Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday apologised to attendees of the Visva-Bharati convocation ceremony after they complained of a shortage of drinking water at the venue.
Before the arrival of Modi, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Amra Kunja, a protest erupted after some women students fell sick. Following this, university officials and students clashed verbally over the shortage of drinking water.
The President is the university’s Visitor and the Prime Minister its Chancellor.
“As the Chancellor of the university, I apologise to you. When I was entering the venue, some students drew my attention to the problem that there was no supply of drinking water. It is my responsibility as the Chancellor to tender my apologies for any kind of inconvenience caused to you,” Modi said.
Despite repeated attempts, Visva-Bharati Officiating Vice-Chancellor Sabuj Koli Sen could not be reached for comment.
Modi began his speech in Bengali, by paying tribute to Rabindranath Tagore, who had set up the educational institute.
“Kobigurur Smiritibijorito Santiniketan e ese ami otontyo anondo o shanti onubhab korchi (I cannot express how happy I am to see where the great Rabindranath Tagore left his footprints). It is a double delight for me as I have not come here as a guest but as the Chancellor,” he said.
The prime minister also urged the university and its students to bring 100 or 200 villages under its ambit by 2021 — the centenary year of the varsity.
“I learnt that the university is carrying out development work in about 50 villages now. I have a humble request before you. As you know that this great institution will complete 100 years in 2021, I would urge to connect to 100 or 200 villages. In these villages, arrangements could be made to provide LPG connection to people. We could also make arrangements to provide mother and child vaccinations and digital connectivity,” he said.
The prime minister’s speech was received with thunderous applause, with students chanting “Modi, Modi” at various points. Chaos also erupted after students broke barricades to get as close to the dais as possible.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh, BJP national president Rahul Sinha and BJP leader Mukul Roy also attended the event.
Vice-Chancellor of Ramkrishna Mission Vivekananda Educational and Research Institute, Swami Atmapriyananda, delivered the convocation address.
The university’s faculty members sang Veda slokas and concluded the ceremony with a Tagore song.
Around 10,000 students and about 1,000 PhD students received their certificates on the occasion.