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Saturday, September 19, 2020

No schoolchildren, pruned guest list, cops in PPE: Why this Independence Day will be unlike any other

Although the 74th I-Day will be celebrated in a manner befitting the occasion, it will witness a truncated list of dignitaries, chairs instead of rugs for seating in several areas, police in personal protective equipment, and no participation of schoolchildren.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 14, 2020 1:55:59 pm
Independence Day, 74th Independence Day, Independence Day 2020, 2020 Independence Day, India news, Indian ExpressBauls of Bengal performs during full dress rehearsal for Independence Day  at the Red Road in Kolkata on August 13, 2020. (Express photo: Partha Paul)

The Independence Day, which is traditionally marked with pomp and gaiety, will be a subdued and restricted affair this year owing to the circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the 74th I-Day will be celebrated in a manner befitting the occasion, it will witness a truncated list of dignitaries, chairs instead of rugs for seating in several areas, police in personal protective equipment, and no participation of schoolchildren.

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“At the Red Fort, instead of the 900-1000 invitees every year, around 250 people will be present as the Prime Minister addresses the nation,” an official with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had told The Indian Express. The final list will be prepared by the Defence Ministry.

Later in the afternoon, during the ‘At Home’ function in Rashtrapati Bhavan, the focus will be on India’s “Corona Warriors”, with invitations likely to be extended to medical professionals and key figures in the health sector.

Independence Day, 74th Independence Day, Independence Day 2020, 2020 Independence Day, India news, Indian Express Uttar Pradesh State assembly building and Lok Bhawan illuminated ahead of independence day celebration in Lucknow on Thursday, August 13, 2020. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

This will be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s seventh I-Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort. The ceremony on Saturday morning shall consist of a guard of honour by the armed forces and the Delhi Police to PM Modi, unfurling of the national flag, firing of the 21-gun salute, speech by the PM, singing of the national anthem immediately after his speech, and release of tri-coloured balloons at the end.

Multilayered security arrangements in place

A security ring, including NSG snipers, elite SWAT commandos and kite catchers, will be placed around the Red Fort from where PM Modi will address the nation. Over 300 cameras have been installed for security and their footage is being monitored round the clock, news agency PTI quoted the police as saying. Around 4,000 security personnel will be deployed at the Red Fort and they will stand in adherence with social distancing norms. No movement of trains from 6.45 am to 8.45 am will be allowed on particular tracks near the Fort due to VVIP movement.

Read | Independence Day 2020: History, importance and significance of the day

The Red Fort has already been closed for public ahead of the Independence Day celebrations. A total of eight roads– Netaji Subhash Marg, Lothian Road, SP Mukherjee Marg, Chandni Chowk Road, Nishad Raj Marg, Esplanade Road and its Link Road to Netaji Subhash Marg, Ring Road from Rajghat to ISBT and Outer Ring Road from ISBT to IP flyover — will be closed for general public from 4 am to 10 am.

Independence Day, 74th Independence Day, Independence Day 2020, 2020 Independence Day, India news, Indian Express Full dress rehearsal at Government College of S A S Nagar, in Punjab, on Thursday, August 13, 2020. (Express photo by Jasbir Malhi)

Earlier, the Delhi Police had advised invitees to refrain from attending the event if they experienced any Covid symptom in the last two weeks and did not go for a test. The police had also requested them to follow Covid-related guidelines issued by the home and health ministries during the I-Day celebrations.

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Over 350 Delhi Police personnel, who will be part of the guard of honour, have been quarantined as a precautionary measure. These personnel of the force of all ranks — from constable to deputy commissioner of police — have been quarantined at a newly built police colony in Delhi Cantonment.

Flying of sub-conventional aerial platforms like para-gliders, para-motors, hang gliders, UAVs, micro light aircraft, remotely piloted aircraft, hot air balloons, small size powered aircraft, quadcopters or para-jumping from aircraft etc. are prohibited over the jurisdiction of National Capital Territory of Delhi up to August 15, police had said.

Independence Day, 74th Independence Day, Independence Day 2020, 2020 Independence Day, India news, Indian Express Full dress rehearsal ahead of 74th Independence Day at Parade Ground in Chandigarh’s Sector 17, on Thursday, August 13, 2020. (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

Guidelines to state govts, UT admns

In guidelines issued to the chief secretaries of all state governments and Union Territory administrations at different levels, the Home Ministry has underlined that all programmes should be organised in a way that large congregation is avoided and technology is used in a best possible manner. The web-casting of events has been encouraged to reach out to people at large who will be unable to participate. It also urged them to follow preventive measures such as maintaining physical distancing, wearing masks, proper sanitisation, and avoiding large congregations.

As per the guidelines, at the state level, a ceremony in the morning (after 9 am) in the state and Union territory capitals, consisting of hoisting of the national flag by the chief minister, playing of the national anthem, presentation of guard of honour by the police, including paramilitary forces, home guards, NCC, scouts speech by the Chief Minister; and singing of the national anthem.

Read | I-Day: Covid warriors among invitees, no march-past

“It would also be appropriate that COVID-19 warriors like doctors, health workers, sanitation workers are invited in the ceremony as a recognition of their noble service in ght against Covid-19 Pandemic,” the advisory said. “Some persons cured from COVID-19 infection may also be invited.”

Independence Day, 74th Independence Day, Independence Day 2020, 2020 Independence Day, India news, Indian Express Police personnel wear masks while performing the full dress rehearsal in Lucknow on Thursday, August 13, 2020. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

A similar ceremony should also be held at the district, sub-division or block level and panchayat headquarters or large villages. While the national flag at the district level can be hoisted by a state minister or district magistrate, a sub divisional magistrate and village head will do the same at the sub-divisional level and the panchayat level, respectively.

As regards to holding of ‘At Home’ reception at Raj Bhawan and Raj Niwas, the matter is left to the discretion of the Governors and Lieutenant Governors.

Read | In a first, Indian tricolour to be hoisted at iconic Times Square in New York

The performance of police and military bands may be recorded at places of historic importance associated with Independence movement; and recorded versions thereof may be displayed through large screens and digital media, during public functions and on social media, the advisory said.

Independence Day, 74th Independence Day, Independence Day 2020, 2020 Independence Day, India news, Indian Express Police personnel during dress rehearsal of Independence Day celebrations at Guru Nanak Dev Stadium in Ludhiana, on Thursday, August 13, 2020. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

‘Waving of national flags from balconies, illumination of govt buildings’

Among the activities the Home Ministry has suggested for the day include planting of trees; inter-school/inter-college debates on digital platforms; online quiz contests/patriotic essay writing and poetry competitions; launching of any important scheme, singing patriotic songs/delivering patriotic talks by selected boys/girls on social media; illumination of government buildings/state bhawans etc; thematic webinars; online campaign by NSS and NYKS centred on patriotic themes; or any other activity deemed appropriate by the state government/ UT administration befitting the occasion.

Read | I-Day advisory: No large assemblies; Tricolour hoisting at balconies, rooftops

The ministry has also suggested sound shows/lighting of important public buildings, waving of national flags by people at rooftops/balconies, propagating national integration messages/songs through social media platforms to celebrate the day. It also said that it would be appropriate that the theme of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ announced by PM Modi was suitably spread through social media.

With PTI inputs

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