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"World says sleeping elephant has woken up": PM lauds pace of reforms

India to send manned mission to space by 2022, says Modi

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation during Independence Day celebrations at the historic Red Fort in Delhi on Wednesday.

AFP, New Delhi :
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday hailed India's growing role in the world economy, calling it a "sleeping elephant" that has woken up, in a keynote national speech before a looming election campaign.
The Hindu nationalist leader spoke for more than 80 minutes from the ramparts of New Delhi's 17th century Red Fort in the final Independence Day address of his five year term.
Modi used the spotlight to laud his government's achievements and announce that a massive health insurance scheme would be launched in September and India would send a manned mission into space by 2022.
The prime minister said that India was seen as one of the "fragile" nations before his nationalist party took power in a landslide in 2014.
"India is now the land of reform, perform and transform. We are poised for record economic growth," the prime minister said.
"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 about 7.0 percent since he took over - though the rupee is now under attack in the fallout from the Turkey lira crisis.
Modi, who is expected to call an election for early 2019, announced that an ambitious health insurance scheme - providing annual cover of about $7,000 for 500 million Indians - will be rolled out on September 25.
The scheme - popularly known as 'Modicare' - has been described as the world's biggest government health insurance initiative.
"It is high time we ensured that the poor of India get access to good quality and affordable healthcare," he said.
"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.
"It is essential to ensure that we free the poor of India from the clutches of poverty in which they cannot afford health care," he added.
Adding to the nationalist tone, Modi said India will send a manned mission into space within four years.
"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."
Modi also highlighted his clampdown on corruption, bringing electricity to more Indian villages and his reform in introducing a single national goods and services sales tax.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India will be the engine of growth for the world economy for the next three decades as the "sleeping elephant" has started to run on the back of structural reforms like GST.
Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of 72nd Independence Day, he listed out the pace of reforms in the last four years of his government that pulled out the country from being considered a "fragile and risky" economy to being the fastest in the world.
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.
The government's motto, he said, is reform, perform and transform.
Red tape has been replaced with 'red carpet', propelling India on the ease of doing business ranking, he said.
Bottlenecks were a topic of discussions among international institutions and experts prior to 2014 but "today they are saying the sleeping elephant has woken up and has started running".
The comment was an apparent reference to International Monetary Fund's commentary on India last week in which it said the country is on track to hold its position as one of the world's fastest-growing economies as reforms start to pay off.
Stating that India is now the sixth largest economy in the world, PM Modi said international institutions are saying that "India will give strength to the world economy for the next three decades. India will be the engine of growth".
"We have the potential to take tough decisions. We are not partisan," he said. "Prior to 2014, global institutions used to say the Indian economy is risky. Today the same institutions and people are saying that reform momentum is giving strength to fundamentals," the PM said.
He went on to list structural reforms like Goods and Services Tax (GST), bankruptcy and insolvency law and benami property law that helped transform the economy.
Electrifying all villages, providing 5 crore cleaner cooking gas to poor women, doubling the pace of highway construction, record foodgrain production, record mobile phone manufacturing, and building four-time more new houses in villages were some of the achievements of his government, he said.
If the work continued at the pace that was prevalent in 2013, it would have taken one or two more decades to electrify all villages, 100 years to provide LPG gas connections to all and generations to take optic fibre to villages.
PM Modi said the government fulfilled the promise to provide 50 percent more than the cost of production for kharif crops to farmers and is on the way to achieve the target of doubling farm income by 2022.

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