‘Modi Express’, a special train carrying over 220 passengers who will attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first public lecture in Sydney, was flagged off on Sunday by an Australian minister in Melbourne.
Victorian Multicultural Minister Matthew Guy flagged off the train at Southern Cross station - the major railway station and transport hub for Melbourne -- amid huge fanfare of Modi who is the first Indian premier to visit the country in the last 28 years.
For the first time in the history of Melbourne, a train service was organised under the name of a prime minister. The passengers from several communities including Punjabi,
Muslims, Gujarati and Kashmiris boarded the train of four bogies at 8 pm local time today. The passengers danced and sang patriotic songs before boarding the train, creating a huge festive atmosphere at the station.
The minister, who flagged off the train with an Indian flag, said the visit of Modi holds a huge significance for the Indian diaspora living in the Australia and also for the Indo-Australian relationship.
A couple, in their 60s, Dr Bhupender Singh and Gunni from Punjab who flew from Adelaide, said it was a huge moment for for Indians living in Australia and there was a sense of excitement among the diaspora with Modi's visit.
The passengers will be served with delicacies such as 'Modi Dhokla' and 'Modi Fafda' by the organisers for free of cost. Meanwhile, hundreds of Indians living in Victoria came to see off the train and be a part of the historic moment.
Gurbir Singh, a Melbourne resident also expressed his excitement. "Modi has given us a hope for the growth and a good future ahead," said Gurbir. Organised by the Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party, the service has been named as ‘Modi Express’ to honour their leader and celebrate his first official visit as prime minister to Australia.
"This Modi Express will be a hell of a party time for all of the passengers," according to Ashwin Bora, spokesperson for OFBJP's Melbourne Chapter. People from several communities even locals have booked their seats on this train, he said.
With the support of rail authorities, the train was specially decorated with tri-colour balloons, Modi's posters and banners and pictures of iconic places of India. Modi is expected to hold a public address on November 17 for which over 150,000 attendees have already registered.
Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets the Indian community as he arrives for unveiling of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Roma Street in Brisbane, Australia on Sunday. Photograph: Kamal Singh/PTI