In coronavirus era, how will India celebrate Independence Day?
Each Independence Day celebration trumps the last one with respect to grandeur, but this year India will have watered-down festivities, considering the coronavirus pandemic. The function at Red Fort, whose highlight is flag-hoisting by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will have a truncated guest list, security personnel in PPE kits, and would be sans school children. States and Union Territories will also have humble ceremonies.
When PM Modi gives his seventh straight address from the ramparts of Red Fort tomorrow, merely 250 people will hear him live. In pre-coronavirus days, around 900-1,000 people attended the event. Further, instead of rugs, chairs will be placed at a distance from one another to ensure minimum physical contact. The function will not host smiling, tricolor-waving school kids, either.
More than 350 police personnel, who will be a part of Guard of Honor, were asked to quarantine themselves till August 15. These officers, including constables and DCPs, were kept at the newly-constructed police colony in Delhi Cantt. Moreover, the female officer who would stand close to PM Modi underwent the COVID-19 test as well, indicating that the government isn't leaving loose ends.
Naturally, exhaustive security arrangements have been made. A security ring, complete with NSG snipers, SWAT commandos, and kite catchers will be stationed around Red Fort. Further, 4,000 security personnel will guard the Mughal-era monument while standing in adherence to social distancing norms. 300 cameras have also been installed and they are being monitored round the clock. Red Fort is already shut for the general public.
Earlier, the police ordered that 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. will not be allowed in Delhi till August 15. Cops have also been searching hotels, close to Red Fort, to zero in on suspicious elements. Security has also been upped in and around Railway stations.
"Security personnel have been deployed at railways stations and along the tracks. There will be no movement of trains from 6.45 am to 8.45 am on Independence Day on particular tracks near the Red Fort due to VVIP movement," Police official Harendra Kumar Singh said.
Just like the ceremony at Red Fort, the "At Home" function at Rashtrapati Bhavan will also be less grand. The focus will be on coronavirus warriors during the afternoon event, reports Indian Express. Earlier, the Union Home Ministry had released guidelines for states and Union Territories (UTs), asking them to celebrate I-Day in a manner that doesn't involve a large congregation of people.
MHA asked states/UTs to invite coronavirus warriors to the ceremony, to honor them for their service during this pandemic. "Some persons cured of COVID-19 infection may also be invited," the advisory added. State governments have been recommended to stream the function to enable viewing for those who can't attend it. Similar suggestions have been provided for ceremonies at district, sub-division, block and panchayat levels.
Moreover, MHA also suggested some activities for I-Day. These include planting trees, online debate competition among kids, online contests, singing patriotic songs, etc. Sound shows, illuminating key buildings, waving flags from balconies and buildings, have also been suggested. Authorities have been asked to undertake any activity they deem appropriate, and have been told to amplify PM Modi's "Aatma Nirbhar Bharat" message tomorrow.