Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday dedicated the first phase of Kochi Metro to the nation, took a brief ride in it and hailed its ‘several significant features’, especially employment to transgenders and women.
Addressing the gathering after dedicating the project, he stressed the need to bring about a ‘paradigm shift’ in urban planning by adopting a people-centric approach and integrating land use and transport.
He described as ‘noteworthy’ the selection of nearly 1,000 women and 23 transgenders to work in the Kochi Metro Rail System.
‘...Futuristic infrastructure that will contribute to India’s growth,’ the prime minister tweeted shortly after a ride in the Metro with dignitaries including Governor P Sathasivam, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan.
Union Urban Development Secretary Rajiv Gouba, Kerala Chief Secretary Nalini Netto and Bharatiya Janata Party state president Kummanam Rajasekharan also travelled with the prime minister.
Modi, in his address said his government has placed special focus on overall infrastructural development of the nation.
“In Pragati meetings, I have personally reviewed nearly 175 projects worth more than Rs 8 lakh crore and resolved bottlenecks,” he said, referring to his ambitious multi-purpose and multi-modal platform PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation).
Modi said his government was also focussing on ‘next generation infrastructure which includes logistics, digital and gas’.
The prime minister, who began his speech in Malayalam, said he was happy to be part of the inauguration of the project.
He said Kochi was selected as a Smart City in January 2016.
“I hope it will do even better in the days to come,” he said.
Kochi, the queen of the Arabian Sea, was once an important spice trading centre.
Today it is known as the commercial capital of Kerala, the prime minister said.
Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) is a 50-50 joint venture of the Centre and the state government.
The Centre has so far released over Rs 2,000 crore for the project. The coaches reflected ‘Make in India’ vision. They have been built by Alstom near Chennai and have an Indian component of around 70 per cent, he said.
Modi, who cut the ribbon at the Palarivattom station, shook hands with Vijayan and Sreedharan before proceeding to board the metro train.
During the journey, Modi waved at the crowd as Sreedharan and Kochi Metro Rail Ltd Managing Director Elias George interacted with him.
Considered as the fastest completed metro project in the country, Kochi Metro, the flagship transportation infrastructure project of Kerala, will start its regular operations from June 19.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh had laid the foundation of the project on September 13, 2012 and the construction began in June, 2013 during the tenure of the previous Congress-led United Democratic Front government headed by Oommen Chandy, who was conspicuous by his absence on Saturday.
The estimated completion cost of the Kochi Metro is Rs 5,181.79 crore.
The new transport system is expected to enhance the quality of life for the Greater Kochi metro area by improving regional connectivity and reducing overcrowding and traffic congestion.
Gift a book instead of bouquet: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said knowledge should not be limited to literacy and that the real goal was to bring in social and economic changes.
Inaugurating the month-long ‘Reading Month’ celebration of P N Panicker Foundation in Kochi, he said foundation of good knowledge will be followed by a super structure of a better society.
“The real goal should be for bringing in social and economic growth,” he said.
Stressing the need for digital literacy, Modi said, “I am happy to see that the foundation is now focusing on digital literacy and this is the need of the hour. I see big hope in such committed social movements. Such a move can make a big difference.”
He also wanted the youngsters to take a pledge for reading and also encourage others, adding a well read generation would help India grow.
“There can be no joy greater than reading and no friend greater than knowledge,” he said.
“The youngsters have the capacity to make a better society and nation, and together we can once again make India a land of wisdom and knowledge,” the prime minister said.
He also appealed to people to give a book instead of bouquet while greeting.
Lauding Kerala's achievements in the field of education and literacy, Modi said the southern state has been a ‘torch bearer and inspiration’ to the country in this regard.
Kerala is the first in the country to become cent per cent literate state. The state also has the distinction of being the first to attain 100 per cent primary education, he said.
Modi also recalled the contributions of citizens, social organisations and religious leaders in the state’s achievements in education.
“Kerala's success in education could not have been achieved by governments alone. Citizens and social organisations have played an active role,” he said.
Reading and knowledge should not be limited to expectations of work. We should develop the habit of social responsibility, service to the nation and humanity, he said.
“It is said that a literate woman can educate two families, but I say two generations. Kerala has set an example worth emulating in this regard,” he said.
P N Panicker was the driving spirit behind the library network in Kerala through Kerala Grandhasala Sangham (Library Association) with 47 rural libraries in 1945.