Over 3,500 school children participate

An overcast sky and unprecedented security cover did not dampen the spirit of the 3,500-plus schoolchildren and guests who came to attend the 62nd Independence Day celebrations at the magnificent Red Fort here on Saturday.

The rain gods were kind enough to take a break during the 90-minute ceremony in the morning on an otherwise drizzly day.

A little before the function began around 7 a.m., the skies opened up. Fortunately, the rain stopped for over two hours, allowing the ceremony to be completed without any hitch.

The most excited among the audience were children from over 30 government and government-recognised schools. ome of these schools have the distinction of participating in the ceremony at Red Fort right since the first Independence Day in 1947.

Dressed in cream and green track suits, many school girls sat in a formation depicting the historic India Gate. As soon as the cavalcade of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived at the venue, the children got up and waved excitedly at him.

The children were thrilled at not just being able to see the Prime Minister from close quarters, but also because each one of them received a track suit, a pair of shoes and socks, a handkerchief, a cap, a wrist-watch and a raincoat (keeping the unpredictable weather in mind) for participating in the event.

“I am coming to the Red Fort for the first time. I had seen the Prime Minister only on television. But today I saw him in person delivering the speech,” said an excited Kulsum Jahan, a student of Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, No.2, Zeenat Mahal.

Most children had to leave their homes as early as 3 a.m. in order to reach their school on time, from where they were ferried to the venue in buses around 4-30 a.m. Dressed in a blue turban, white kurta-pyjama and Nehru jacket, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived at the Lahore Gate and inspected the guard of honour. He unfurled the Tricolour before addressing the nation.

His address drew intermittent applause from the audience.

“He remembered our martyrs and said terrorism was a big challenge that needs to be addressed. It is good news that farmers would be given assistance to deal with the drought,” said Aman Bansal, a student of Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya in Krishna Nagar.

Arti Om Prakash of Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya in Malkaganj picked up some “valuable lessons” about life. “The Prime Minister spoke about the need to conserve water. We all must make an effort to do it. He said female foeticide was a shame on our society and said our country could not progress unless women become equal partners in growth,” she said.

At the end of Dr. Singh’s speech the children shouted, “Jai Hind” thrice in unison with great patriotic fervour, giving a perfect finish to the event. The ceremony ended with the national anthem, followed by the release of hundreds of balloons attached to small Tricolour paper flags.

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