The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi performed Bhoomi Poojan of Ahmedabad Metro Rail Project Phase-II and Surat Metro Rail Project via video conference today. Gujarat Governor, Union Home Minister, Gujarat Chief Minister and Union Housing & Urban Affairs Minister were present on the occasion.

Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister congratulated Ahmedabad and Surat for the gift of Metro as the service will improve connectivity in the two important business centers of the country. He also congratulated people of Gujarat for new trains and railway lines for Kevadiya including modern Jan Shatabdi from Ahmedabad to Kevadiya. The Prime Minister informed that today work started on infrastructure projects worth 17 thousand crore. This shows that even during Corona period, efforts for infrastructure building are gaining momentum. In recent days infrastructure projects worth thousands of crores were either dedicated to nation or work started on new projects.

Terming Ahmedabad and Surat as the cities contributing to Aatamnirbharta, The Prime Minister, recalled the excitement when Metro was launched in Ahmedabad and how Ahmedabad had linked its dreams and identity with Metro. The second phase of metro will benefit the people as it will link new areas of the city with this comfortable mode of transport. Similarly, Surat will also experience better connectivity. These projects are envisaged keeping in mind the requirement of the future, said the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister pointed out the difference in approach between the previous governments and the current one taking reference of Metro expansion. He said, as compared to 200 kilometer long Metro line in 10-12 years before 2014, 400 kilometer long Metro line has been operationalized in last 6 years alone. Government is working on 1000-kilometer new lines in 27 cities. He lamented the absence of integrated modern thinking earlier. There was no national policy for Metro. As a result, there was no uniformity in technique and systems of Metro in different cities. Second lacuna was absence of linkage with the rest of the transport system of the city. Today transportation is being developed as an integrated system in these cities, in which Metro will not function in isolation but will work as a collective system. This integration will be taken further by the recently launched National Common Mobility card, asserted the Prime Minister.

Taking the example of Surat and Gandhinagar, the Prime Minister also dwelled on the thinking of the government on urbanization which is not reactive but proactive and keeps the needs of future in mind. Only two decades ago, Surat was mentioned for it plague epidemic rather than its development. The Government, promoted its spirit of entrepreneurial inclusion and toady, Surat is not only 8th largest city of the country- population-wise but also the 4th fastest growing city of the world. 9 out every 10 diamonds are cut and polished in Surat. Similarly, 40 per cent of man-made fabric of the country is made in Surat as about 30 per cent man-made fiber is being produced there. Surat, today, is the second cleanest city of the country. The Prime Minister also elaborated upon efforts in housing for poor, traffic management, roads and bridges, sewage treatment and hospitals for enhancing the ease of living in the city. This became possible by better planning and holistic thinking, and Surat has turned out to be a great example of ‘Ek Bharat, Shresth Bharat’ as it is home to entrepreneurs and laborer from all parts of the country, said the Prime Minister.

Similarly, Prime Minister talked about the journey of Gandhinagar, which underwent a transformation from a city of government employees and retirees to a young vibrant city. Today, Gandhinagar is identified by renowned institutes like IIT, National Law University, NIFT, National Forensic Science University, Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Indian Institute of Teacher Education, Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, National Institute of Design (NID), Raksha Shakti University etc. These institutions have not only transformed education landscape of the city but also brought companies to the campuses, increasing the employment avenues in the city. Modi also mentioned Mahatama Mandir which gave a push to conference-tourism. Projects like modern railway station. Gift City, Sabarmati River Front, Kankariya Lake Front, water aerodrome, bus rapid transit system, world’s largest stadium in Motera, six-lane Gandhinagar Highway have become Ahmedabad’s identity. The City is getting a modern makeover without sacrificing its old character, said the Prime Minister.

Modi also mentioned that Ahmedabad has been declared ‘World Heritage City’, and is getting a new airport in Dholera. The airport will get connected with Ahmedabad with already-approved Mono-Rail. Work is under progress on Bullet Train connecting Ahmedabad and Surat to the financial capital of the country- Mumbai.

The Prime Minister also took up the steps taken in the area of rural development. He termed the improvement brought in roads, electricity, water situation in Gujarat over the period of last two decades as an important chapter in the journey of Gujarat’s development. Today, every village of Gujarat is connected with all-weather road. Tribal villages too have better roads. Today, 80 percent of households in Gujarat have piped water. 10 Lakh water connections have been provided in the state under Jal Jeevan Mission. Soon every household will have water from tap.

Similarly, irrigation has seen new momentum as Sardar Sarovar Sauni Yojna and water grid network has taken irrigation water to dry areas. Narmada water has reached Kutch. Work has been done in micro-irrigation. Electricity is another success story and Gujarat is leading state in solar power. Recently, work was started on the world’s largest solar plant in Kutch. Gujarat is the first state in the country to give separate electricity for irrigation under Sarvodya Yojana.

The Prime Minister also enumerated steps in health sector such as Ayushman Bharat Scheme which has benefited 21 lakh people in the state. More than 500 Jan Aushadh Kendra’s saving about 100 crore for local patients. More than 2.5 lakh houses were built under PM Awas-Gramin. More than 35 lakh toilets  were built in the state under Swachch Bharat Mission.

The Prime Minister asserted that India is taking bold decisions and implementing them with speed. India is not only doing big but also, better, said the Prime Minister. He cited, world’s largest statue, world’s largest affordable housing programme, healthcare assurance programme, Internet connectivity in 6 lakh villages, recently launched worlds larges vaccination campaign as examples of this thinking.

He also mentioned Ro-pax ferry services between Hazira  and Ghogha and Girnar Rope-way as two examples which, through their swift implementation, changed the lives of the local people. These schemes have saved fuel and time as distance between Ghongha and Hazira got reduced from 375 km to 90 km by ferry. The service has been patronised by 50 thousand people in two months and 14 thousand vehicles were also ferried on the service. This has helped farmers and animal husbandry in the region. Similarly, Girnar Rope-way has been used by more than 2 lakh people in two and half months.

The goal of new India can only be achieved by working rapidly with understanding of people’s needs and aspirations, said the Prime Minister.  Modi put forth his PRAGATI system as a step in this direction. PRAGATI has brought new momentum in the implementation culture of the country as it is chaired by the Prime Minister himself. Effort is to talk directly with the stakeholders and find solutions for the problems. In last 5 years we have reviewed projects worth rupees 13 lakh crore, said the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister emphasized that with solutions of long pending schemes, cities like Surat get new energy. Our industry, especially small-scale industry, MSME get the confidence that they have the support of good infrastructure when they compete globally. Under Aatmnirbhar Bharat Campaign, many steps have been taken to help these small industries as they have been provided easy loans worth thousands of crore to tide over the difficult times. They are being given great opportunities by steps like redefinition of MSME that has helped with the fear of expansion, as traders were weary of losing benefits if they grew bigger than the defined limit.  Government has removed these restrictions and has opened new avenues for them. Similarly, this redefinition has removed the distinction between manufacturing and service enterprise, creating new possibilities for the service sector. They are also being given preference in the government procurement. The Government is committed to provide opportunities to small industries to flourish and laborer working in these units should have better amenities and better life, concluded the Prime Minister.

English rendering of PM Modi’s address at Bhoomi Poojan of Ahmedabad Metro Project Phase 2 and Surat Metro Project

Namaste, the Governor of Gujarat, Shri Acharya Devvrat ji, my colleagues in the Union Cabinet, Amit Shah ji and Hardeep Singh Puri ji, Chief Minister of Gujarat, Vijay Rupani ji, Ministers of Government of Gujarat, MPs and MLAs, my dear brothers and sisters from Ahmedabad and Surat.

Ahmedabad and Surat are getting a very important gift today at the beginning of Uttarayan. The Metro in Ahmedabad and Surat, two major commercial centres in the country, will further strengthen connectivity in these cities. New railway lines and new trains were launched for Kevadiya yesterday. The modern Jan-Shatabdi Express will now go to Kevadiya from Ahmedabad. I congratulate and convey my best wishes to the people of Gujarat for this launch.

Brothers and sisters,

Today, the infrastructure work of more than Rs. 17,000 crore is being launched. The investment worth Rs. 17,000 crore shows that the country is making continuous efforts to build new infrastructure even during this period of corona. In the past few days, infrastructure projects worth thousands of crores of rupees have either been launched across the country or work on new projects has started.

Friends,

Both Ahmedabad and Surat are the cities that empower self-reliance of Gujarat as well as India. I remember, it was a wonderful moment when the Metro started in Ahmedabad. People were standing on the roof. Hardly will anybody forget the happiness that was on people’s faces. I also see how the dreams and identity of Ahmedabad have linked themselves to the Metro. Now, the work for the second phase of Ahmedabad Metro is starting today. The Ahmedabad Metro Rail project will now have a corridor from Motera Stadium to Mahatma Mandir and the other corridor will connect GNLU and Gift City. It will benefit millions of people in the city.

Friends,

Surat is the second largest city in Gujarat after Ahmedabad, which will be connected with the modern public transport system like Metro. The Metro network in Surat will, in a way, connect the important business hubs of the entire city. One corridor will connect Sarthana to the Dream City and the other corridor will connect Bhesan to the Saroli line. The important feature of these Metro projects is that they are also being constructed keeping in mind the requirements of the coming years. That is, the investment that is being made today will provide better facilities to our cities for many years to come.

Brothers and sisters,

The best example of the difference in approach between the earlier governments and our government can be gauged through the expansion of the Metro network in the country. In the 10-12 years before 2014, only 225 kilometres of Metro line was operational. More than 450 kilometres of Metro network has been commissioned in the last six years. At present, work on more than 1000 kms of new Metro networks is going on in 27 cities of the country.

Friends,

There was a time when there was no modern thinking about the construction of Metro in our country. There was no Metro policy in the country. As a result, different kinds of metros with different technology and systems started becoming in different cities. The other problem was that the rest of the city transport system had no coordination with the Metro. Today, we are integrating the transportation system of cities. That is, the buses, the Metro and trains do not run on their own, but work as a collective system and complement each other. The National Common Mobility Card, which was launched in Ahmedabad Metro itself during my visit, is going to help further in this integration in future.

Friends,

We started working on the vision of the immediate requirements of our cities today and what will be required in the coming 10-20 years. Now, take Surat and Gandhinagar for example. Two decades ago, Surat was in the news for an epidemic like plague more than its development. But the natural quality of the people of Surat to embrace everything began to alter the situation. We emphasized the spirit of Surat which is embracing every enterprise. Today, Surat is the eighth largest city in the country according to population, but is also the fourth fastest growing city in the world. Out of every 10 diamonds in the world, nine are carved in Surat. Today, 40 per cent of the total man-made fabric in the country and about 30 per cent of the man-made fiber is produced in Surat. Today, Surat is the second cleanest city in the country.

Brothers and sisters,

All these have been possible with a better planning and inclusive thinking. Earlier, about 20 per cent of the population in Surat lived in slums, now it has come down to six per cent after pucca houses were allotted to the poor. In order to free the city from congestions, several steps, including better traffic management, were taken. Today, there are more than 100 flyovers in Surat, out of which more than 80 have been built in the last 20 years and 8 flyovers are also under construction. Similarly, the capacity of sewage treatment plants was increased. Today, there are about a dozen sewage treatment plants in Surat. Today, Surat is earning 100 crore rupees in revenue due to sewage treatment plants. In the past few years, the best modern hospitals have been built in Surat. All these efforts improved ease of living in Surat. Today, we see Surat as a very good example of ‘Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat’. Surat has emerged as a mini India full of dreams with people coming here to try their luck from Purvanchal, Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, North East and every nook and corner of the country, and our industrious people working with complete dedication. All these partners are working together to give new heights to the development of Surat.

Friends,

Similarly, what was the identity of Gandhinagar earlier? It had become a city of government employees, retired people and had become slack and a lazy place that could not be called the city. But we have seen this image of Gandhinagar changing rapidly in the last few years. Now, wherever you go in Gandhinagar, you will find youngsters and a mass of dreams. Today, Gandhinagar has its own identity. IIT Gandhinagar, Gujarat National Law University, National Forensic Science University, Raksha Shakti University, NIFT, etc are the identities of Gandhinagar.  Then there is Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Indian Institute of Teacher Education, Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, National Institute of Design (NID), BISAG (Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics). Countless, I can say. In such a short time, so much construction work is taking place on the land of Gandhinagar for the people who mould the destiny of India. These institutions did not only change the education sector, but companies also started setting up campuses here, leading to increased employment opportunities for the youth in Gandhinagar. Similarly, the Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar is also giving a fillip to the conference tourism. Now professionals, diplomats, thinkers and leaders come here for conferences. This has also given a new identity and direction to the city. Today, the educational institutions, modern railway stations, Gift City and many modern infra projects have made Gandhinagar vibrant and a city of dreams, in a way.

Friends,

Along with Gandhinagar, there are a number of projects in Ahmedabad which have become the hallmark of the city today. Be it the Sabarmati River Front, Kankaria Lake Front, water aerodrome, Ahmedabad Bus Rapid Transit System, the world’s largest stadium in Motera, six lanes of Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway;  so many projects have been developed in the past few years. In a way, while maintaining the mythological character of Ahmedabad, the city is being dressed up with modernity. Ahmedabad has been declared India’s first “World Heritage City”. Now, a new airport is also going to be built at Dholera near Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad-Dholera Monorail has also been sanctioned recently to connect this airport with Ahmedabad. Similarly, work on bullet trains connecting Ahmedabad and Surat to the country’s financial capital Mumbai is also in progress.

Friends,

Over the years, there has been unprecedented growth in rural development besides the cities of Gujarat.  The improvement in roads, electricity, water, especially in villages, in the last two decades is a very important chapter of Gujarat’s development journey. Today, every village in Gujarat has all weather road connectivity and tribal areas also have better roads.

Friends,

Most of us have seen the period when the villages of Gujarat used to get water from trains and tankers. Today, water has reached every village in Gujarat. Not only that, about 80 per cent of the households is now accessing tap water. Under the Jal Jeevan Mission, 10 lakh new water connections have been provided in the state. Very soon, every household in Gujarat is going to get water from taps.

Friends,

Not only drinking water, today, water has reached the areas of Gujarat where irrigation facility was considered impossible, nobody dreamt. A very comprehensive work has been done to green the drought affected areas of Gujarat, be it the Sardar Sarovar Dam, Sauni Yojana or water grids network. The water of Mother Narmada is now reaching Kutch, which is hundreds of kilometres away. Gujarat is also among the leading states in the country in terms of micro-irrigation.

Brothers and sisters,

Gujarat once faced a huge power crisis. In the villages, the crisis was severe. Today, Gujarat has enough power and is also the leading state in the country in the development of solar energy. A few days ago, work began for the world’s largest renewable energy plant in Kutch, which has both solar and wind energy. Today, Gujarat is becoming the first state to provide separate electricity for irrigation under the Sarvodaya Yojana to farmers. In the field of health, Gujarat has continuously empowered health services in villages. The health care schemes that have started in the country in the last six years are also benefiting Gujarat in a very comprehensive way. Under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme, 21 lakh people of Gujarat have got free treatment. More than 525 Jan Aushadhi Centres, which provide cheaper medicines, are functioning in Gujarat today. This has led to saving of about Rs. 100 crores to the general families of Gujarat, especially the middle and lower class families. Gujarat is also making rapid progress in providing affordable houses to the rural poor. More than 2.5 lakh houses have been constructed in villages of Gujarat under the PM Awas Yojana (Gramin). Similarly, more than 35 lakh toilets have been built in the villages of Gujarat under the Swachh Bharat Mission. Another example of how fast the work is being done for the development of the villages of Gujarat is the Digital Seva Setu. Through this, ration cards, land related papers, pension schemes, different types of certificates and many such services are being extended to the people of the villages.  This Setu was launched in October last year, i.e., four-five months ago. And I am told that this Digital Setu will be available to 8,000 villages very soon. Through this, more than 50 government services would be available to the people of the villages directly. I congratulate the entire team of the Government of Gujarat for this initiative.

Friends,

Today, India is not only taking decisions with self-confidence, but also implementing them expeditiously. Today, India is not just doing big, today India is doing better. Today, the world’s largest statue is in India. Today, the world’s largest affordable housing program is running in India. Today, the world’s largest healthcare assurance program is also running in India. The work to connect six lakh villages with fast Internet is also happening in India. And the world’s largest vaccination campaign against corona infection has also started in India a day before yesterday.

Here in Gujarat itself, two things have been completed recently which I would particularly like to mention. These are examples of how fast-completing projects change people’s lives. One is the ROPAX service between Ghogha and Hazira and the other is the Girnar ropeway.

Friends,

In November last year, i.e., four months ago, with the commencement of the ROPAX  service between Ghogha and Hazira, the years of wait for the people of both Saurashtra and South Gujarat has ended and the people there are getting a lot of benefit. With this service, a road distance of 400 kilometres between Ghogha and Hazira has been reduced to only 90 kilometres through the sea. That is, the travel time has been reduced from 10-12 hours to just 4-5 hours. It is saving time for thousands of people, reducing the expenditure on petrol and diesel and also helping reduce pollution due to lesser vehicles on roads. I am told that more than 50,000 people have availed of this new facility in just two months. More than 14,000 vehicles have also been transported through the ROPAX ferry service. Along with Surat, this new connectivity of Saurashtra has facilitated the farmers and cattle farmers of Saurashtra to deliver fruits, vegetables and milk to Surat. Earlier, fruits, vegetables and milk perished during road transport. Now, the products of cattle farmers and farmers are reaching the cities through the sea rapidly. Similarly, it has become much easier for business associates and labour colleagues in Surat to commute from this ferry service.

Friends,

A few weeks before this ferry service, the ropeway was started in Girnar in the month of October last year, about four-five months ago. Earlier, the only option to visit Girnar Mountain was by climbing 9,000 stairs. Now, the ropeway has given another facility to devotees. Earlier, it took 5-6 hours to reach the temple, now people cover the distance in a few minutes. I am told that in just two-and-a-half months, more than 2.13 lakh people have availed of it so far. You can imagine more than two lakh people in just two-and-a-half months. You can realize the magnitude of this service. And I am sure that the elderly mothers and sisters, the senior people of the family especially, who are visiting the temple are blessing several people like me which gives us the strength to do more work.

Brothers and sisters,

The goal of a new India can be achieved only by realizing the needs and aspirations of the people by working quickly. There is another effort in this direction which is not as much discussed as it should be. This is ‘PRAGATI’, a central-level scheme. When I was in Gujarat, a huge discussion was going on regarding the welcome ceremony. But the PRAGATI programme which is going on in the country is a platform which is playing a vital role in accelerating different schemes of the country and the infrastructure projects. Here, the people associated with the Government know that I also sit for hours in the PRAGATI meetings and discuss each and every project minutely with the state officials, trying to solve their problems. During PRAGATI meetings, I try to find a solution to projects that have been stuck for decades by communicating directly with all the stakeholders. Projects worth over Rs 13 lakh crore have been reviewed in the PRAGATI meetings in the last 5 years. The proper solution to important but incomplete projects for years has been found after reviewing them in these meetings.

Friends,

Cities like Surat get impetus once the schemes stuck for years gather steam. Our industries, and especially small industries, MSMEs, get confidence that they are competing with the markets in the developed world and they also have the same infrastructure like them. Several major steps have been taken for these small industries under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Campaign. On the one hand, loans worth thousands of crores of rupees have been arranged to bail the small industries out of the crisis, on the other, several important decisions have been taken to give more opportunities to MSMEs. The biggest decision the government has made is on the definition of MSMEs, the extent of investment. Earlier, entrepreneurs used to avoid expanding MSMEs fearing loss of government benefits. Now, the government has opened new avenues for these units by removing such restrictions. In addition, the new definition also eliminates the discrimination between manufacturing and service enterprises. This has also created new possibilities in the service sector. It has also ensured that India’s MSMEs get more and more opportunities in government procurements. The endeavour is that our small industries flourish and the labour friends working there get better facilities and better life.

Friends,

Behind these huge efforts are the youth of India of the 21st century and their countless aspirations — aspirations that are difficult to meet in the absence of infrastructure and security. I am sure that those difficulties have to be overcome, dreams have to be enabled and the resolutions have to be realized. I am sure that these metro projects in Ahmedabad and Surat will meet the aspirations and expectations of every friend in these cities.

With this belief, I congratulate all the brothers and sisters of Gujarat, especially the citizens of Ahmedabad and Surat.

Many many thanks!

DISCLAIMER: This is the approximate translation of PM’s speech. Original speech was delivered in Hindi.

NC

Ka-Chow!