India: 71st Independence Day speech: Modi eyes man in space by 2022

  • India will launch its first manned space mission by 2022 and roll out a health insurance scheme from Sep 18, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on 15 Aug 18 in his last Independence Day speech ahead of 2019’s general election.
  • Modi, a powerful speaker who will seek re-election in early-2019, used the speech to broadcast his government’s achievements, amid concerns about lack of jobs and rising violence against the Muslim minority.
  • Wearing a flowing saffron turban, the Hindu nationalist leader also announced the plan to take the “Indian tricolor to space” in a manned mission that would make India the fourth nation to launch one, after the United States, Russia and China.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation during Independence Day celebrations at the historic Red Fort in Delhi, India.
  • Months after Modi’s election in 2014, India became the first Asian nation to reach Mars when its first mission to the red planet entered orbit, at a cost of USD74mn, or less than the budget of the Hollywood space blockbuster “Gravity”.
  • Modi said his government would launch from 25 Sep 18 a previously announced medical insurance scheme, dubbed ‘Modicare’, to give about 500 million poor people annual health cover of INR0.5mn to treat serious illness.
  • Critics say that while Modi has adopted several initiatives, his tenure has been marred by violence against Muslim cattle traders and economic jolts through a countrywide ban on high-value notes and the botched launch of a unified taxation system.
  • Businesses have embraced the unified Goods and Services Tax after initial hiccups, Modi said in his speech.
  • In his 80-minute speech, Modi said the pace of building highways, electrifying villages and building toilets has increased since his landslide 2014 election win that devastated the main opposition Congress party.
  • Congress, which had ruled India for decades, is now trying to unify the opposition to challenge Modi, whose personal ratings remain high despite recent election setbacks.
  • “We want to progress more. There is no question of stopping or getting tired on the way,” Modi said.

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