Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asserted that the Centre is focused on ramping up top class infrastructure and outlined a commitment to further popularise Tamil while Chief Minister M K Stalin stuck to his pet 'Dravidian model' and sought retrieval of Katchatheevu islet from Sri Lanka.
Stalin urged Modi to uphold the 'true spirit of cooperative federalism' and said the Centre should increase funds and projects for the state and sought exemption to Tamil Nadu from NEET.
Dedicating to the nation completed projects and laying foundation stone for new schemes, Modi said the Centre is focused on building infrastructure that is of top quality and sustainable, both physical and coastal. The Prime Minister stressed on the government support to Sri Lanka, and work to achieve saturation level coverage of all important schemes.
"Our emphasis on social infrastructure indicates our emphasis on the principle of Sarv Jan Hitaya and Sarv Jan Sukhaya,' Modi said. This is the first official event the Prime Minister is participating in Tamil Nadu after the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam assumed office in May 2021.
Modi praised Tamil Nadu as a special place and lauded the Tamil language as eternal and its culture as global. He quoted a popular verse of nationalist poet Subramania Bharathi in praise of Tamil and said that in every field someone from Tamil Nadu was excelling.
Stalin in his address said TN is a pioneer, not only in economic and other related factors but also in social justice, equality and women's empowerment. "In brief, Tamil Nadu is a state for inclusive growth. This is what we call the Dravidian model." Receiving Modi in Chennai, Stalin presented a copy of Tamil epic, 'Silapathikaram.'
Highlighting Tamil Nadu's contribution to the national economy, he said the state's share in India's GDP is 9.22 per cent. In the overall tax income of the Centre, Tamil Nadu's share is 6 percent.
Referring to other economic parameters vis-a-vis the state, Stalin said the union government must increase its contribution to schemes and fund allocation, to do justice to the contribution lent by developed states like Tamil Nadu in the country's development and economy. "Only then will the true spirit of co-operative federalism be upheld."
"The GST compensation due to Tamil Nadu as on 15 May 2022 is Rs 14,006 crore. I request that this be released immediately. At a time when many states' revenues have not yet recovered completely, I demand that the GST compensation period be extended for at least two more years from June 2022."
Stalin said "this is the right time to retrieve Katchatheevu," an islet ceded to Sri Lanka by India in 1974. He said it is the solution to the problems faced by fishermen and it would uphold their traditional rights to fish in that region.
Modi began his address with 'Vanakkam' and welcomed the 'sisters and brothers' of Tamil Nadu to the event and said that the Tamil language is eternal and its culture as global.
Referring to cities in Tamil Nadu and nations like Canada, USA and Malaysia and South Africa with a sizable Tamil diaspora, he said the occasion of Pongal and the Tamil New Year are marked with great fervour.
The PM said the Centre is fully committed to further popularising Tamil language and culture. In January this year, the new campus of Central Institute of Classical Tamil, fully funded by the Centre was inaugurated in Chennai. He also pointed to the announcement of a 'Subramania Bharati Chair' on Tamil studies at Banaras Hindu University in his Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh.
Pointing to the Cannes film festival in France, Modi said, the "Son of this great soil Tamil Nadu, Thiru L Murugan (Union Minister) walked the red carpet in traditional Tamil attire and it made Tamil, all over the world very proud." Murugan, who was on the dais stood up and thanked Modi with folded hands.
Describing the new projects rolled out as yet another glorious chapter of Tamil Nadu's growth journey, he listed the Chennai-Bengaluru Expressway and the Chennai Port-Maduravoyal elevated road project to underscore that the focus on road construction is 'clearly visible' as it is directly linked to economic prosperity.
Road projects like the Neraluru-Dharmapuri and Meensurutti to Chidambaram sections, would bring many benefits to the people and the re-development of 5 railway stations in Tamil Nadu is being done keeping in minds the needs of future. Such railway project initiatives would factor in the local art and cultural aspects, he said.
The 75-km long Madurai-Theni Railway Gauge Conversion Project (southern Tamil Nadu) inaugurated by him would open up more market access to farmers. On the inauguration of 1,152 houses, constructed as part of the Light House Project-Chennai, at a cost of Rs 116 crore under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban, Modi said it is very affordable, durable and environment friendly which was completed in record time and it is in Chennai, he said.
Underscoring the New Educational Policy, he said technical and medical courses can be pursued in local languages and youngsters from Tamil Nadu could benefit from this. The DMK regime is opposed to the NEP and Modi's comment is seen as a counter to the ruling party's stand.
India is providing all possible support to Sri Lanka including financial, fuel, food, medicine and other essential items, he said and recalled he was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Jaffna.
As regards NEET, Stalin said Tamil Nadu has been continuously opposing the test. Referring to the anti-NEET Bill passed by the Assembly and sent to the Centre for Presidential assent, he said the Centre should take steps to clear it. Union Minister of State Murugan hailed Modi as a dynamic leader who fulfilled all assurances and said the country under his leadership is the fastest growing economy in the world.
In Tamil Nadu, BJP is targeting the DMK regime over the poll promises it made ahead of the last year polls. Modi was accorded a rousing reception by the Saffron party.