Updated: February 15, 2021 3:19:15 am
MARKING TWO years after the terror attack in Pulwama, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday paid homage to the 40 CRPF jawans who were killed in the car bombing that targeted their convoy and said that their bravery will inspire generations.
“No Indian can forget this day. Two years ago, the Pulwama attack happened. We pay homage to all the martyrs we lost in that attack. We are proud of our security forces. Their bravery will continue to inspire generations,” Modi said.
Speaking in Chennai, the Prime Minister also hailed the defence forces as he dedicated the indigenously designed and manufactured “Main Battle Tank Arjun Mark 1A” to the nation, and praised the farmers of Tamil Nadu.
He promised to protect the “rightful interests” of fishermen from Tamil Nadu while pointing out that “there is no Indian fisherman in Sri Lankan custody” today, and listed various initiatives his government has taken for the welfare of the Tamil population in the neighbouring island nation.
“The issue of Tamil rights has also been taken up by us consistently with Sri Lankan leaders. We are always committed to ensuring that they live with equality, justice, peace and dignity,” he said.
Modi was in Chennai to launch various initiatives, including laying the foundation to modernise the 636-km-long Grand Anicut Canal System that will “improve irrigation facilities for 2.27 lakh acres of land” in Thanjavur and Pudukkottai districts. In this context, he said: “I want to appreciate the farmers of Tamil Nadu for record food grain production and good use of water resources.”
The Prime Minister also inaugurated the 9-km stretch of Chennai Metro Rail Phase One. “In this year’s Budget, over Rs 63,000 crore have been set aside for 119 km of Phase Two of the project. This is one of the largest projects sanctioned for any city in one-go,” he said.
But a key part of his speech was devoted to the defence forces while saying that he saw Tamil Nadu “evolving as the tank manufacturing hub of India”. Against the backdrop of India and China signalling the start of a disengagement process at the border in eastern Ladakh, the Prime Minister said that India will protect its sovereignty “at all costs”.
“India has undertaken a massive effort to become self-reliant in the defence sector. One of the two defence corridors is in Tamil Nadu. The corridor has already received investment commitments over Rs 8,100 crore. Today, I am proud to dedicate to the country one more warrior to protect our frontiers. I am proud to hand over the indigenously designed and manufactured “Main Battle Tank Arjun Mark 1A”. It also uses indigenous ammunition,” Modi said.
Referring to Tamil Nadu’s reputation as a manufacturing centre, he said: “Tamil Nadu is already the leading automobile manufacturing hub of India. Now, I see Tamil Nadu evolving as the Tank manufacturing hub of India. A tank made in Tamil Nadu will be used in our northern borders to keep the nation safe. This showcases India’s united spirit — Bharat’s Ekta Darshan.”
Hailing the armed forces, the Prime Minister said: “They have shown time and again that they are fully capable of protecting our motherland. Time and again they have also shown India believes in peace. But, India will protect our sovereignty at all costs.”
Significantly, Modi also spoke in detail about India’s initiatives for “the welfare and aspirations of our Tamil brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka”. This, he said, includes 50,000 houses for those displaced in the North-East, 4000 houses in plantation areas, a free ambulance, a hospital, an airline connection between Jaffna and Chennai, and a rail network that is being rebuilt between Jaffna and Mannar. “I feel happy to share that India has built the Jaffna Cultural Centre which we hope to open soon,” he said.
Signing off by underlining his government’s projects for the state’s fishermen, Modi said that “modern fishing harbours will come up in five centres including Chennai”.
Referring to a thorny issue involving the community that has dogged ties between India and Sri Lanka, Modi said: “The problem faced by our fishermen is long-standing. I do not wish to go into the history of the problem. But let me assure you that my Government will always protect their rightful interests. We have ensured early release whenever fishermen are apprehended in Sri Lanka. More than 1,600 fishermen have been released during our tenure. Currently, there is no Indian fisherman in Sri Lankan custody. Similarly, 313 boats have also been released and we are working for the return of the rest of the boats,” he said.
Also present at the function held at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai were Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, Deputy CM O Panneerselvam and senior state ministers.
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