Independence Day celebrations to be muted amid Covid-19 pandemic
Independence Day celebrations are expected to be muted this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic and fewer VIPs are likely to attend the annual August 15 event at Delhi’s Red Fort while schoolchildren will skip it altogether, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. Corona winners, or people who have recovered from the disease, will be the highlight at the celebrations. Around 1,500 such people are expected to attend the function and listen to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech from the ramparts of Red Fort, said one of the persons cited above.
The corona winners will include around 500 local policemen. The remaining will travel to Delhi from other parts of the country. The defence ministry, which plays a key role in organising the event, has asked the Union home ministry to implement the plan for inviting corona winners for the function.
Schoolchildren have traditionally been a part of the Independence Day celebrations. Thousands of them show up to hear the Prime Minister’s speech at the Red Fort. This time they will be missing at the event because of Covid-19, said a second official.
Modi mingled with over 8,000 children, who attended the Independence Day function at Red Fort last year, after his speech. The children enthusiastically crowded around him hoping to shake hands with him or speak to him.
Defence secretary Ajay Kumar, who visited the Red Fort last week to inspect the preparations for the function, gave clear directions that social distancing norms have to be strictly adhered to, said a third official. While schoolchildren will not attend the celebrations, cadets from the National Cadet Corps are expected to be a part of the function.
Fewer dignitaries will attend the event because of the social distancing norms, said the third official. Only 150 to 200 of them will be seated in the VIP enclosure compared to almost 1,000 in previous years. Last year, 10,000 people attended the Independence Day function.
In his sixth Independence Day speech from Red Fort last year, Modi highlighted the nullification of the Constitution’s Articles 370 and 35A to divest Jammu & Kashmir of its special status in August last year. He also spoke about the legislation that criminalised the practice of instant divorce among a section of Muslims, strengthening of anti-terror laws. Modi said the country was moving towards “one nation, one Constitution” while highlighting key accomplishments of his government in less than 70 days after it was voted back to power in May last year.
Modi also announced the creation of Chief of Defence Staff’s post for more effective coordination between the three services. This came after the proposal for the post remained in limbo for decades.
He also outlined India’s journey from 2014 to 2019 as one from disappointment to hope and urged citizen participation in environmental initiatives, water conservation, end of single-use plastic. He flagged the population explosion as a key concern.