Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi got an euphoric reception from the Indian community in this Australian city, with hundreds of expatriate members chanting “Modi, Modi” to welcome him when he went to unveil the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Roma Street Parkland.
Modi later tweeted that he was “touched by enthusiasm of the Indian community!” and posted a picture of the venue where the statue was unveiled.
“Mahatma Gandhi is as relevant today as he was in his lifetime,” Modi said at the function, beginning his bilateral engagements in Australia after the conclusion of the G20 summit.
He noted how the organiser of the event, Hemant Nayak, recalled that Modi was keen on having the statue installed even from the days when he had not yet become the chief minister of Gujarat.
He thanked Nayak for correcting the perception that some people had, that he had begun to mention Mahatma Gandhi only after becoming prime minister
He said he never thought his suggestion (of having such a statue installed) would become a reality, or that he would have the good fortune of unveiling it, and he considered this moment to be no less than a divine message.
Addressing a gathering of the Indian-Australian community at the venue, the prime minister said, “On October 2 (1869), a person was not born in Porbandar, but an era was born”, referring to the Mahatma.
He referred to the problems of global warming and terrorism that had been discussed in the just-concluded G20 summit at Brisbane, and said Gandhi’s life gives us the answers.
“Non-violence was an article of faith for Mahatma Gandhi,” Modi told the Indian diaspora.
“When Mahatma Gandhi stayed at Sabarmati Ashram, the river was full of water. Yet even (during) that time, he scolded people for wasting water.
“Mahatma Gandhi always showed us that we have no right to do exploit nature,” he said.
“He would not accept a full glass of water, if he needed half a glass, and he would use the reverse side of used envelopes to conserve paper,” he said, adding that if the world follows Gandhi’s examples, a lot can be done for the environment.
The statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Brisbane has been sculpted by Ram Sutar of New Delhi
The programme organisers, on their part, said a bridge would be named after Mahatma Gandhi in Springfield, a satellite city of Brisbane.
Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey and Lord Mayor of Brisbane Councillor Graham Quirk were present on the occasion.
The prime minister expressed happiness about attending the function.
“G20 meetings are over. Happy beginning my bilateral visit to Australia with this programme: PM,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted ahead of his arrival at the venue.
Modi earlier attended the G20 Summit in Brisbane and held one-to-one meetings with a number of world leaders.