Preps for Independence Day 2020 underway: 350 personnel participating in 15 Aug event quarantined; COVID-19 measures to be followed
This year, the Independence Day event on 15 August is likely to consist of only Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech, a 21-gun salute, the National Anthem, and the unfurling of the National Flag, reports said
With less than a week to go for Independence Day 2020, preparations are underway across the country and authorities are enforcing special precautionary measures in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
On 24 July, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines for the Independence Day celebrations at Delhi's Red Fort and said, "...while organising various programmes or Independence Day celebrations, it is imperative to follow certain preventive measures such as maintaining social distancing, wearing of masks, proper sanitisation, avoiding large congregations, protecting vulnerable people, etc."
Every year, a cultural programme in which children perform is organised at the Independence Day event, but it will not be organised this year.
"More than 2,000 children from various schools used to perform and stand in National Flag formation at the Red Fort ground. The event will either be limited to a few students or cancelled," a Delhi Police official was quoted as saying by The Hindu.
As part of the additional crowd-regulating restrictions, the two grounds on either side of the Red Fort, which are usually open to the public, will also remain closed.
This year, celebrations at the Red Fort on 15 August is likely to consist of only Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech, a 21-gun salute, the National Anthem, and the unfurling of the National Flag, The Hindu reported.
In addition to precautionary measures, the the home ministry also recommended inviting "COVID 'warriors' like doctors, health workers, santisation workers as a recognition of their noble service in the fight against the pandemic."
"Some people cured from COVID-19 may also be invited," the MHA's advisory added. As a break from tradition, school children will not be participating in the event this year.
However, National Cadet Corps members are likely to be a part of it, Hindustan Times reported. The report added that around 1,500 people who have recovered from coronavirus are likely to be "the highlight at the celebrations".
"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," the report added.
Security personnel taking part in I-Day event in quarantine
In Delhi, 350 police personnel who will be part of guard of honour at the Red Fort have been quarantined ahead of the ceremony at the police colony in the Delhi Cantonment, reports said. The guard of honour will be inspected by Modi on the day.
The quarantined personnel include all ranks — from a constable to Deputy Commissioner of Police.
Special Commissioner of Police (Armed Police) Robin Hibu was quoted by Moneycontrol as saying that the personnel "are doing well and none of them have any COVID-19 symptoms".
"After their parade rehearsals, they immediately sanitise themselves. All precautions are being taken," another senior police officer said.
Usually, 40 personnel travel to and fro parade rehearsals together, but this year, 20 personnel are being allowed at a time in a sanitised vehicle, the report added.
The Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort will be graced by dignitaries other than the prime minister as well, ANI reported, adding that this year, the country is likely to witness a "completely different" Independence Day function at the Red Fort in Delhi, due to the pandemic.
ANI reported that only 20 percent of the usual number of VVIPs and other invitees will be able to attend Modi's speech live this year. Till last year, thousands of people used to attend the function.
Additionally, officers of the Indian Army, Air Force, Navy, and the Delhi Police who are slated to participate in the Independence Day programme have been asked to be in quarantine till 15 August.
Their employees — like drivers, househelps, cooks, bus drivers, parade trainers — have also been asked to be in quarantine, reports said.
The officers have also been instructed only to attend rehearsals for the event and return directly home, hence curbing their activities in the run-up to Independence Day.
According to NDTV, authorities have drawn up stringent precautions for participating officers because "the nature of the celebration makes it impossible to maintain social distancing rules, which is required amid the COVID-19 pandemic".
This precaution has been taken to ensure that Modi, and VVIPs, VIPs, and others are not exposed to virus, as "during the Guard of Honour on the red carpet, the Prime Minister passes through parade commander and soldiers, Zee News reported.
The sanitisation of every government vehicle involved in the parade will be undertaken till 15 August, the report added.
Security arrangements in Delhi
Delhi Police commissioner SN Shrivastava said that all necessary security arrangements have been made for Independence Day and public cooperation has also been sought in this regard.
"Necessary security arrangements have been made for Independence Day. Arrangements have also been made in view of the threat from aerial objects like drones and microlight aircraft. We have sought public cooperation so that no place is used to launch any terror attack," Shrivastava told ANI.
As part of security protocol for the event, Delhi Police on Monday checked vehicles of commuters as part of heightened measures in the National Capital. Police teams were seen checking vehicles at India Gate and Connaught Place, ANI reported.
Security forces are conducting vehicular check in all the parts of Delhi-NCR.
On Sunday, the Indian Armed Forces (Tri-Service) Band gave a musical performance at the North Block during the ongoing celebration of the 74th Independence Day.
The 74th Independence Day celebration will be marked by musical performances by the bands from the Army, Navy and Indian Air Force, the Defence Ministry was quoted as saying.
"These performances are intended as gestures of gratitude and appreciation of the nation towards the corona warriors who have been steadfastly fighting to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the country even at the risk of their lives," said the Ministry of Defence in a press release.
Military and Police Bands will also perform in Imphal, Bhopal and Jhansi on 12 August.
I-Day celebrations in other states
Independence Day celebrations will also be curbed in other states Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, and Odisha.
Jharkhand chief secretary Sukhdev Singh on 6 August said that Independence Day functions in the state will be organised with a limited number of visitors at the venues.
In a statement, Singh said, as per the instructions issued by the MHA, the visitors to state and district-level functions will be limited to avoid gathering of people in large numbers.
Reviewing the Independence Day celebrations at the Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP-1) ground, the chief secretary said, doctors, health workers, sanitation workers and some cured COVID-19 patients will be invited this year.
The wearing of masks, social distancing and keeping two yards distance between chairs will be followed, he said.
With inputs from agencies
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