Recognising the massive challenge India faces regarding the health of its 1.3 billion citizens, many of whom desperately poor, PM Narendra Modi made a strong pitch for cleanliness and wellness in his Independence Day speech from Red Fort on Wednesday.

The PM announced the rollout of Ayushman Bharat Scheme or Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna on Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s birthday, September 25. It will touch 10 crore families and 50 crore citizens.

A population larger than that of US, Canada and Mexico combined will benefit from the health scheme, he said.

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“The poor deserve affordable healthcare, and we will empower them to fight diseases,” PM Modi said.

He also dwelt a fair bit on Swachh bharat.

“Azaadi mili thi satyagrahio se, swachhwata milegi swachhwagrahio se (Satyagrahis got us freedom, swachhagrahis or cleanliness activists will get us freedom from filth),” he said.

He said when he started the Swachh Bharat campaign, many criticised him for taking up a supposedly trivial, day-to-day matter like cleanliness at the Prime Minister’s level.

But today, even World Health Organisation has acknowledged that 3 lakh children were saved by the cleanliness drive, he said.

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