Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday urged people to "give a book instead of a bouquet as a greeting", saying there is no joy greater than reading and no strength greater than knowledge.
Speaking at the launch of P.N. Panicker National Reading Day celebrations in Kerala's capital Kochi, Modi said the state had been an inspiration to whole nation in achieving high literacy rate.
"Kerala has been a torchbearer and inspiration to the whole nation in the field of literacy," he said, also urging the youth to take the pledge of reading.
"Together, we can once again make India a land of wisdom and knowledge," Modi said, adding: "I appeal to people to give a book instead of bouquet as a greeting. Such a move can make a big difference."
"There can be no joy greater than reading and no strength greater than knowledge. Kerala had been an inspiration to the whole nation in literacy," he added.
Earlier today, PM Modi dedicated the first phase of Kochi Metro to the nation and also took the inaugural ride with dignitaries, including Governor P Sathasivam, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu. 'Metro man' E Sreedharan, Urban Development Secretary Rajiv Gouba, Kerala Chief Secretary Nalini Netto and and KMRL MD Elias George also traveled with the Prime Minister during his maiden journey in Kochi Metro on a 13 km stretch between Aluva and Palarivattom.
Addressing the inaugural function, Modi stressed the need to bring about a paradigm shift in urban planning by adopting a people-centric approach and integrating land use and transport.
"Over the last three years, my government has placed special focus on overall infrastructural development of the nation," Modi said.
"In Pragati meetings, I have personally reviewed nearly 175 projects worth more than Rs 8 lakh crore and resolved bottlenecks," he said, referring to his ambitious multi- purpose and multi-modal platform PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation).
Modi said his government was also focussing on next generation infrastructure, which includes logistics, digital and gas.
The prime minister, who began his speech in Malayalam, said he was happy to be part of the inauguration of the Kochi Metro.
"I congratulate the people of Kochi on the proud moment," he said.