Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday invoked poet-saint Guru Ravidas on his birth anniversary, urging people to end caste discrimination and identify those who promote it in their "self-interest".
Modi addressed two meetings and launched development projects worth Rs 3,000 crore during the visit to Varanasi, the second in a month to his Lok Sabha constituency ahead of the parliamentary elections.
He hit out indirectly at Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav for “mocking” the high-speed Vande Bharat train from Varanasi to Delhi after it developed a snag, saying they had insulted the engineers involved in the project.
Laying the foundation stone for the Ravidas Janmasthali area development project here, Modi said caste discrimination is an impediment in achieving social harmony.
"Guruji had said that there should be no discrimination on the basis of caste. Till caste discrimination is there, people cannot connect with each other, social harmony is not possible and equality cannot be ensured," Modi said.
"Identify those who in their self-interest, create caste discrimination and promote it," he urged, without taking any names.
The prominent saint from the Bhakti movement of the 15th and the 16th centuries was born in Varanasi. His hymns often addressed caste issues.
"He dreamt of a society where all are taken care of. We have tried to follow this tenet during the past four and a half years with 'Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ (inclusive development),” the prime minister said.
"My government focused on `panchdharma’ -- education, income, medicine, irrigation and addressing public grievances -- irrespective of caste, creed and other factors," he said.
"Unfortunately, caste discrimination has not been removed till now. New India will witness this change with the help of the youth," he said.
Modi also paid homage to Varanasi’s Ramesh Yadav, one of the soldiers killed in the recent terror attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama.
"The entire country will be forever indebted to the families of the soldiers who laid down lives for the country," he said.
Modi referred to attempts to fight back money and corruption in property deals and hit out against complacency.
"A `chalta hai' mentality had crept in. My government tried to change it," he said.
"Those who looted public money are being brought to book and honest people are being honoured," he said.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath called Modi "Kashiputra", or a son of Varanasi.
Hitting out at political rivals for making farm loan waivers an issue before the polls, the prime minister said Rs 7.5 lakh crore will reach the farmers’ accounts directly over the next few years under his government’s schemes.
He said while emphasising on developing infrastructure, his government was also focusing on making life better for the poor, the farmers and the middle class.
At the Diesel Locomotives Works here, Modi flagged off the first electric locomotive converted from a diesel engine in the country.
Without naming any leaders, he criticised attempts to “mock” the Vande Bharat Express over a technical snag.
"Some persons are targeting and mocking the semi-high speed train. This is unfortunate. This is an insult to engineers and technicians involved in the project. People should remain alert against such people who are insulting the engineers and the technicians, and mocking the country," he said.
He asked the people not to get demoralised by those “surrounded by negativity".
"I would like to tell the engineers, the technicians and the workers of the Chennai Rail Coach Factory that the entire country is proud of them,” he said.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had suggested a serious rethink of the Make in India campaign after the train episode.
SP chief Akhilesh Yadav had tweeted, "After the inauguration, fumes were seen in Vande Bharat train, power failure inside coaches, snag developed in the brakes after which the train came to a halt. Vande Bharat is a story of development.”
Modi launched or laid the foundation stones for projects worth Rs 3,000 crore around Varanasi.
These include a cancer institute, a sewage treatment plant, a drinking water project, and a light-and-sound show at Sarnath.