Fewer guests, police in PPE at Red Fort for August 15 celebrations
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation, he will be surrounded by a fifth of the guests he was at last year’s celebrations, senior officials in the home ministry privy to the preparations said.Updated: Aug 14, 2020 17:14 IST
Fewer guests at the rampart, photojournalists tested for Covid-19,police personnel quarantined for 14 days before the event and those frisking guests at the gates donning PPE kits — the Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort on Friday will see many firsts, as the occasion reconciles itself with the needs of the Covid-19 era.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation, he will be surrounded by a fifth of the guests he was at last year’s celebrations, senior officials in the home ministry privy to the preparations said. The 140-odd guests will include cabinet ministers, senior bureaucrats and Supreme Court judges. No spouses have been invited, and a majority of the guests will be seated below the ramparts.
“Last year, there were around 800-900 guests at the rampart, primarily because a lot of VVIP guests had come with their spouses. The number is much lower this year to ensure social distancing. Most guests will be seated below the rampart. Some may not come because of concerns about their health,” a senior home department officer said.
HT had on August 5 reported that the guest list for the At Home function on August 15evening in the Rashtrapati Bhawan complex had been kept at a maximum of 90 — down from the normal gathering of 1,500 dignitaries. As per the protocol for the ceremony this year, there will be no spouses, no live food counters, no freedom fighters will be present, and no free interaction with VIPs.
Even the number of photographers who will be at the ramparts has been capped, with just 10 to be in attendance, as against 80-90 last year. Further, on Wednesday, the government conducted RT-PCR Covid-19 tests for around 10 photojournalists who will be at the rampart in close proximity with the Prime Minister as he delivers his speech.
A photojournalist from a foreign press agency, who asked not to be identified, said, “For some of us who will be at the rampart, we were told it was mandatory to take the test. But for our colleagues who will be positioned elsewhere within the Red Fort complex, it was not compulsory to take the test. I have taken the test and am told the results were negative.”
The tests were conducted at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital.
Around 350 police personnel, of which around 100, who will form the guard of honour that Modi will inspect, are already in 14-day-quarantine at a police complex in Delhi, since August 1.
Until Friday evening, the national capital had 10,975 active Covid-19 cases. Till date, the city has reported 149,460 cases. Of them, 4167 persons have died, while 134,318 have recovered from the disease.