Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said some forces abroad were conspiring to tarnish the image of Indian tea.
The focus of his speech in poll-bound Assam’s Dhekiajuli, a tea-growing area, was on the tea plantation workers, a major chunk of voters that the Bharatiya Janata Party had weaned away from the Congress ahead of the 2016 Assembly election.
“I want to tell you about a conspiracy hatched to defame the country. The conspirators have not even spared Indian tea. They are saying the image of Indian tea has to be defamed worldwide, systematically,” Mr. Modi said.
He was addressing a crowd of largely tea plantation workers after remotely inaugurating and laying the foundation stones of a medical college each in eastern Assam’s Biswanath and Charaideo and Assam Mala, an expansive road project.
“The evidence that we have suggests the forces are seated abroad, ready to launch an attack on India’s tea-based identity,” the Prime Minister said.
He added the tea plantation workers and every individual who drank tea would seek an explanation from the political parties for maintaining silence on it.
“But I want to tell the conspirators that the country won’t allow you to succeed, however much you try. The tea workers will win this battle. Those who are conspiring to launch an attack on Indian tea are not strong enough to confront the strength of our tea workers,” Mr. Modi said, without naming the forces.
Cash award fair
The Prime Minister underlined the steps being taken by the BJP-led Assam government to improve the lives of the tea workers. He referred to the Cha Bagichhar Dhan Puraskar Mela (cash award fair for tea workers organised on Saturday) during which the State government transferred ₹3,000 each to the bank accounts of 7.47 lakh tea plantation workers.
The government had transferred cash twice earlier for a total “gift” of ₹584 crore.
“Assam’s happiness and progress are Assam’s tea gardens. The lal chai (red tea) of Sonitpur (district where Dhekiajuli is situated) is known for its special flavour. Who knows the taste of Assam tea better than me? That’s why I always see the progress of tea workers with the progress of Assam,” Mr. Modi said.
He also referred to a scheme under which pregnant tea garden women are handed a financial assistance of ₹12,000. He lauded the government for sending mobile medical units to the tea gardens and supplying free medicines to the workers.
Stating that a special scheme entailing ₹1,000 crore was announced in the Budget for the welfare of the tea community in Assam, he said this would make the lives of the workers easier.
The Prime Minister also underscored the NDA government’s commitment to healthcare with a provision of ₹1,000 crore in Budget 2021.
“We are planning integrated laboratories across 600 districts in the country for taking healthcare to the people’s doorsteps. People from rural areas and small towns will benefit the most; they will no longer have to travel long distances for basic medical tests,” he said.
The Prime Minister lamented that Assam had only six medical colleges in 70 years after India’s independence till 2016. Work on six more started during the last five years and they will together help Assam produce 1,600 new doctors,” he said, lauding the State government for benefiting 1.25 crore people under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana.
He also hoped that the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) being established near Guwahati would go a long in bringing about a qualitative change in the lives for people in the Northeast. “I wonder why previous governments never considered having an AIIMS at Guwahati,” he said.