Niti Ayog Member and leading defence technologist V K Saraswat, the first government official to preside over the RSS function, skipped any mention about increasing India’s arms strength, focusing entirely on empowerment of the poor, agriculture, healthcare and education in his speech.
Rising to speak after a swayamsevak’s Ekal geet that referred to “rising feeling of importance of boosting armed power (Shakti ki upasana), Saraswat started off by calling for eradication of poverty through “empowerment of the poor”. And while observing that the progress of economy has been good since the past two years with the GDP growth getting close to eight per cent, Saraswat, however, called for rethink on “smart cities” programme.
“We need to rethink smart cities initiative and instead think of developing smart villages. The current 30 per cent urban population contributing about 60 per cent of the GDP and with the remaining rural population comprising mainly farmers contributing only about 15 per cent, we need to prioritise agriculture development on the top,” Saraswat said.
“India needs 500 smart cities. Today, urbanisation is a result of migration from villages. What we need is upgrade over villages with facilities like those available in the urban areas, thus creating smart villages,” Saraswat said.
Calling for “second green revolution”, Saraswat delineated several priorities and programmes but had a word of caution on GM technology. He called for mixing traditional agricultural practices with modern techniques to boost agricultural prospects of the country.
Lamenting that despite becoming a global medical tourism destination, India hasn’t been able to reach proper healthcare to all, particularly the rural poor, Saraswat also spelt out various ways to do it. Thankful to RSS, describing it as India’s “premium national institute”, Saraswat did bring in some nationalistic flavour, referring to “western influence” on the education system that eclipsed knowledge of ancient Indian science. Saraswat also stressed the importance of spirituality, ethics and values in the developmental schemes of things. He also, however, underlined that India’s strength lies in “unity in diversity” with the common thread being “Bharatiyata”.
Bhagwat ignores BJP leaders in speech
A lot of dignitaries, including Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Union Surface Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari, were present at the RSS event. Seated left to the podium, they found themselves accommodated among a few religious leaders, whom Bhagwat respectfully mentioned in his opening remarks. He, however, did not name Fadnavis or Gadkari. Incidentally, this was Fadnavis’ first appearance at RSS’s Dussehra programme after becoming CM. ENS