Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai)

I-day celebratio­ns to be muted

- HT Correspond­ent letters@hindustant­imes.com

NEW DELHI: 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.

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