Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday invoked Sant Ravidas, a mystic poet of the Bhakti Movement, on his birth anniversary to urge people to end caste discrimination and identify those who promote it for "self-interest". Modi said caste discrimination is an impediment in achieving social harmony.
"Guruji (Sant Ravidas) had said that there should be no discrimination on the basis of caste. Till caste discrimination is there, people cannot connect with each other, social harmony is not possible and equality cannot be ensured," the prime minister said. "Identify those who for their self-interest, create caste discrimination and promote it," he asked people, without taking any names.
The prime minister was addressing a gathering after laying the foundation stone of Ravidas Janmasthali area development project in Varanasi, his Lok Sabha constituency. Sant Ravidas belonged to the Bhakti Movement of the 15th and 16th century. Born in Varanasi, his hymns and poems often revolved around his low social position.
His devotional songs were also included in Sikh scriptures. Praising Ravidas, Modi said, "He dreamt of a society where all are taken care of. We have tried to follow this tenet during the past 4.5 years with 'Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas'" (together, development for all).
"My government focussed on panchdharma: education, income, medicine, irrigation and addressing public grievances," he said, "irrespective of caste, creed and other factors." "Unfortunately, caste discrimination could not be removed till now. The New India will witness this change with help of youth," he said, referring to his vision of the country in the 21st Century.
At the Diesel Locomotives Works in Varanasi, Modi also flagged off the first electric locomotive converted from a diesel engine in the country. He also inspected it from inside. The work on the project began on December 22, 2017, railway officials said.
Modi said honesty leads to happiness; "We tried to follow this (idea)" and acted against 'benami' properties and black money. "'Chalta hai' mentality had crept in, my government tried to change it," he asserted.
On his second visit to his Lok Sabha constituency within a month, the prime minister also detailed the development and welfare works his government had undertaken. He cited government schemes to provide free LPG gas cylinders and power connections, insurance of up to Rs 5 lakh per family annually under the ambitious Ayushman Bharat and guarantee-free loans under Mudra Yojana.
Modi also mentioned the rebate being provided to individual taxpayers for income up to Rs 5 lakh in the Interim Budget, saying, "Those who looted public money are being brought to book and honest people are being honoured". Before Modi's address, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had praised him and called him "kashi putra" (son of Varanasi). He said the prime minister ensured development projects are undertaken across the country without discrimination.
(With inputs from agencies.)