NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last Independence Day address before Lok Sabha elections next year saw him launch his campaign, claiming big improvements over UPA’s record and announcing rollout of Modicare by next month, a manned space mission by 2022 and a permanent commission for women officers in short service commission of the armed forces.

Speaking from the Red Fort on Wednesday, the PM said citizens had elected a strong government in 2014 and the expectations had been met with faster development as compared to the UPA’s tenure, a period synonymous with policy paralysis and graft.

Experts who then saw India as a risk and part of the “fragile five” were now optimistic that “the ‘sleeping elephant’ has woken up and started running”, the PM said. PM Modi spoke out strongly against crime against women, endorsed death penalty for those convicted for raping minors and spent time on measures for women’s empowerment. Incidents of rape were acts of “demonic forces and society at large should feel a lot worse about such acts than the survivors, he said.

“For a free samaj (society), law must be respected,” he said, quoting examples of fast-track courts in and which have handed out death sentences to rapists. “Children should grow up imbibing the right culture of respect for women,” he said, in remarks that come in the wake of incidents of exploitation of women and girls in shelters meant for orphans and homeless.

“The rule of law is supreme and there can be no compromise on this, no one can be allowed to take the law in his own hands,” he said. The speech was 90 minutes long, shorter than his previous one but a tad longer than what he, according to his colleagues, had planned it to be. Striking a political note, Modi said his government had performed better on all counts, saying targets such as electrification of villages would have taken “one or two decades” and reaching cooking gas to poor households a 100 years at the pace of work prevailing in 2013 when UPA was in office “It is the same system.. but the country is experiencing change in the form of a new energy and sense of selfworth. There is record food production, highways and houses are being constructed rapidly, tractor sales and mobile manufacturing are rising, as is purchase of new aircraft, and new IITs, AIIMS and IIMs are coming up too,” PM Modi said.

Though his speech did not have populist announcements, Modi spoke of the legislation to grant constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes and other pro-poor measures, paid tributes to B R Ambedkar and assured his supporters that the government had not yet dropped its plan to bring a legislation to punish those in the Muslim community who still chose to practice triple talaq.

He also said the Jan Aarogya Abhiyan will generate employment. “No one wants to live in poverty or pass on poverty as a legacy to their children,” he said. In keeping with the pro-women flavour of his speech, the PM said he had an I-Day gift for women officers in the armed forces by way of making them eligible for permanent commission through a transparent selection process.

The PM also said efforts to double the income of farmers would be further complimented with an agriculture export policy, which will allow Indian farm sector to take advantage of globalisation. “We will work at it, value addition from seeds to bazaar will be our goal,” he said.
Get latest news & live updates on the go on your pc with . Download The for your device. in English and other languages.