Gifting an education and a better future to our Nari Shakti

New Delhi : For a man used to leading an ascetic-like life marked by simplicity, the expensive gifts that he receives hardly matter. On the 18th, 19th and 20th of this month, various gifts received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will go under the hammer. The proceeds will go to the Namami Gange Trust Fund. It may be recalled that as the chief minister of Gujarat, Mr. Modi received gifts, which were auctioned, and the proceeds went towards furthering the education of the girl child.

The auction in Surat is the beginning of similar auctions that would be held across the country. In Surat, gifts received by Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel will also be auctioned. It is a well known fact that dignitaries right from President Pranab Mukherjee to chief ministers and mayors receive gifts from other dignitaries and well-wishers. The gifts range from shawls, artifacts, statues of gods, watches, medals and coins – some of which are made of diamond, gold and silver.

As the longest-serving chief minister of a state who never shied away from drawing the world to invest and visit Gujarat, and a chief minister who remained very accessible, Narendra Modi was a natural recipient of several gifts from people from across the world. Much like what other leaders are supposed to do, Narendra Modi deposited those gifts in the state treasury (Toshakhana). It was here, however, that Modi did something, which was not only totally out of the box, but also, deeply touching. He started the practice of public auctioning the gifts he received and the proceeds went towards furthering the education of the girl child.

The auction of the gifted articles was an instant success and they were sold off at very high prices. A lot of money was generated for the education of the girl child. In a system where such gifts are only reduced to becoming relics that could perhaps be displayed somewhere, Narendra Modi’s idea was practical and most importantly, touched the lives of several people across Gujarat. Often, people who invited Modi to a particular function would not give him a gift, but would donate money to the Kanya Kelavani Nidhi.

In fact, Narendra Modi would say a number of times that I do not want any gifts, please contribute to the Kanya Kelavani Nidhi. One person who made such a contribution in Junagadh District said, “We have been holding programmes for a long time and several dignitaries have been coming. This was actually the first time someone told us please gift me nothing but contribute towards girl child education. It was really inspiring.”

Another trust that made a similar contribution said, “We are not a very big trust. Our contribution may not have been very big. Yet, the warmth with which Narendra Bhai accepted it and made us feel that we are doing something for Gujarat’s development…we will never forget it. He made us feel as if what we are doing is the biggest contribution to Gujarat’s development.”  Cricketing giant Sachin Tendulkar donated gift items and souvenirs, including his Number 10 jersey, which was used by him during the 2003 World Cup to an auction.

Statistics indicate the extent of the success Narendra Modi’s idea has achieved. In his 13 years as the chief minister of Gujarat, he raised a whopping Rs. 95 crores for girl child education. In the 41 years before Narendra Modi took over as chief minister, 13 predecessors were only able to deposit a meager Rs. 4.55 lakhs in the Toshakhana. Modi initiated a trend that would be very tough to emulate. Such actions are not one-off instances. In fact, on 22nd May, just before leaving for Delhi, Modi donated Rs.21 lakhs from his personal savings to create a corpus fund to educate the daughters of drivers and peons employed in various government offices.

The Shala Praveshotsav and Kanya Kelavani Abhiyaan are one of the most fascinating examples of innovation and good governance with a human touch. They are shining instances of how positive social change is possible through emphasis on education. Every year, for three days during the peak summer, Modi and his team of ministers and officials use to travel to villages in Gujarat, asking parents to educate their children, especially their daughters. The same cycle was repeated in the cities of Gujarat.

Explaining the need for such a movement, Modi had remarked that when he took over as chief minister in 2001, he was appalled to see the poor state of the education in Gujarat. Enrollment was low and drop out rates were skyrocketing. He decided then that the time had come to take firm action and that is when his emphasis on educating the girl child began. The results were there for everyone to see. School enrolment reached an all-time high and drop out rates were reduced to a minimum.

This one visionary step brought in a sea of change in several lives! No wonder Narendra Modi found it most opportune to auction the gifts he received and donate them to this particular cause. What Modi has been doing from the beginning of his tenure reflects his vision, compassion and sensitivity. This is what makes him such a unique leader and a man with a sense of duty towards the nation. He stands apart as a leader who selflessly is working to ensure the development of the nation and its people.

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