Under Shadow of Coronavirus, PM to Address Nation from Red Fort for 7th Consecutive Time

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver his seventh straight Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Saturday -- an address that comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, a border standoff with China, and a slew of reforms by the government under the 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' initiative.

Modi will unfurl the Tricolour and deliver the customary address to the nation from the ramparts of the iconic monument.

Modi will arrive in front of the Lahore Gate of Red Fort at 7.18am, where he will be received by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar. Modi will then conducted to the Saluting Base where a combined Inter-Services and Police Guards will present him a general salute after which he will inspect the Guard of Honour.

The Guard of Honour contingent will comprise one officer and 24 men each from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Delhi Police. The Guard of Honour will be positioned directly in front of the National Flag across the moat below the ramparts.

After inspecting the Guard of Honour, Modi will proceed to the ramparts of the Red Fort. Major Shweta Pandey will assist him in unfurling the National Flag and it will synchronise with a 21-gun salute by gunners of the elite 2233 Field Battery (Ceremonial).

After unfurling the Tricolour, Modi will address the nation.

Modi's address will come 10 days after he performed the 'bhoomi pujan' of a Supreme Court-mandated Ram temple in Ayodhya on August 5, bringing to fruition the BJP's 'mandir movement' that defined its politics for three decades and took it to the heights of power.

It also comes amid the border standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in the eastern Ladakh. India and China have been holding diplomatic and military talks on disengagement of troops from all the friction points in eastern Ladakh.

There is also anticipation of more reform measures with the government having already announced measures in various sectors, including agriculture and defence, to realise the goals of Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).

Over 4,000 people, including diplomats, officials and media personnel, have been invited for the Independence Day ceremony, which is being organised maintaining a balance between dignity of the event and factoring in the Covid-19 protocols, the defence ministry said on Friday.

In the run-up to the Independence Day, Modi last Saturday had launched a week-long garbage-free India campaign and asserted that the Swachh Bharat Mission has been a big support in the fight against coronavirus.

The defence ministry said the seating arrangement has been made under the guiding principle of "Do Gaz ki Doori" (maintaining distance of two yards) between any two guests. It said members of the guard of honour have been under quarantine.

All invitees have been requested to wear masks, it said, adding that an adequate number of masks are being kept handy for distribution at various points of venue.

High security in place

Multilayered security arrangements and a mandatory adherence to social distancing norms are in place for the Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort. A security ring, including NSG snipers, elite SWAT commandos and kite catchers, will be placed around the Mughal-era structure.

The Delhi Police has made multilayered arrangements in connection with the Independence Day celebrations. Necessary coordination has been made with other agencies like the NSG, SPG and ITBP.

"All the agencies will work in close coordination with each other to cater to all kinds of threat inputs. SWAT teams and 'Parakram' vans have been strategically stationed," said Delhi Police Additional PRO Anil Mittal.

There will be heavy security deployment along the route taken by Modi to reach Red Fort. Over 300 cameras have been installed for security and their footage is being monitored round-the-clock, police said.

There will be around 4,000 security personnel at the Red Fort and they will stand in adherence with social distancing norms.

Medical booths have been set up at various locations--one booth near the rampart -- one at Madhavdas Park and two booths at 15 August Park -- to cater to any attendee with symptoms related to COVID-19 during the entry. Ambulances will also be stationed here.

Thermal screening at all entry points for the invitees has been planned. A thorough sanitisation of the premises inside and outside the Red Fort is being carried out on a regular basis, officials said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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