‘I have a special association with tea’ was how Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an instant connect with the Tamil community members in Dickoya in the tea-growing Central Province of Sri Lanka.
Modi, while addressing thousands of Tamils at a rally in the presence of Lankan President Maithripala Srisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, also invoked ‘chai pe charcha’, saying it was not just a slogan but a ‘mark of deep respect for the dignity and integrity of honest labour’.
He lauded Ceylon tea, saying it was world famous but what was lesser known was the sweat and labour behind it.
"If Sri Lanka today is the third largest exporter of tea, it is because of your hard work. It is your labour of love which is instrumental in Sri Lanka meeting almost 17 per cent of the world’s demand for tea, and earning more than 1.5 billion US dollars in foreign exchange," Modi said.
He hailed the Indian-origin Tamils, many of them tea plantation workers, saying, “You are that indispensable backbone of the thriving Sri Lankan tea industry that justly prides itself on its success and global reach today.”
Hailing the hard work of the tea plantation workers, Modi said their contribution was ‘deeply valued’ across Sri Lanka and beyond.
"You and I have something in common. As some of you may have heard, I have a special association with tea,” the prime minister said, in a reference to his tea-selling days.
"Today, we remember your forefathers. Those men and women of strong will and courage, who undertook the journey of their life from India to then Ceylon. Their journey may have been uphill and their struggles hard, but they never gave up. Today, we remember and salute that spirit,” Modi said.
Noting that the current generation had also faced relentless hardships, the prime minister said they encountered the stiff challenge of making their own mark and identity in a newly independent nation.
IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe, left, and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, right, wave to the members of the Indian-origin Tamil community during an event in Dickoya on Friday. Photograph: PTI Photo