PM Modi inaugurates key projects in Chennai ahead of assembly polls
- Modi announced that the Centre has accepted the demand of the Devendrakula Velalar community that they should be known by their heritage name, a day after a bill to modify the list of Scheduled Castes in Tamil Nadu was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Saturday.
On his first visit to Chennai, after the BJP formalised its alliance with the ruling AIADMK in poll-bound Tamil Nadu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday inaugurated a slew of infrastructure projects, while his speech bore elements of a mass outreach.
At Chennai’s Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, Modi quoted Tamil philosopher Subramanian Bharati to recall the Pulwama attack that happened two years ago. “Inspired by his (Bharati’s) vision, India has undertaken a massive effort to become self-reliant in the defence sector,” said Modi after handing over the indigenous battle tank Arjun Mark 1A to the Indian army. “A tank made in Tamil Nadu will be used on our northern borders to keep the nation safe. This showcases India's united spirit – Bharat's Ekta Darshan.”
Modi’s speech stressed on Atma Nirbhar—self-reliance in the defence and infrastructure sector and of provisions in the Union Budget for Tamil Nadu-- ₹63,000 crore set aside for phase-2 of Chennai's metro. It is “one of the largest projects sanctioned for any city in one-go,” the Prime Minister said.
He appreciated the state’s farmers “for record food grain production and good use of water resources” quoting Tamil poet Avvaiyar on water conservation which he said is a global issue. Modi's speech highlighted the Centre's schemes that have benefitted Tamil Nadu and outlined the BJP's poll plank in the southern state where it has a meagre presence. Modi often quotes Tamil philosophers and poets on public platforms which is the saffron party's defence against criticism that it is a ‘north Indian party’. In January, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had attacked Modi, BJP and the RSS claiming that they were disrespecting Tamil people.
Modi announced that the Centre has accepted the demand of the Devendrakula Velalar community that they should be known by their heritage name, a day after a bill to modify the list of Scheduled Castes in Tamil Nadu was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Saturday. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill 2021 as proposed by the state government would group together seven castes to be known as Devendrakula Velalar which exist separately presently. “I can never forget my meeting with representatives of the Devendrars in 2015 in Delhi,” Modi said.
“Colonial rulers took away their pride and dignity... They told me- they pleaded and pleaded to Governments but nothing changed. I told them one thing. I said that their name Devender rhymes with my own name- Narendra. I understand their emotions. This decision is more than a change of name. It is about justice, dignity and opportunity.”
Speaking on the longstanding problems faced by fishermen in the high seas, Modi said that during his tenure more than 1600 fishermen were released after being apprehended by Sri Lanka. “Currently, there is no Indian fisherman in Sri Lankan custody.”
He announced that the Jaffna Cultural Centre built by India would open soon. “The issue of Tamil rights has also been taken up by us consistently with Sri Lankan leaders,” Modi said. “Our Government has always taken care of the welfare and aspirations of our Tamil brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka. It is my honour to have been the only Indian PM to visit Jaffna,” he said listing development work for the minority Tamils living in the island nation.
The Prime Minister inaugurated a 9.05 km Chennai Metro Rail Phase-I extension, completed at a cost of Rs. 3770 crore. Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) announced that passengers could travel free along this line after the inauguration until 11am on February 14. Modi also unveiled railway electrification of single line section of 228 km several districts completed at a cost of ₹423 crore which is expected to save Rs.14.61 lakh per day on fuel cost and a fourth Railway line between Chennai Beach and Attipattu laid for ₹293.4 crore.
He also laid the foundation stone for two projects-- the renovation of the Grand Anicut Canal System crucial for irrigation in the delta districts to be taken up at ₹2,640 crore and a Discovery Campus to come up at IIT Madras for ₹1000 crore in the first phase. “These projects are symbols of innovation and indigenous development. These projects will further the growth of Tamil Nadu,” Modi said.
Modi was flanked by Governor Banwarilal Purohit, chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami, deputy chief minister O Paneerselvam at the event which was attended by leaders of their alliance partners and the public. Palaniswami and Paneerselvam spoke of the cooperative federal structure between the AIADMK-led state and BJP-led central government.
After reaching the Chennai airport, Modi had taken a chopper and a convoy by road to reach the venue where he was welcomed by AIADMK and BJP cadre. Modi caught an aerial glimpse of the on-going test match between India and England in the city’s MA Chidambaram stadium- a picture of which he tweeted.
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