Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday visited Maharashtra's temple town of Shirdi to attend the closing ceremonies of a year-long festival marking the centenary of samadhi of the Shirdi Sai Baba. Modi also handed over keys of houses to beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Gramin (PMAY-G) and interacted with them via video conference. Maharashtra governor CV Rao and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis were also in attendance at the functions.
Modi was present at the e-grihapravesh ceremony for 40,000 beneficiaries of the affordable housing scheme of the government.
The prime minister unveiled a Saibaba Centennial Commemorative silver coin, performed the bhoomi pooja of major projects like a new building, a mega educational complex costing around Rs 159 crore, a planetarium, a wax museum, a Sai Garden and theme park, worth Rs 166 crore in total, a laser sound-and-light show and a 10-MW solar power project worth Rs 39 crore, said Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust (SSST) chairman Suresh Haware.
Revered across communities, Sai Baba passed away in Shirdi village in Ahmednagar district on Dussehra Day in 1918. To mark the centenary of his death, the Trust had organised year-long celebrations which were inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind on 1 October, 2017. In December 2017, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu inaugurated a Global Sai Temple Conference and a series of big and small activities were carried out throughout the year.
Trupti Desai detained ahead of alleged meeting with PM
Modi's visit to Maharashtra began on a controversial note. Pune Police early Friday morning detained activist Trupti Desai, who was on her way to ask for an audience with the prime minister and demand his intervention in the ongoing Sabarimala row.
After a scuffle with the Pune Police, Desai was taken to the Sahakar Nagar Police Station and will be held there until the end of Modi's visit, CNN-News18 reported. After being stopped from proceeding to Shirdi, Desai said that even though "being able to protest" is a "constitutional right", the protesters had been "stopped at home".
The move comes after Desai wrote a letter to Ahmednagar Superintendent of Police (SP) on Wednesday, demanding to meet Modi to discuss the Sabarimala issue ahead of his Shirdi visit. She had also threatened to stop his convoy if he doesn't agree to meet, ANI reported.
"I only wanted to tell Modi that you promised better days for women, but they are still unsafe. You spoke up for women on the triple talaq issue. But now you remain silent?" she was quoted as saying by India Today, "Many women want to enter the temple and pray, but they are scared of moving because of the violence in the area."
Modi launches fresh attack against Congress
While addressing the hordes of BJP supporters and party workers present at the event, the prime minister alleged that the Congress is only keen on promoting the Gandhi family name. " Previous governments were not serious about poverty alleviation; their sole objective was to promote a particular family," he said.
He also criticised the Congress efforts towards the poor. Speaking about the success of the BJP's PMAY-G scheme, Modi said: "The previous government in their last four years made 25 lakh houses. However, the BJP government has built 1 crore 25 lakh homes in the same amount of time."
"If that government was still in power, they would take 20 years to build the same amount of homes as us," he added.
Additionally, the prime minister lauded the Maharashtra government for their efforts towards the well being of the poor.
BJP working to alleviate water crisis, encourage tourism: Modi
Speaking about the water crisis that farmers across the country are facing, the prims minister said that his government is working to "complete projects that have been stuck for years under the prime minister's agricultural irrigation scheme. There are many large-scale schemes underway in Maharashtra,"
He also said that the government is committed to encouraging tourism in the state. "In Maharashtra, there are many places associated with faith like Shirdi. There are also places like Ajanta-Alora where devotees from all over the world come to visit," he said.
"I have been told that flights coming into Shirdi will be increased in frequency so that Sai devotees all over the globe can come to offer their prayers," he added
Opposition says BJP choosing 'false promotion of schemes'
Meanwhile, Opposition leader in the Maharashtra Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde on Tuesday claimed that the state government is spending Rs 2 crore to bring beneficiaries for the 19 October function.
The state government has allocated Rs two crore and given targets for its officers to identify and escort the beneficiaries to the event, Munde claimed. "None of the government schemes are reaching the target group. So now they've opted for false promotion of the schemes, with elections approaching," he alleged.
"In fact, PMAY-G is merely the old Indira Awas Yojana combined with a few other schemes and rechristened. Its implementation has been such that they are having to search for beneficiaries now. Also given the drought situation, why are government funds being spent on such propaganda?" he asked.
Munde said the Rural Development Department, headed by his estranged cousin Pankaja Munde, was spending government money to arrange food and travel of those attending the event and for putting up banners on buses.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Oct 19, 2018 14:21:14 IST