(Image source from: www.obiaks.com)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his last Independence Day speech on Wednesday ahead of next year's general election said India will launch its first manned space mission by 2022 and roll out a health insurance scheme from September.
Modi will be seeking re-election in the world's sizable democracy following year and an inspirational speaker used the speech to air his government's achievements, amid concerns over intensifying ferocity against the Muslim minority and deficiency of jobs.
Wearing a graceful saffron turban, the Hindu nationalist leader likewise proclaimed the strategy 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.
"India is proud of our scientists, who are excelling in their research and are at the forefront of innovation," Modi said from the ramparts of the Mughal-era Red Fort in Delhi to a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands.
"In the year 2022 or, if possible, before, India will unfurl the tricolor in space."
India became the introductory Asian nation to reach Mars, months after Modi's election in 2014, when its initial mission to the red planet entered orbit, at a cost of $74 million, or to a lesser degree the budget of the Hollywood space blockbuster "Gravity".
Modi said his government would launch from September 25 a formerly announced medical insurance scheme, dubbed 'Modicare', to give around 500 million deprived people annual health cover of 500,000 rupees ($7,200) 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 bungled launch of a united taxation scheme.
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.
"We want to progress more. There is no question of stopping or getting tired on the way," Modi said
By Sowmya Sangam