a source of inspiration for humanity as a whole. Service, truth and everybody’s well-being was the message of Guru Nanak Dev. Peace, unity and harmony were his principal teachings. Every teaching of Guru Nanak Dev preached that a campaign should be carried on to abolish superstitions, social disparities and social evils from the society. It was then an era when evils such as untouchability, casteism and the chasm between the rich and the poor were at their peak. Guru Nanak Dev picked Bhai Laalo, as his co-worker at that crucial juncture. Let us also follow the light of knowledge bestowed upon us by Guru Nanak Dev which inspires us to end social disparities, exhorts us to do our bit to fight against the evil of disparity.
In our march to achieve ‘Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas’, Co-operation from ALL, Development of ALL, we cannot have a better guiding force than Guru Nanak Dev. I pay my deeply felt respectful homage to Guru Nanak Dev on the occasion of the forthcoming Prakashotsav.
My dear countrymen, once again let us dedicate this Diwali to our Jawans. My best wishes and greetings on Diwali to all of you. I wish that all your dreams and resolves get fulfilled in every possible way! May your lives be blessed with success and happiness. Many, many thanks.