New Delhi, Aug 15: In his fifth Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi, the “impatient” Mr Modi spoke of making a new India and reaching for the skies — literally and figuratively. Amongst his achievements, the Prime Minister listed implementation of GST (Goods and Services Tax), a new tax regime across the country that came into force last year, One-Rank-One-Pension (OROP) for the armed forces, rural electrification and the Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan in which India’s sanitation coverage has doubled and over 7 lakh toilets have been constructed. Also Read - Mike Pompeo, Mark Esper Meet PM Modi, Convey US Interest in Strengthening Ties With India

The Prime Minister said India had become a trillion dollar investment destination, adding, “From being seen as among the fragile five, India is now the land of reform, perform and transform. We are poised for record economic growth.”

In a speech that lasted little over an hour, and what will be Narendra Modi’s final speech before elections to the Lok Sabha in 2019, the Prime Minister listed his government’s achievements since 2014. “If we don’t look at where we started, we will not be able to see how far we have come. If we take 2013 as the base year, then you’ll be surprised to learn the pace of progress,” he said.

Highlighting his government’s journey, Modi said, “Today twice as many roads are being built, four times as many houses are being built, record-breaking mobiles are being manufactured, tractors are being sold, planes are being bought, new IIT, new AIIMS are being set up, Skill India centres are being set up, there is a deluge of startups in tier 2 and 3 cities.”

PM Modi spoke of a ‘Navyug’ (new era) and ‘Naya Bharat’ (new India) and poetically said “we’re breaking barriers and changing our image”.

Social Justice and Countering the ‘demonic culture of rape’

Speaking of fast-track trial in rape cases in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where the convicts were sentenced to death within days, the PM said such cases need to be given wide publicity to deter people from committing such crimes. “The rule of law is supreme for us and there can be no compromise with this. Demonic mentalities are being tackled sternly, and rapists are getting severest punishment,” he said, adding, “hangings of rapists must be widely reported to spread awareness and to scare those thinking about hurting women. We must abolish crimes against women.”

The Prime Minister also hit out at those opposing the end of the Triple Talaq practice and said,”I assure Muslim sisters and daughters that their rights will be protected and the government will not leave any effort to protect them. I promise and assure that I shall fulfill your aspirations.” In a veiled attack on the Congress and other opposition parties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there were some people who did not allow the passage of the Triple Talaq Bill in Parliament during the just-concluded monsoon session.

Modi said a demand to confer constitutional status on the Other Backward Classes was being made for a long time but this was fulfilled by his government during the session. Parliament passed a constitutional amendment bill to this effect in the Monsoon Session. It also passed a legislation to meet the demand of Dalit groups to overturn a Supreme Court verdict which, they said, had diluted a law on atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. “In a way, this session was completely dedicated to social justice. Whether they be Dalits, exploited, deprived or women, our Parliament with sensitivity and awareness strengthened social justice.”

Man in Space by 2022

PM Narendra Modi has promised to send a man to space by 2022 — this then is one of his electoral promises if elected to a second term next year. “By 2022, when India completes 75 years of independence, India will send a son or daughter to space with the national flag in hand. With this, India will become the fourth nation to send a human to space.” In 2014, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) tested a Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE), where a space capsule was launched into the atmosphere on the first flight of the GSLV Mk III and recovered from the Bay of Bengal. This was a prototype of the capsule that will be used by Indian astronauts. India plans to call its astronauts ‘Vyomnauts’. ‘Vyom’ is the Sanskrit word for space.

‘Modicare’

While this announcement has grabbed the most eyeballs, the PM also sowed the seeds of universal health care in India and announced, “The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyan will be launched on September 25 this year, on Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s birth anniversary. It is high time we ensure that the poor of the country get access to good quality and affordable healthcare.” In its last budget, the Modi government had allocated INR 52,000 crore for its ambitious national health policy. Finance Minister Jaitley had 1.5 lakh health centres will be established to bring health care closer to home. This government had also committed to cover 10 crore families from the economically weaker sections of the society under the National Health Protection Scheme — this has been dubbed by the media as ‘Modicare’.

Motivational or Political?

From 2014, when PM Modi said he was a ‘Pradhan Sevak’ and not a ‘Pradhan Mantri’ and announced the Planning Commission will be replaced by the ‘Niti Aayog’, he has used the ramparts of the 370-year-old Mughal-era fort for some key announcements. Compared to his last four speeches, today’s speech did not carry big policy announcements – only reiterations. However, political pundits have already started dissecting the speech for its political impact as the country gears up for elections. (With Agency Inputs)