Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today Dalit icon B R Ambedkar gave us a constitution that protects the rights of the weaker sections of society as he urged people not to join Naxals in a bid to secure their rights.
He said the awakening among the poor and backward sections about their rights, their hopes and aspirations was due to Ambedkar, whose 127th birth anniversary was celebrated today. He attributed his own success to the chief framer of the Constitution.
Addressing a huge gathering of villagers in Jangala in the Naxal-heartland of Bijapur in this tribal-dominated region of Chhattisgarh, Modi asked people not to hand over the rights of their children to Naxal leaders who keep themselves safe but allow locals to die.
"Babasahab has given us the Constitution. He ensured protection of your rights. It is the duty of the government to take care of your rights. You need not pick up weapons, ruin your lives," the prime minister said, expressing his government's commitment to develop the backward region.
"I want to tell parents that their sons and daughters have chosen a path. But at least think about those who are leading them. None of them is a local and they are not from amongst you. They have come from outside (referring to Naxal leaders from other states who are active in Chhattisgarh)," he said.
Welcoming those who had gathered here in 'Halbi', a local dialect, Modi gave a 'charan paduka' to a woman and hearing aid to another woman.
In his address, he asked people to check the surnames of Naxal leaders and "you will come to know who are they and from where they have come."
"Why you have given your children's lives in their hands. The government is committed to protect your rights," he said.
He said security forces personnel have sacrificed lives to ensure safety of the people of Bastar. These jawans have made a crucial contribution to building roads, hospitals and schools.
Saluting security forces during the speech that lasted for over an hour, Modi said a memorial has been built in Bijapur to honour the personnel who died in Naxal violence.
He paid rich tributes to Ambedkar and devoted a large part of his address to the social reformer. He said April 14 is an important day for the 125 crore people of India as it is the birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar and asked those gathered to chant 'Jai Bhim' - three times after him.
BJP leaders have been reaching out to Dalits following a huge uproar over alleged dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, pursuant to a Supreme Court order.
While the government has pressed for a review of the court order, a nationwide protest earlier this month by Dalit bodies turned violent in several states. At least 11 people died in the violence.
Modi also launched the first phase of the ambitious Ayushman Bharat scheme here. He mentioned the Ayushman Bharat and Gram Swaraj programmes, saying these will empower the weaker sections.
The Ayushman Bharat scheme aims to create a network of health and wellness centres. It also aims to provide a cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary healthcare for 10 crore poor and vulnerable families.
The government aims to develop these centres by 2022.
As part of the Gram Swaraj scheme, the Centre will reach out to the poor in 21,000 most-backward villages and will make them aware about the Centre's welfare programmes. It will run until May 5.
"I am confident the projects launched on the birth anniversary of Ambedkar will set new parameters," said Modi.
Crediting Ambedkar for his own political success, he said: "A son of a poor mother, belonging to a very backward community, this partner of yours is if today the prime minister that is due to Babasaheb Ambedkar.
"Ambedkar had a huge contribution in awakening the aspirations and expectations of millions of people like me."
He said the NDA government will help in realising the dreams and aspirations of the people of Bastar. "I have come here to say that the Centre supports your dreams, aspirations and expectations."
"Bijapur was labelled a backward district. So were more than 100 other districts in the country. After so many years of independence these districts still remain backward," he said.
"Ambedkar's Constitution had provided many opportunities for development of these districts but still they remained backward," the prime minister said.
On January 5, Modi had asked officials to devote the coming three months in developing these backward districts.
"These three months have passed. If all people of the district and local administration, public representatives make an effort together then something which has not be done in the past 70 years can be achieved in a short time," he emphasised.
"I want to make these districts not only 'abhilashi' (aspirational) but also 'mahtvakanshi' (ambitious) so that they emerge as a development model," he said.
Modi said the government was working on a dual strategy to develop Naxal-affected regions by developing them also trying to bring back the misguided youth back into the mainstream.
Apart from the first phase of Ayushman Bharat scheme, Modi launched the Van Dhan scheme announced in the budget.
Under the scheme, Van Vikas Kendras will be set up to ensure better marketing and value addition to forest produce.
He inaugurated a slew of projects including a new rail lie, Internet service, roads and bridges here.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)