Mumbai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of Indian Constitution, is an inspiration to the oppressed peoples all over the world.
"Ambedkar was not merely a leader of the Dalits. He is an inspiration for all the poor, marginalised and oppressed peoples all over the world. Martin Luther King is known all over the world, but nobody knows Ambedkar, this is our misfortune," Modi said after laying the foundation stone for the proposed world-class memorial to Ambedkar in the Indu Mills Compound in Dadar west.
Lauding the contributions of Ambedkar while also recalling how he also faced oppression all his life but he went ahead and only thought of the nation, Modi said: "At times I wonder - if Ambedkar was not there, where would I be? All that we are doing is repaying his debts sincerely."
He also announced that November 26 would be celebrated as Constitution Day when each person would be made aware of the immense contributions of Ambedkar and his thoughts.
The prime minister, during his half day visit to Mumbai, also laid the foundation stone of the the new Rs.7,915 crore container terminal at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and two new Mumbai Metro corridors - the 18.5 km Dahisar East-Andheri West route estimated to cost Rs.4,994 crore and the 16.5 km Dahisar East-Andheri East route estimated at Rs.4,737 crore, in quick succession.
Underlining the criticality of ports in the country's development, he said that a vibrant port sector is very important for a nation like India blessed with a long coastline.
"Now only port development is not enough. What we need it 'port-led development' with simultaneous development of roads, railways, warehouses, cold storages, etc," he said.
On the importance of metro railway networks, he said it would be a boon to the rapid urbanization witnessed around the country wherein urban growth should not be seen as a burden but as an opportunity.
"As many as 50 cities have been identified for metro rail development in the country. Besides, 400 railway stations in the heart of cities will also be developed in a big way with multi-storeyed buildings and other facilities," Modi said.
Maharashtra Governor C.V. Rao, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, union ministers Nitin Gadkari, and Santosh Gangwar, officials, several prominent Dalit leaders and other invitees also attended the programmes. However, the entire Shiv Sena leadership starting from party president Uddhav Thackeray to city Mayor Snehal Ambekar boycotted the functions.
The opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party criticized Fadnavis for "converting a national function" into a party function and not inviting other party leaders for the event.
"We welcome the foundation stone laying ceremony of Ambedkar Memorial, the project initiated by the Congress-NCP Government. We regret Maharashtra government's attempts to politicize it by portraying it as a BJP function," ssaid senior state Congress leader and legislator Sanjay Dutt.
"Fadnavis is a man with small heart. He should have personally invited NCP president Sharad Pawar who had championed the cause of Indu Mills. It was the NCP which had demanded that Ambedkar Memorial should be set up there," said NCP spokesperson Mahesh Tapase in a statement.
Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam thanked Modi for "carrying forward" the party's project to make the world-class Ambedkar Memorial today.
Referring to the boycott by ruling ally Shiv Sena, Nirupam tweeted: "Complete breakdown in Maharashtra ruling alliance - they hate each other like 'sautan' (mistress)."
Most banners and hoardings on the day's events in different parts of the city blacked out the Shiv Sena and other parties with the focus on BJP national and state leaders.
According to plans, the Ambedkar Memorial will have a more than 100 feet tall statue of Ambedkar, a stupa, museum, a library and research centre and other facilities for attracting global tourists.