India will launch a major infrastructure plan to boost the economy and aim at 100 percent coverage of development schemes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a speech on the country’s 75th independence day.
A 100 trillion rupees ($1.35 trillion) national infrastructure plan called “Gati Shakti” to boost manufacturing and employment will be launched, he said.
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“From free cooking gas to health insurance schemes, the poor of the nation know the strength of the government schemes. These schemes have expanded rapidly in recent times, but now we have to move toward saturation,” Modi said in his address from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi.
“One hundred percent of villages should have roads, 100 percent of households should have a bank account, while 100 percent of eligible persons should get insurance, pension and housing schemes. We have to operate on a cent-per-cent mode.”
“All manufacturers should target the global market. India should become the hub of global market.”
However, there was criticism on Indian social media as well as from opposition activists that the government had made similar infrastructure plan announcements in the past.
Asia’s third-largest economy contracted 7.3 percent in the financial year that ended in March, its worst recession since independence as coronavirus lockdowns hit economic activity and rendered millions jobless.
During his speech, Modi, who wore his trademark colourful independence day turban, detailed his government’s achievements and hailed the country’s coronavirus vaccination campaign.
“Despite all the efforts, we have not been able to save many people. So many children lost their support system, their loved ones. This unbearable pain will stay with us forever,” he said.
India is the second-worst affected country in the world after the United States with an overall caseload of more than 32 million and 431,225 deaths, with many of the casualties during a virulent second COVID-19 wave between April and June.
India gained its independence from British rule on August 15, 1947. Celebrations marking the day were muted for the second year in a row as the country braces for the third wave of the pandemic.
In his speech, Modi said India was battling twin challenges of “terrorism” and “expansionism”, remarks that domestic media and foreign policy experts interpreted as a swipe at Pakistan and China.
Indian security agencies blame Pakistan for backing armed groups who carry out attacks in India, particularly in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The reference to expansionism was to the alleged intrusions by Chinese forces and an ongoing standoff in the Ladakh border region after clashes between troops broke out in June 2020, the deadliest since the 1962 war between the neighbours.
India lost 20 soldiers and China four, according to official accounts. This was followed by a large build-up of troops and artillery and smaller skirmishes.