Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday lauded the "sense of responsibility" of the country's youth and said it manifested in the pace of Covid-19 vaccination in the 15-18 years age group that has covered over two crore children since its rollout this month.
Virtually inaugurating the 25th edition of the National Youth Festival, Modi also said his government's recent decision to increase the legal marriage age of women to 21 years was for the betterment of "our daughters" and ensure that they had a career and also the time.
Hailing the pace of vaccination of the 15-18 years age group, he said this showed the "sense of responsibility" of the youngsters, especially witnessed during the pandemic period.
"The role of the youth in the success of our covid vaccination programme is being witnessed altogether at a different level. We are seeing that the youth in the 15-18 years age group are getting themselves vaccinated at a quick pace. In such a short time, over two crore children have been vaccinated. This exemplifies the sense of responsibility in today's youth and my confidence in a bright future of the country is further strengthened," he said.
The vaccination for the children of this age group was launched on January 3.
On increasing women's legal marriage age to 21 years, the PM said it was based on the principle of equality.
"We know sons and daughters are equal. With this thought, the government, for the betterment of daughters, decided to increase their marriage age to 21 years. Let daughters too make their career, let them get more time. This is a very significant step in this direction," he asserted.
Dwelling on the youth population of India, Modi said the world has accepted India's demography and democracy as its powers.
"India's youth along with demographic dividend has democratic values. India sees youth as development driver besides demographic dividend. They are leading the democratic values. In the Indian youth, there is democratic awareness and they have a clarity about the future."
"Therefore, what India says today the world sees as tomorrow's voice," he said.
He hailed Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and national poet Subramania Bharathy as youth icons and recalled their contribution in the respective spheres.
The youth during freedom struggle had sacrificed everything but today's youth has to live for the country and fulfill the dreams of the freedom fighters, he said.
"Today as country with biggest population of youth and their new dreams, their skill will take the country to new heights," Modi said.
Quoting from Sri Aurobindo, Modi exhorted the young to be the builder of the new world.
"Today's youth has a can do spirit which is a source of inspiration for every generation. Due to the youth, in digital payment we are far ahead. India's youth is writing code for global prosperity. The Indian youth is a force to be reckoned with in the unicorn ecosystem all over the world," he said.
"India today has a strong ecosystem of over 50,000 startups. Out of which, more than 10,000 startups came up amidst the challenge of the pandemic," he added.
The unprecedented haul of medals in the latest Paralympics and the good show in the Olympics last year were proof of the youth power.
"Compete and conquer should be India's new mantra," he added.
He said the modern youth's ability is not to be burdened by old stereotypes and that he knows how to shake them.
Modi also stressed on the 'Vocal for Local' concept, saying Atmanirbharta (self-sufficiency) will solve many issues including employment and economic growth and urged that buying a local artisan's product should be high on one's shopping list.
Extending his festival wishes for Pongal, Makar Sankranthi, Bihu, Lohri, Modi urged that they be celebrated in compliance with COVID precautions.
On the occasion, Modi inaugurated a Technology Centre of the MSME Ministry, established here with an investment of about Rs 122 crore.
He also inaugurated the Perunthalaivar Kamarajar Manimandapam - an auditorium with an open-air theatre, constructed by the Government of Puducherry at a cost of about Rs 23 crore to commemorate the visionary former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, a Congressman respected across political lines. It will have various other facilities as well.
In his address, Puducherry Chief Minister N Rangasamy said there were several ways through which one could contribute to the country.
"Wealth, science and commerce are some examples. But education without character, wealth without charity, commerce without morality and science without humanity are not only useless but also dangerous", he said.
It was the duty to protect the youth from the pandemic and that was the reason to hold the event through virtual mode, he explained.
The youth event was initially planned to be an offline event, involving Modi's physical presence.
Union Ministers Anurag Singh Thakur and Lt Governor Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan were among those present on the occasion.