Foreign Secretary Shringla was in Darjeeling as the Chief Guest to attend a felicitation and charity event on Sunday.
The event was organised by the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS), Himalayan Buddhist Cultural Association (HBCA) and MBKS (Muhn Band Kaam Shuru). The felicitation was followed by Foreign Secretary's address about where he also highlighted India's foreign affairs goals and wins.
Foreign Secy on Darjeeling, border issues
FS Shringla touched upon crucial points concerning the development in Darjeeling as well as the border issues with China. He promised that train services between north Bengal's Siliguri, the second-largest city in the eastern state, and Bangladesh capital Dhaka will start soon, which would open several opportunities.
"The Centre is trying to operationalise the railway services between the two cities and the announcement on the same would be made soon. The plan is to start the service at the earliest and it will take advantage of the opening of Haldibari-Chilahati train services. It is important for linking Bangladesh to north Bengal. It will provide a lot of opportunities in the transportation of goods. The services will start with freight trains and, over a period of time, passenger train services will start between Siliguri and Dhaka," Shringla said, while interacting with the media at the charity event.
In a historic step, the freight services between Haldibari in the Alipurduar railway division and Chilahati in Bangladesh resumed on August 1 after 56 years. By starting passenger train services between Dhaka and Siliguri, tourism will flourish in Darjeeling and also benefit people traveling for medical reasons.
The Foreign Secretary also said that India hasn't been able to lead normal ties with China due to "multiple attempts at transgression of the line of actual control by China" last year.
What we have seen last year is multiple attempts at transgression of the Line of Actual Control by China in eastern Ladakh. Obviously, that has contributed to anything but peace and tranquillity in the border areas, that has actually disturbed the peace and tranquillity as a result of which we have not been able to lead normal ties," said Shringla.
The FS also said that India's stand was clear on the matter of resolving border issues to maintain a normal relation.
"Essentially our point is very clear. You resolve the boundary issues, you resolve the border issues that were created by you and we could move forward on the other issues. Until those issues are addressed, we are not able to conduct what is a normal relation," Shringla was quoted as saying.
During the charity programme, Jaipur Foot USA Chairman Prem Bhandari was also felicitated for his service to the nation and the public. Bhandari was responsible for the last-mile delivery of ventilators and hundreds of concentrators across India during the second COVID wave.
The Foreign Secretary lauded the efforts of Prem Bhandari for carrying out remarkable charitable works across the country and abroad.
During the second wave of COVID-19 in India, Bhandari had sent and coordinated last-mile delivery of 14 high-end ventilators costing about Rs 40 lakh each to Rajasthan, Bihar, Delhi, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, among other states. These ventilators were donated by Mount Sinai hospital in the US.
Noted invasive cardiologist Dr Samin Sharma, Director of Interventional and Clinical Cardiology and President of Mount Sinai Heart Network, was instrumental in providing critical medical equipment to the needy in India.
Jaipur Foot USA, through its parent organisation in India Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS) under the leadership of Dr. DR Mehta, distributed hundreds of oxygen concentrators to different parts of the country for free.
For Bhandari's noble works during the pandemic, the NGOs — IRCS, HBCA and MBKS, had invited Bhandari for the felicitation event. In addition to accepting the invitation, Bhandari proposed to organise a free artificial limb fitment camp in Darjeeling, which was sponsored by BMVSS while he was there.
On the first day, 11 artificial limbs were fitted and blood sugar monitors, blood pressure machines, health kits and hearing aids were given to recipients and beneficiaries from across Darjeeling Hills, which was distributed by the Foreign Secretary.
Earlier, FS Shringla had appreciated Bhandari's efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, wherein he had sent many consignments of concentrators and cylinders to different parts of the country and made a visible impact.
Bhandari humbly said: "I'm the sipahi (soldier) of our founder Padam Bhushan DR Mehta."
All praise for Darjeeling event
Avinash Rai Khanna, Vice Chairman of the Indian Red Cross Society, spoke highly of the event organised in Darjeeling. He said: "This was a very pious event. Jaipur Foot is doing a lot of work for the needy. I think this was a very good camp, which benefitted a lot of people."
So far, nearly 20 lakh differently-abled persons have benefited worldwide across 35 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America through 85 international camps.
Speaking about the event, Siddharth Singh, IAS (Retd.) praised the work being carried out by Jaipur Foot USA. "After learning that around 20 lakh people have received Jaipur Foot and I got acquainted with Prem Bhandari, I got associated with the organisation. I was happy when it was decided to host a camp in Darjeeling since I was posted here for many years," Singh said, adding that he hopes a similar camp be organised in Siliguri.