February 24, 2019

At the Foundation Stone Laying/Inaugurations of Various Railway Projects, in Chennai

Vanakkam! These are all my very dear friends on the dais, all my colleagues in parliament with whom I have spent the last 5 years together. At the outset, I want to thank all my colleagues, Members of Parliament, MLAs for all the cooperation and support that they have given me in my work over the last 5 years. I bow down to all of you. Thank you very much.

Officials of NLC limited, officials of Indian railways, citizens of Chennai, friends from the media, ladies and gentlemen. At the outset, I want to pay my respects to the two jawans who gave the supreme sacrifice from Tamil Nadu in the Pulwama attack. On behalf of all of us I pray for them. I pray that their families have the strength to bear this grief and I assure all the people of Tamil Nadu and all the friends gathered here today that their sacrifice will not go in vain. And this country and every citizen, 130 crore Indians will give such a befitting reply that nobody can ever look at the country with evil design. We will ensure that we eliminate terrorism from India and together the people of India will ensure that we protect the unity and integrity of our country.

Today is also the birthday of Amma, Dr. J. Jayalalitha Ji, whom I had the privilege of meeting, a few days before she got hospitalized and for me it is a memorable meeting that I had with her. I was Power Minister those days. I had come to discuss certain reform measures in the power sector. It was my first meeting. I was also little worried. I do not how it will go. What happens? What does not happen? What one has to do. But I must share with you, it was one of the finest meetings I have had in 5 years with any Chief Minister of any state.

She was radiant, smiling, caring     , very affectionate towards me and the cooperation that I got from her during that meeting, her understanding of technical subjects like power was so sharp and the decision-making ability was so swift that I became a fan of hers just like, I think, millions and lakhs and crores of Tamil brothers and sisters are fans of Amma in the state.

Today is her birthday. She would have been 71 years old today. We remember her fondly. The hon’ble Prime Minister has launched PM-KISAN, the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana today, by which every farmer who owns less than 5 acres land, the small and the marginal farmers, will get six thousand rupees every year for years and years and years ahead. Six thousand per family for years. More than 12 crore farmer families, brothers and sisters, will get this benefit. It is the country’s largest scheme ever introduced since independence for the benefit of the farmers and I thank the hon’ble Prime Minister on behalf of all of you, on behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu for launching this important scheme on the birthday of hon’ble Amma. And I am sure today Amma will be very happy to see that her farmers in the state of Tamil Nadu, 60 lakh small and marginal farmers in the state of Tamil Nadu will also be getting the benefit of Rs 6000 every year.

And I must share with you, this is not a favour that anybody is doing to the farmers of India. It is the respect that the people of India have for our farmers, for our small farmers. It is Sammaan Nidhi. It is a respect that we are giving to the farmers who are our Annadataas, who are feeding 130 crore people, who have made India food secured so that nobody in this country ever has to sleep on a hungry stomach. And I think that is exactly the dream that Amma had when she launched the Amma canteens, when she started the concept of Amma canteens.

Now I think every state is copying it in the country. All over the country people are starting that concept. But she had the vision and the foresight to start it and I think it is a proud moment for all of us that today we are assembled at the Chennai Central Station to also launch a number of new projects. In fact, 200 toilets being started at the same time in different stations all over the country, and mind you, these are not toilets inside the station. Inside the station it’s railways who is doing the toilets, it is our responsibility. I have already ordered that all the toilets should be upgraded.

If anybody, any public representative or any person from the public or media sees any toilet which is not clean, which is not properly maintained, please immediately inform my officials and immediately we will correct it. Because Swachhita is next to Godliness; Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and we believe that we have to make a clean India, a Swachh Bharat, everybody should have the facilities that are required and that is the mission with which today Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC India limited) has offered Rs 52 crore out of their CSR funds to make 200 toilets in different railway stations all over the state.

I must thank the chairman and managing director of NLC for this magnanimous gesture which will help 200 pre-fabricated toilets coming up all over Southern Railway in the circulating area that is outside the station, so that even people who are in and around the station, before they enter the station or after they have left the station also will have the facility of neat and clean and good sanitation facilities.

I am also delighted that we are laying the foundation stone for the foot-over bridge at Guindy railway station of Chennai division. We are also going to inaugurate the two pedestrian subways at LC No. 32 and 30 which I believe you mentioned. So we are very keen that having completed the elimination of all unmanned level crossings. I am sure you are all aware, in the entire country on the mainland, the broad gauges network, now there are no unmanned level crossings at all. Zero! All had been eliminated, so that accidents reduce, people do not lose their lives.

We have eliminated all of them in the last 5 years and now our next target is that in the main routes, the golden quadrilateral routes we will start converting all these manned level crossings also to underground road or under-bridges or road over-bridges. The idea being that our passengers in the train and the pedestrians from the villages and cities around the tracts also get safety and security.

I am also happy that a new booking office has been opened at the second entry of Guindy railway station and we are going to dedicate a newly renovated booking office at TRS Centre at Chennai Egmore of Chennai division. Now this is just a sample of a few projects, but the Indian Railways is committed to expanding the facilities all over the country so that the travel of passengers can become smooth, comfortable, safe; and I am happy to report to you that last year 2017-18 was the safest year in the history of Indian Railways. Minimum accidents in the last year 2017-18 and current year we are trying to do better than last year. We are still 35 days left so I am keeping my fingers crossed, so that there is no act of God and we want to make this even better than last year for safety record.

I am also very-very proud of the engineers of Chennai. The Vande Bharat Express, the Train 18, which the hon’ble Prime Minister launched from Delhi to Varanasi has been fully indigenously designed. It has been designed by our young engineers from Integral Coach Factory in Chennai and I compliment all the people of Chennai for their achievement, for your inspiration and motivation to help my engineers of Indian Railways produce India’s first own designed train set, own manufactured train set which makes the journey very comfortable, very safe and very fast.

Of course, some people are even making fun of the engineers of the Integral Coach Factory and the workers of the Integral Coach Factory and trying to show that Make in India and all their efforts are not good enough. I condemn those people who are criticizing my engineers of Integral Coach Factory. I condemn those people who are criticizing my workers in Integral Coach Factory who have made such a lovely train. The first train is already in the service of the people. 30 more trains are going to be manufactured in ICF Chennai, and going forward, I have decided to introduce 100 more trains so that all over the country people will start getting the benefit of Indian-designed, Indian-manufactured train sets and I compliment the people of Chennai, the people of Tamil Nadu for this big achievement that your brothers and sisters have done in the Integral Coach Factory.

Similarly, NLC Limited is the jewel in the power sector. I was earlier the Power Minister and I used to always try and inspire all the power companies to do better and better. NLC reports to the Ministry of Coal, which I continue to handle. I remember when I first took the review of NLC, it was a company which had had no growth, absolutely no growth for 10 years, between 2004 to 2014. It was just running along at a slow speed. There was no new projects, no new investment, no new jobs were created, no benefits to the people of Tamil Nadu.

I gave them the support and encouraged them to start aspiring for very ambitious goals and I am happy to share with you that in the last 4 years the installed capacity of NLC has almost gone up by 80% – 80% growth in the last four years and their turnover will double by the time this year ends from what it was in 2013-14. Their turnover would have doubled in 5 years, and while doubling the turnover, while increasing the capacity, look at their achievements. They have been able to bring down the tariff, the cost of power from 4 rupees 65 paisa four years ago to 3 rupees 72 paisa today, 93 paisa reduction, almost 20% reduction in the cost of power so that your power bills can be kept low and you do not have to pay high power bills.

That is the big achievement of NLC which is also a jewel of Tamil Nadu. They have been able to increase their capacity from 2740 MW to 4768 MW. When GST was introduced and our hon’ble MP’s father today is gone to Delhi to attend the GST Council meeting, GST was introduced with the support of AIADMK and other parties all over the country. Look how GST benefited the people of Tamil Nadu. After GST was introduced on 1st July 2017, we were able to pass on the benefit of GST to the power consumers, reduce the cost of power for all of you from 45 paisa to 75 paisa, only because of GST. Only because of GST the cost of power we were able to reduce so much and that benefit went to all the southern states.

Of course, almost most of the power that NLC produces largely is used in Tamil Nadu. Most of the CSR, social work that NLC does is also largely in the state of Tamil Nadu. In fact, more than 70% funds that they use for social work, social activities are used in Tamil Nadu, which are benefitting over 5 lakh brothers and sisters of Tamil Nadu.

I am also happy to share that when the mining activity of lignite takes place, the water that comes out is helping 60 villages around NLC, providing water to 60 villages, drinking water. It is irrigating large amount of land is getting irrigation water, and particularly for my brothers and sisters of Chennai, you will be happy to know that NLC is sending 45 million litres of water (45 MLD) for Chennai drinking water purpose. And in my review of NLC, two days back, on Friday, Thursday/Friday I was at Tirupati Balaji.

I had gone to pray and seek the blessings of Lord Balaji so that I am able to serve the people of India, the people of Tamil Nadu in the years to come and there I was reviewing the working of NLC when they told me that they are supplying 45 MLD water to Chennai. I said can we not increase it, because in Chennai we have a lot of water problem. I am happy to share with you that we are now going to talk to the local body, municipal corporation and the state government and I have ordered NLC to double the water that is given to Chennai from 45 MLD to 90 MLD, so that our people in Chennai will have less problem of water and will be able to get the support of NLC. Whatever is required to be done kindly do that expeditiously.

In the next 4 or 5 years, NLC plans to invest 23 thousand crore rupees in new projects in the state of Tamil Nadu in mining, in power generation, in solar power generations, various projects. It will provide jobs. It will provide working opportunities. It will provide employment to lakhs of our brothers and sisters of Tamil Nadu directly and indirectly, and help us to serve the people of Tamil Nadu even better and better.

In conclusion, I am confident that with the changes that have been happening in the whole country under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, due to the huge effort that the state government is doing to serve the people of Tamil Nadu, both of us, the central government and the state government, are working like a double engine. You are all aware that when a train has a double engine, two engines, it can go very fast.

In the same way, together, the central government and the state government, are working for a better future, for a better tomorrow for the people of India, for the people of Tamil Nadu. We are both working as partners for the progress of Tamil Nadu and I am sure when this double engine of progress continues to serve the people of Tamil Nadu you will see even faster progress, even more growth, even better services, even better connectivity, more and more railway development, you will see more investment coming to the state, more opportunities for work will be created and Tamil Nadu will truly prosper as one of the most industrialized and prosperous states of Tamil Nadu. My greetings to all of you on this happy occasion. I wish you and your families great happiness and a very prosperous future. Best wishes. Vanakam.

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