It was a show like no other! For the thousands of Indians gathered at Sydney’s Allphones Arena on the evening of November 17 at least, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was no less than a rock star. It was evident not just in the huge presence of members of the Indian community at the cavernous arena, but also in the manner in which they hung on to every word of his and cheered him on.
If the Rolling Stones Mick Jagger rocked the iconic sports complex in Sydney just a week ago, the Indian Prime Minister had Indian expatriates virtually eating out of his hands during his six-hour stay in Sydney. A stay during which he received a traditional Aussie welcome and a boomerang as a gift.
Mr Modi, in turn, played to the gallery as he tugged at their heart strings, his speech a mix of the emotional, the practical and even the humorous. The around 20,000-strong crowd, in turn, responded by frequently breaking into chants of ‘Modi, Modi’ as the Indian leader exhorted the rapturous crowd to return to their Motherland what they had got from it.
‘India of Your Dreams’
Befittingly enough, the backdrop for Mr Modi’s speech was the colours of the Indian flag as the Indian exapts listened in rapt attention. Many had taken the day off and several had travelled in a specially chartered `Modi Express’ train from Melbourne to Sydney to hear the master orator.
Stating that he was both humbled and honoured by the welcome, Mr Modi offered them the India of their dreams. “I said there were expectations behind this affection. Yes. We want to create the India you are dreaming of.” “This welcome, this respect, this enthusiasm I dedicate it to the people of India,” said Mr Modi, the first Indian prime minister to visit Australia in 28 years.
To the delight of those present at the Arena, Mr Modi announced that an Indian Cultural Centre would be opened in Sydney by February next year. He also announced a visa-on-arrival facility for Australian tourists.
On a personal note, to the delight of the crowd, he remarked: “You complain that nobody in the embassy bothers about you. Nobody picks up the phone and responds to e-mails.” He then announced a two-month deadline for the long-pending merger of OCI and PIO status by early January. It is expected to be announced when the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (PBD) event is held in Gandhinagar, the capital of Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
Remake India, give back…
The prime minister also urged the well-heeled diaspora to invest in India. However, Mr Modi made it amply clear that it’s not just the big-ticket investments he’s seeking from the Indian community.
Drawing attention to his `Swachh Bharat’ (Clean India) campaign, the prime minister called upon the Indian diaspora to extend their support to it. “I request you to contribute. God has given you so much.”
Stating that while some people only dream of doing the big things, Mr Modi said he was interested in doing “small things” like building toilets and ensuring cleanliness. In his speech lasting around an hour, the prime minister also took a swipe at the previous government, noting that while it “enjoyed making laws, I like doing away with them”.
Speaking about the need to do away with obsolete laws, the prime minister, who has promised minimum government and maximum governance, said: “Let’s keep the windows open and allow fresh air to come in.”
In this regard, Mr Modi also shared with the gathering the decision taken by his government to do away with the need for documents to be attested by gazette officers/magistrates, etc. “I don’t understand this. It’s the age of Xerox. Are we truthful only if these officials certify as such?” asked the prime minister. “We need to have vishwas (faith) in our countrymen and get rid of such rules,” he added.
The PM also called upon NRIs to send in their complaints/suggestions or if they wanted to contribute to the country’s development in any manner at the website mygov.in.
Extolling the virtues of democracy, Mr Modi said: “Look at the strength of democracy. Would I have been here if it weren’t for democracy? The power of this democracy brought me here.”
The various new schemes and policies of the new government also found mention in the Prime Minister’s speech, including the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and the ‘Make in India’ initiative. He also mentioned the ambitious Jan Dhan Yojna (scheme) under which 70 million bank accounts have been opened in the last 10 weeks and Rs 5,000 crore (around $800 million deposited by account holders
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