Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive at the foreground of Delhi's Red Fort at 7.21 AM on Saturday, August 15, to mark the start of Independence Day celebrations this year, sources said Tuesday. Sources added that the Prime Minister would unfurl the flag at 7.30 AM and speak for between 45 and 90 minutes.
Source said the Prime Minister's schedule at the Red Fort would include a guard of honour by three branches of the military - the Army, the Air Force and the Navy - with 22 soldiers and officers to take part.
A further 32 soldiers and officers will take part in the national salute, while 350 Delhi Police personnel will also be present. During the ceremony all soldiers will stand in four lines and follow social distancing.
This year's celebrations will be a severely restricted affair, both in the national capital and across the country, in light of the coronavirus pandemic that has infected over 22.68 lakh people.
As part of the precautions only those soldiers and personnel who have either recovered from, or have tested negative for it, will be allowed in the function. In addition, all 350 Delhi Police personnel taking part in the programme have been shifted to a housing colony at Delhi Cantonment.
In addition, all soldiers and police personnel participating in the ceremony have been told to restrict their movement - sources said they cannot leave home except to attend rehearsals. Their domestic helps, cooks and drivers will also be in quarantine, sources added.
Another big change in this year's Independence Day celebrations at the Red Fort will be the absence of school children in the foreground. In previous years there used to be around 3,500 children.
Further, this year only 500 NCC (National Cadet Corps) members will be allowed; they too will have to maintain a distance of six feet from each other.
The number of guests invited to the ceremony has also been drastically reduced, with only 120 in total - 60 on each side of the ramparts. In earlier years there used to be between 300 and 500 guests.
Media presence will be restricted during the event, with photographers who will be in close proximity to the Prime Minister required to undertake a coronavirus test. Only those whose test results are negative will be allowed.
While photographers from news agencies and official media will be permitted, cameramen from private media companies will not. There will be limited passes for reporters, who will be confined to the foreground.
India has seen a worrying surge in Covid cases over the past days, with more than 22.68 lakh confirmed infections so far. Of these, over 45,000 are deaths linked to the virus and nearly 6.4 lakh are active cases.
In the national capital, of the nearly 1.5 lakh infections, 4,131 are deaths and 10,346 are active cases.