Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Maritime India Summit on Thursday and praised Dr BR Ambedkar, calling him “the architect of the water and river navigation policy in India”.
“There is a reason why this important Summit has been organised today, on 14th April 2016. Today is 125th anniversary of a great son of India: Dr BR Ambedkar,” said PM Modi.
He said that Ambedkar had emphasised on creating a new waterways policy for India. “Many of us may not know that Babasaheb created two powerful institutions related to water, navigation and power. They were the Central Waterways, Irrigation and Navigation Commission and The Central Technical Power Board. Dr Ambedkar emphasised importance of new waterways policy to lay the foundation for a regime of prosperity for millions of poor of India,” he said. “We have embarked on the development of National Waterways in keeping with Babasaheb’s vision and foresight,” the PM added.
The Prime Minister also claimed that India was the fastest growing economy in the world today. “With a GDP growth rate of more than seven percent, India is the fastest growing major economy today,” he said.
“We Indians are inheritors of a glorious maritime heritage. It is my government’s endeavour to revive and restore India’s position of eminence in the global maritime sector,” Modi said.
“In the very early days of our government, we announced the Sagarmala programme…We want to modernise ports and integrate them with SEZs, port-based smart cities, industrial parks, warehouses, logistics parks,” he said. “Our maritime agenda will complement this ambitious infrastructure plan for the hinterland which is going on at the same time,” he said.
“Long coastline of India along with diverse coastal regions and hard working coastal communities can become an engine of growth of India. Our vast coastline of 7,500 km offers a huge investment opportunity,” said the PM.
Modi also said that the year 2015-16 saw the highest-ever FDI inflow into India and that Moody’s had recently appreciated the ‘Make In India’ programme.
“Our vision is to increase port capacity from one thousand, four hundred million tonnes to three thousand million tonnes by 2025,” he said.
“With more than 14,000 km of navigable inland waterways, there is tremendous potential for development,” said the PM.
“Private ports have been growing at a very healthy pace and have nearly doubled their capacity in the last five years,” he said. “The maritime sector not only creates and facilitates economic activities; it also connects countries and civilisations,” he added.
The PM added that 18 percent of the population in India lived in 72 coastal districts.
Finally, Prime Minister Modi ended his speech by saying, “It is the right time to come to India, an even better time to come through the sea route.”
At the three-day summit, agreements entailing investments of over Rs 82,000 crore will be signed, Union Shipping and Ports Minister Nitin Gadkari had said, adding this includes 35 concession agreements of Rs 5,900 crore, 20 work orders of Rs 8,250 crore and 86 MoUs involving an investment of over Rs 68,700 crore.
More than a dozen Union ministers are expected to address the summit, for which 3,000 delegates, including 300 from 41 countries, have registered, he said. Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat will also be present.
Being held at NSE Grounds in suburban Goregaon, the summit will have 13 technical sessions, 200 exhibitors and 52 participants from South Korea, which is the partner country for the event.
It will also have a museum resembling a ship displaying the maritime history of the country, made by art director Nitin Desai.
India and South Korea also signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation and mutual assistance in the port sector, Gadkari said.