India's Modi announces manned space mission, health care scheme for millions

PM Narendra Modi unfurls the national flag at the Red Fort in Delhi to mark India’s 72nd Independence Day

This was his last Independence Day address before the next Lok Sabha elections. The year 2022 will mark India's 75th Independence country.

He spoke for over 65 minutes in 2014 and 86 minutes in 2015. Prime Minister Modi said that the country has made rapid changes in the past four years compared to 2013 when the Congress-led UPA government was in power.

"The country is brimming with self-confidence and is regularly crossing new heights".

In his speech Prime Minister Modi also thanked the Indian middle class tax payers.

Adding to the nationalist tone, Modi said India will send a manned mission into space within four years.

India is now the sixth-largest economy in the world. "In the last four years, we have taken Delhi to northeast's doorstep", he said.

Ahead of I-Day, President Ram Nath Kovind addressed the country and said contentious issues and extraneous debates should not be allowed to distract us at a "pivotal moment" when the country is at the cusp of achieving many long-awaited goals.

Prior to 2014, India was likened to policy paralysis and delayed reforms. "India was considered among "fragile five" but today the world is seeing it as a destination of multi-billion dollar investment. The narrative has changed", he said. "India is now the land of reform, perform and transform". Red tape has been replaced with "red carpet", propelling India on the ease of doing business ranking, he said.

"They say the sleeping elephant has woken up and started walking".

Reaffirming his mantra of "sabka saath, sabka vikas" (take everyone along, development for all), the Prime Minister said there would be no discrimination against any section and there would be no nepotism and favouritism. Mr Modi said worldwide institutions see India as as engine to strengthen the world economy for the next three decades. "India will be the engine of growth".

"If we had continued at the same pace of laying optical fibre in villages as in 2013, it would have taken generations to do so".

Answering critics who question his emphasis on cleanliness and the efficacy of the campaign, Modi cited a World Health Organization report, which said that the Swachh Bharat Mission had saved the lives of three lakh poor children.

The Prime Minister further highlighted certain important decisions taken under his government, saying that his government delivered what was pending since decades.

Narendra Modi announced the target from the ramparts of the 370-year-old Red Fort in Delhi on Wednesday morning.

"The government health care initiatives will have a positive impact on 500 million Indians", Modi said, adding that it would cover the equivalent of the population of the 27 member European Union.

The measures initiated by the government had also led to near doubling of direct tax assesses from almost four crore to 6.75 crore and indirect tax assesses from 75 lakh to 1.16 crore on account of introduction of GST apart from barring over three lakh suspicious companies in the anti-black money drive.

While referring to the monsoons, he said that the nation had witnessed good rains, but at the same time parts of India had been affected by flooding.

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