Modi in Santiniketan: Praises Tagore, apologises for lack of drinking water

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, during the annual convocation of Visva Bharati University, in Birbhum, on Friday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, on Friday inaugurated the Bangladesh Bhavan in West Bengal's Santiniketan and participated in the 49th convocation of Visva Bharati University. During his visit, PM Modi addressed the students at the central University as well as gave a speech after inaugurating Bangladesh Bhavan. 

In both his speeches, Modi paid rich tributes to Rabindranath Tagore. 

Sheikh Hasina and Mamata Banerjee reportedly became the first head of government of a foreign country and the first chief minister, respectively, to be present during the ceremony. “It’s a rare occasion when the prime ministers of two countries are present at the convocation programme of a university,” said Modi.

On the Bangladesh Bhavan, which has been set up by her government, Hasina said, "We are delighted with our share in Visva Bharati University. The students, scholars and teachers will be immensely benefited from this Bhavan," she said.

Rabindranath Tagore had started his college in Santiniketan in December 1921 with the money he had received when he won the Nobel Literature Prize in 1913. This was Modi’s first visit to Visva-Bharati, the only central university, of which he is the chancellor. Rabindranath Tagore is highly respected by both India and Bangladesh because he had written the national anthems of both the nations.

Here are the top 10 highlights of PM Modi’s speeches:

1. Modi honours Rabindranath Tagore: Modi said that Tagore led his life with the belief that ‘world in one family’ (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam). He called Tagore was a global citizen. Praising Tagore’s brother Satyendranath Tagore, Modi said that he was the first Indian to join the civil services. He also taught English literature to Rabindranath while working as commissioner in Ahmadabad. 

“I come across a lot of people who praise and respect Tagore. If we go to Afghanistan, everyone mentions the story of Kabuliwala. Across several universities, Tagore is respected as a learned man,” said Modi.

2. On India-Bangladesh ties: Modi said that India and Bangladesh have several bonds that unite the two countries. Santiniketan is that symbol of unity that could not be divided by the British nor the politics of partition.

3. On drinking water: Modi said that we felt sorry to learn about the non-availability of drinking water in Santiniketan. He said while travelling, some children told him that they don’t even have drinking water. “As a chancellor, I tender my apology,” said Modi right at the beginning of his speech.

4. Modi On electricity: Modi said Bangladesh was now getting 600 Megawatts (Mw) of electricity from India, and the target was to raise it to 1,100 Mw. He said in the northeastern states, an internet connection was coming through Bangladesh, while India has made available $8 billion letter of credit to the neighbouring country for carrying out development work.

5. On space-tech: Praising Sheikh Hasina and the people of Bangladesh "from my heart", Modi referred to the country launching its first satellite 'Bangabandhu'.

He said India was now using space technology to improve the standard of living of the poor and introduce more transparency and exuded confidence the sector will open new vistas of cooperation with the neighbouring country.

6. ‘The burning sun can be an advantage as well’: Averring that the constant connect between him and Hasina was giving a further momentum to the bilateral relations, Modi also referred to challenges like climate change.

"Climate change is before us, if the burning sun is a challenge for us, it can also be of advantage to us. PM Hasina has come up with a vision of 'power for all' by 2021, while in India, we have set up a target of electricity to every home by next year,” said Modi.

7. On village development: In order to mark the university’s mark the central university’s centenary in 2021, Modi urged the students of Visva-Bharati to turn 100 villages around in Santiniketan in West Bengal’s Birbhum district self-sufficient. 

 “The villages should have power connection, LPG gas supply, children should get vaccinations and the villagers should be able to fill up forms digitally,” Modi said during the university’s convocation programme. Modi also referred to a few central projects such as Swachh Bharat that could aid them in this effort. 

8. Man breaches security to give Modi Tagore’s portrait: While Modi was leaving the dais after his convocation speech, a man suddenly mounted on the platform just to hand over a portrait of Rabindranath Tagore. Modi took the portrait from him and handed it over to his security personnel.

9. Bangladesh seeks 'cooperation of all' in sending back Rohingya refugees: Bangladesh sought the "cooperation of all" to put pressure on Myanmar to take back the around 1.1 million (11 lakh) Rohingya refugees given shelter in the country on "humanitarian ground".

10. The last few years have been a golden chapter in India-Bangladesh relationship when complicated issues of land and coastal boundaries were resolved, Modi said.

Expressing gratitude to India for "standing beside Bangladesh in times of crisis", Hasina, who is Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's daughter, said, "We will never forget how India stood beside us during the 1971 Liberation war."

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