TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -India will launch its first manned space mission by 2022 and roll out a health insurance scheme from September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday in his last Independence Day speech ahead of next year’s general election.
Modi, a powerful speaker who will seek re-election in the world’s biggest democracy early next year, 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.
“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.”
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 $74 million, or less than the budget of the Hollywood space blockbuster “Gravity”.
Modi said his government would launch from Sept. 25 a previously announced medical insurance scheme, dubbed ‘Modicare’, to give about 500 million poor people annual health cover of 500,000 rupees ($7,200) to treat serious illness.