- PM Modi honored sanitation workers during his Kumbh Mela visit
- He washed the feet of "Swachh Kumbh Swachh Aabhaar" awardees
- He addressed a gathering soon after where he praised sanitation workers
After a dip at the Sangam in Prayagraj for the ongoing kumbh mela, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen paying his respects to a handful of safai karamcharis. The occasion was "Swachh Kumbh Swachh Aabhaar" award - an acknowledgement for the efforts to keep the mela grounds clean. The "Aabhaar" (respect), however, took an unexpected turn as in front of television cameras, the Prime Minister proceeded to wash and wipe clean the feet of the five awardees.
Kumbh mela, a timeless tradition sees millions coming to take a dip at the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. In view of the crowd, keeping the mela grounds clean is a challenging task.
Outlining the huge effort it took, the Prime Minister said, "Over 20,000 dustbins, 1 lakh toilets... difficult to even imagine how much safai karamcharis have worked".
Dubbing the sanitation workers "karmayogis" (saints focussed on work), he said, "These safai karamcharis were my brothers and sisters who were waking up early, sleeping late, all to ensure the cleanliness of the area. They did not want any praise but they were doing their jobs without any fuss". The moment, he said, "would stay with me for my life".
His gesture at Kumbh was seen to emphasise his crusade for a Clean India and giving respect to those who help achieve it. Traditionally, sanitation workers usually come from the lowest echelons of society and have practically no social status.
Prayagraj was PM Modi's second stop on Sunday in Uttar Pradesh.
The first was Gorakhpur -- the stronghold of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and home to some of the country's poorest farmers - where he rolled out a mega scheme of cash transfer scheme for farmers, weeks before the national elections.
The move came amid an acute farmers' distress in the country, which has pitched farm sector reforms at the centre stage of electoral issues. Last year, the BJP had lost the by-elections to the Lok Sabha seat in Gorakhpur, which Yogi Adityanath held for five terms.
The winner was backed by the combine of Mayawati and Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav, who have formed an alliance ahead of the coming national elections.
The opposition also claims that the BJP is facing the anger of Dalits, who were upset with the government's tardy response last year to the changes in a law meant for prevention of atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
The Congress and the Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav combine had accused the BJP-led central government of not taking up the cause of Dalits after the Supreme Court suggested changes that were seen as compromising the safety of the community. The bulk of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav's support comes from the Dalits and backward castes.