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In Bengal with Sheikh Hasina, PM Modi apologises for lack of drinking water in Santiniketan

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was present on the dais along with Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was speaking at the Visva-Bharati university in Santiniketan.

india Updated: May 25, 2018 18:02 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
PM Modi,Narendra Modi,Sheikh Hasina
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee looks on, during the annual convocation of Visva Bharati University, in Birbhum, on May 25.(PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday urged the students of Visva-Bharati to turn 100 villages around Santiniketan in Birbhum district of West Bengal self-sufficient to mark the central university’s centenary in 2021.

“The villages should have a power connection, LPG gas supply, the children should receive vaccinations, the villagers should be able to fill up forms digitally,” Modi said during the university’s convocation programme.

The Prime Minister referred to a few central projects such as Swachh Bharat that would help them in this effort.

Modi also said he was sorry to know about the non-availability of drinking water in Santiniketan.

“As I was coming by car, some children gestured to me that they don’t even have drinking water. As the chancellor, I tender my apology,” Modi said at the beginning of his speech.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was present on the dais along with Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina when Modi was speaking. Hasina and Banerjee became the first head of government of a foreign country and the first chief minister to be present during the ceremony.

“It is a rare occasion where the prime ministers of two countries are present at the convocation programme of a university,” said Modi.

However, in a major security breach, a man broke the safety cordon for Modi to give him a portrait of Rabindranath Tagore at the venue.

When Modi was leaving the dias after declaring the convocation closed, the man suddenly went up the platform to give him the portrait. The prime minister took the portrait and handed it over to his security personnel.

Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore formally started the college in Santiniketan in December 1921 with the money he received as the award for the Nobel Literature Prize in 1913. This was Modi’s first visit to Visva-Bharati, the only central university of which he is the chancellor.

“He was a global citizen then, he is a global citizen now. In many countries that I have visited, I have seen people carrying his values with deep respect. In Afghanistan, everyone knows his story Kabuliwala,” the Prime Minister said while speaking of Tagore.

Modi also said that Tagore’s elder brother Satyendranath Tagore, the first Indian to become an Indian Civil Service officer, taught the poet English literature in Ahmedabad.

“Gujarat also had a small contribution towards making the personality of Tagore,” he said.

Modi and Hasina also inaugurated Bangladesh Bhavan, a centre dedicated to the cultural cooperation between the India and Bangladesh, in the university campus.

May 25 is also the date of birth of Kazi Nazrul Islam, the national poet of Bangladesh.

First Published: May 25, 2018 13:03 IST