Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a day-long tour of Varanasi, on Friday mocked the opposition for questioning his ambitious Jan Dhan Yojana saying their experiments to alleviate poverty failed to help the poor.
"I am surprised that those who did not open a single account in the banks are showing their concern that the accounts are not being operated properly. I am here to tell them that what they failed to do in 50 years, I will do in 50 months," Modi told a gathering of the rickshaw pullers.
PM Modi said had his critics helped the poor open bank accounts when they were in power he would have been spared the worry. Modi said that more than 18 crore bank accounts have been opened under PM Jan Dhan Yojana and thanked the poor for depositing around Rs 30,000 crore in the banks.
In an indirect attack on the previous Congress-led governments' popular slogan of 'Garibi Hatao', he said poverty has not been eliminated from the country despite all the experiments undertaken so far.
"We have been hearing the slogan of 'Garibi Hatao' for 40-50 years, but nothing concrete was done to eliminate poverty. It has become a tradition to chant in the name of the poor, there is a need to come out of it," he said.
Modi also said education is the best and the least expensive way to fight poverty and urged the people of Varanasi to educate their children.
"The biggest weapon one can use to fight poverty is the education of children. I request you to please educate your children, no matter what the circumstances are," Modi told the gathering.
Modi, who arrived in his constituency for the first time in 2015, also stressed the need for skill development to eliminate poverty and said with the help of technology the poorest of the poor can earn more and become self-reliant.
"Make a little change in their lives by enhancing their skills, and we will get wonderful results," he said.
He gifted 101 e-rickshaws, 101 paddle rickshaws, 150 hand carts, and 250 trolleys to the poor. He also gave away packages to 602 families under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana.
The PM also expressed hope that equipment distributed will enhance the income of the beneficiaries will make them economically independent and bring about a positive change in their lives.
The PM will also lay the foundation of Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) worth Rs 32,612 crore, ring road and Varanasi-Sultanpur four-lane project.
The BJP, which won 71 out of 78 Lok Sabha seats it contested in Uttar Pradesh last year, is likely to lead an aggressive campaign in the state where it will have to take on the formidable SP alongside Mayawati's BSP in the assembly polls, which are just a little more than a year away.
Modi's visit to this eastern UP town, from where the state's border with Bihar is just about a 100 km away, may also find political resonance in the neighbouring province where assembly elections have been announced.
The Prime Minister is looking forward to lead his party to victory in the state amid a formidable challenge posed by the alliance comprising chief minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U), Lalu Prasad's RJD and Congress.
The Prime Minister will also meet representatives of thousands of beleaguered shiksha mitras or contractual teachers.
They are upset over the cancellation of regularisation of their service following a recent judgement of the Allahabad high court, which ruled that the entire exercise being carried out by the Samajwadi Party government in the state was illegal.
Amid reports of three more shiksha mitras dying of heart attack and 26 others taking ill, the Varanasi administration on Thursday succeeded in fixing an appointment of these agitating contractual teachers with PM Modi.
A six-member delegation, comprising Adarsh Siksha Mitra Welfare Association president Jeetendra Shahi, Varanasi district unit president Amrendra Dubey, city unit president Dhananjay Singh, district unit secretary Pramod Singh and Anita Srivastava, will get to meet the PM, confirmed Varanasi DM Rajmani Yadav.
The DM also appealed to the "upset and angry" shiksha mitras to maintain peace.
Spruced up city
Constituents of Kashi had to wait for nine months for Modi's Varanasi visit. After the cancellation of Modi's earlier two visits to Kashi – on June 28 and July 16 – due to torrential downpour, speculations were rife that Modi's third visit could be jinxed.
The PM's July 16 visit was marred by another unfortunate incident - a labourer was electrocuted while decorating the stage at the DLW ground from where Modi was to address a public meeting.
After the cancellation of his earlier visits, Modi took the responsibility to fix a date with Varanasi. It was after a thorough consultation with senior officials of the Indian Metrological Department that the PM finalised Friday for a visit to his constituency.
Elaborate arrangements were made at the Diesel Locomotive Works ground for Modi's two earlier visits. But all arrangements, including waterproof pandals, were washed away in a heavy downpour.
Modi's trips to his constituency, Varanasi, are nothing less than a festive occasion. Friday was no different.
Almost the entire city, especially areas around the DLW ground and Multipurpose ground in Cantonment area, was spruced up for the high-profile visit. Even the far-flung areas of the holy city were cleaned, with garbage disposed of.
The roadside tea stalls in Kashi were abuzz with discussions around Modi's visit. At the famous Nadesar tea stall, BJP leader Dharmendra Singh was ecstatic.
"At last, the long wait for Prime Minister's visit ended today. People of Kashi were eagerly waiting for the PM to arrive in his constituency," said Singh.