Modi sees Indian manned space mission by 2020

AFP
India will send a manned mission to space by 2022 and introduce health insurance for half a billion of its citizens, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged on Wednesday.
AFP

India will send a manned mission to space by 2022 and introduce health insurance for half a billion of its citizens, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged on Wednesday in a keynote speech ahead of an expected election campaign.

Modi, speaking from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort in New Delhi, told supporters that “sleeping elephant” India had awakened and was ready to take its place in the global economy.

The Indian leader promised India would soon become only the fourth country — after the US, Russia and China — to get someone beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

“India will send into space — a man or a woman — by 2022, before that if possible,” Modi said adding that the chosen astronaut would be “carrying the national flag.”

He also announced a huge health insurance scheme — providing annual cover of about US$7,000 for 500 million Indians — would be rolled out next month.

He said the scheme would cover the equivalent of the population of the European Union.

The scheme — dubbed “Modicare” — has been described as the world’s biggest government health insurance initiative.

Modi was speaking in the final Independence Day address of his five-year term, touting his economic credentials ahead of an election he is expected to call early next year.

“Today the world says that the sleeping elephant has woken up, is walking and has joined the race,” Modi added.

India has seen annual economic growth of around 7 percent since he took over — though the rupee is now under attack in the fallout from the Turkish lira crisis.

India’s main opposition Congress party dubbed Modi’s address “hollow” and said that it had not answered questions about the economy, relations with China and Pakistan, and corruption allegations.

“We wish that at least in his last speech, he would have spoken the truth,” Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala told the Press Trust of India news agency.

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