By Padmashree Dr B R Shetty
Note: The following article has been translated from a Kannada version of a write-up, authored by Dr B R Shetty, which appeared in a Kannada daily. The article was translated for daijiworld with the consent of Dr B R Shetty.
Abu Dhabi, Aug 21: The late Dr V S Acharya and I had contested the Udupi municipal election in 1968. Then, Udupi municipality was the only entity other than New Delhi city corporation to have Jan Sangh at the helm of the local body. Vajpayee had come to Udupi to canvass for the party candidates. Narendra Modi, who was just 16 then, had also visited the town as an astute fan and follower of Vajpayee. In Modi's own words, he was a 'Vajpayee Chela' then.
Modi had, during his address, showed his affection towards me by recollecting this incident and openly narrating about it at a function held at Ahmedabad four years ago, in which I too was a participant.
I consider myself lucky to have been given the responsibility of being the chief coordinator, and thus being involved with coordinating different programmes in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated during his visit to Abu Dhabi recently. The success of this visit was unprecedented. I am extremely grateful to have got an opportunity to pay back an indebtedness that was 47 years old.
As this happened to be the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to United Arab Emirates (UAE) after a gap of 34 years, this event also won global attention. The last time a Prime Minister came to UAE was in 1981, when Indira Gandhi came here.
I had requested Modi to come to Abu Dhabi immediately after he won the election last year. However, because of his busy schedule, he could not meet my request. When the ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed invited him to visit the Emirates, Modi agreed. This programme was fixed just seven days prior to Modi's visit. Out of faith they had on me, the local committee asked me to organize the programmes. Information about it came from the embassy on Friday August 7, and people spontaneously came forward, setting aside differences of caste, language and religion in extending wholehearted support within a matter of five to six days towards holding programme of such magnitude. A team of 60 people worked towards making this visit a huge success. Sathish Mayya functioned as media head. We provided opportunity to everyone to take part in the programme free of cost.
In the year 2005, the government of Abu Dhabi had decorated me with the highest award, 'Order of Abu Dhabi'. I humbly submit that I am the only Asian to have been bestowed with this honour. It became easier for me to organize Modi's programmes without much problem, as I have cordial relationship with the Abu Dhabi ruler and the local people. With the support of the local government, the security department and the transport department, the first public meeting, which was a mega event, was successfully held. This boosted my confidence.
The very fact that the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and his five brothers had personally visited the airport to welcome Modi on his arrival speaks volumes about the level at which the UAE responded to this visit. Over 50,000 people enthusiastically took part in the reception held at Dubai international cricket stadium. During Modi's visit to the world's first zero carbon city, Masdar, Yousuf Ali from Kerala, several other entrepreneurs and I took part and held discussions. Modi exhorted businessmen to invest capital in India, which he said, has good environment, security, and good administration.
Pictures courtesy : Dr Kiran Acharya (from late Dr V S Acharya's archives)
Because of Modi's visit, investment from UAE is likely to flow into sectors like Indian telecommunication, real estate, smart city, national highways, railway, electricity, renewable energy, oil, and tourism among others. The government here has announced an investment of Rs 4.5 lac crore rupees towards India's developemtn. Annually, Rs 45,000 crore flows into India through my UAE Exchange Company, and perhaps it was by coincidence that the government announced assistance to the extent of ten times that figure. This is an example to prove the belief that 'Lord gives with his innumerable hands if we give out of our two hands'. Agreements have been entered into for mutual cooperation between these two countries in the fields of finance, defence, security, law enforcement, culture, agriculture, urban development, health, science and technology etc. With the cooperation of Abu Dhabi, investments will be made in railways, ports, airports, and industrial yards. In addition, an understanding has also been reached at for expansion of industrial areas with the assistance of small and medium Indian industrialists in UAE. At present, about 25 lac Indians are in the UAE, and they have been contributing to the financial stability of both this country and India.
Modi felt elated after visiting the zero carbon city Masdar. Abu Dhabi is even ready to build such a city in India. This city uses only solar and renewable energy sources. As much as 16 billion dollars had been invested into creating this city.
UAE is an amalgamation of different cultures of the world, and all of them co-exist harmoniously. Abu Dhabi is so strongly secular that those who speak on the basis of religion get ten years of jail term. A graveyard had been built at the land allotted by the government here, by a committee chaired by me in the past. Entrepreneur Yousuf Ali had extended support for this project. During the visit of Modi now, the government here has allotted land to build a temple. The location where this will come up has not yet been decided. I will soon talk to the government on this issue. The temple will become a reality within two years, and will emerge as an iconic prayer centre. Funds will never be an issue here.
Dream of Karnataka tourism: I have always dreamt about developing different places of Karnataka including Udupi where I grew up and coastal Karnataka by exploring their tourism potential. There are plans of taking people of UAE on a tour to Jog Falls, Shravanabelagola, Hampi, Belur, Mysuru, Ooty etc, introducing them to Ayurvedic methods of treatment, and providing them the experience of rainy season which they are devoid of, between May and July through 'rain festivals' with the intention of developing tourism. If airports are built even in Shivamogga and Madikeri, people will find it convenient to visit different places easily.
I also aim to build hospitals at all-India level. My hospitals are located at Oman, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries and also in Malaysia. There are 20 such hospitals in the UAE, two in Egypt, one each at Nepal, Doha, Spain, Colombia, Thiruvananthapuram, and Chattisgarh. Ours is a global company. When I visited Ahmedabad four years back to receive the Global Achiever award, Narendra Modi, who was then Gujarat chief minister, had promised to provide five acres of land five km away from Gandhinagar. I plan to set up a hospital at this spot.
Kalsanka area is full of people who shower love and blessings. This area houses a main church of Udupi, and I am thankful that I was given an opportunity to donate a church bell, when the old bell developed a crack and people of the area approached me with a request. I got the new church bell blessed by the Pope and it was ceremonially received by several bishops in the presence of Oscar Fernandes. It is inscribed in marble on the church wall. I am very grateful that I got this opportunity, thanks to the people of Kalsanka.
I have always a had a close relationship with Manipal. I have adopted Dr T M A Pai as my Guru. I could grow to this level because of the guidance provided by T A Pai and K K Pai. Even now T Sathish Pai and others have been extending wholehearted support and encouragement to me. My aim at coming to Abu Dhabi was not for making money or becoming an entrepreneur, but to clear the borrowings which I had raised at my hometown. K K Pai had extended help to me then. The guidance of Pai family of Manipal and ideals of Vajpayee continue to guide and lead me even now.