Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday addressed the nation even as an overcast sky threatened to open up and play spoilsport. However, the rain held up long enough to allow the event to get over, but Delhi was swamped with steady showers later.
No Swacch Bharat here
In what could be seen as contradictory to Modi’s assertion that children were his brand ambassadors for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the stands where schoolchildren were seated to hear his address were littered with garbage. Food packets, water bottles and banana peels littered the area.
The 1-hour-23-minute speech of Modi that listed the achievements of the government led by him left the audience apparently unmoved. “Modi’s address had nothing new. It was more of self-praise rather than a report card of the government,” said Abimanyu Tiwari, who was part of the audience. However, the speech received intermittent applause. But the loudest applause was reserved for his comment that no interviews should be held for junior posts.
Dressed smartly in a creamish gold attire and a safa (turban) of a similar hue tinged with orange and green, Modi unfurled the national flag from the dais the 17th century built Red Fort, and saluted the nation’s martyrs, freedom fighters and the armed forces for their many sacrifices amidst the playing of the national anthem.
Before the unfurling of the national flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Modi went to Rajghat to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi. Thereafter, he was received at the Red Fort complex by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and the commanding officer of the Delhi area. He reviewed a tri-services guard of honour before his address to the nation.
Independence Day celebrations took place amid tight security that included the deployment of over 40,000 security personnel and roof top markings for the first time. Apart from these, unmanned aerial vehicles, choppers and 500 CCTV cameras were deployed to keep a watch on crucial and sensitive spots. Snipers were deployed at designated spots in most of the 400 marked rooftops.
People from all walks of life had queued up to participate in the event as early as 5 a.m. This time 10,000 seats were arranged for general public at the venue and they were full by 7 a.m. Security personnel had a tough time managing the enthusiastic crowd. “Since Modi came in to power, we never got a chance to hear him live. This time I made it sure we are here on time to listen to him,” said Ghansham Gujjar from Haryana. “I have come to Delhi with my whole family to listen to Modi.”
The show stealers
For the hundreds of schoolchildren gathered at the Red Fort, the 21-gun salute and the sight of hundreds of saffron, white and green balloons being released in the sky were the most exciting part of the event. Giant white balloons with the national flag twirling out as they rose in the sky also proved a captivating sight for the young ones.
Future of India
When Modi’s cavalcade was leaving the venue, children waved to greet him. Like last year, he stopped his car and went to meet the children. He shook hands with some of them and greeted them on the occasion. “PM sir shook hands with us and wished us good luck,” Priya Goyal, a Class 6 student, told IANS soon after Modi left.