India’s Modi to unveil $1.35 trillion infrastructure plan

(AP) — India will soon launch a $1.35 trillion national infrastructure plan that will boost the country’s economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Sunday as part of independence day celebrations.

Wearing a flowing bright saffron-colored turban, Modi addressed the nation from New Delhi’s 17th century Mughal-era Red Fort to mark the 74th anniversary of India’s independence from British rule. He said the infrastructure plan will create job opportunities for millions of Indian youth.

“It will help local manufacturers turn globally competitive and also develop possibilities of new future economic zones in the country,” he said.

India’s economy, pummeled by the coronavirus pandemic, contracted 7.3% in the fiscal year that ended in March. Economists fear there will be no rebound similar to the ones seen in the U.S. and other major economies.

In his 90-minute speech, Modi also listed his government’s achievements since 2014 and hailed India’s coronavirus vaccination campaign.

“We are proud that we didn’t have to depend on any other country for COVID-19 vaccines. Imagine what would have happened if India didn’t have its own vaccine,” he said.

India has given more than 500 million doses of vaccines but its vaccination drive has been marred by its slow pace. About 11% of eligible adult Indians have been fully vaccinated so far.

Modi began his speech by praising India’s athletes who took part in the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics. India won one gold, two silver and four bronze medals at the games.

India celebrates its Independence Day a day after its neighbor Pakistan. The two separate states came into existence as a result of the bloody partition of British India in 1947.

The process sparked some of the worst communal violence the world has seen and left hundreds of thousands dead. It triggered one of the largest human migrations in history and some 12 million people fled their homes.

On Saturday, Modi announced that August 14 will be observed as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day.