Upcoming G-20 summit gilds Independence Day celebrations

Over 20,000 flock to Red Fort amid heavy security; more than 1,800 special invitees of the PM attend ceremony; G-20 summit logo, made of flowers, was a highlight of the decorations

Updated - August 15, 2023 10:30 pm IST

Published - August 15, 2023 01:50 pm IST - New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves after addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort during the celebrations of 77th Independence Day, in Delhi on August 15, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves after addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort during the celebrations of 77th Independence Day, in Delhi on August 15, 2023. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Thousands flocked to the Red Fort on a humid but breezy Tuesday morning as Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his tenth consecutive address to the nation on India’s 77th Independence Day.

The attendance at this year’s celebration crossed pre-pandemic levels, with more than 20,000 people present, from senior Ministers, government officials, and Armed Forces officers to NCC cadets, school children, and ordinary citizens from different parts of the country. Approximately 1,800 special invitees of the PM were present at Red Fort, including contingents of Central Vista construction workers, village leaders, fisherpersons, teachers, and farmers.

Floral decorations, which have been the highlight of many past Independence Day celebrations, were visibly reduced on the walls of the Red Fort this year. However, what caught every eye was the logo of the upcoming G-20 summit, crafted with flowers. From the decorations to the audiovisuals being displayed at the venue to the PM’s speech itself, references to India’s G-20 presidency were ubiquitous.

People listening speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from rampart of the Red Fort during the celebrations of 77th Independence Day, in Delhi on Tuesday, August 15, 2023.

People listening speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from rampart of the Red Fort during the celebrations of 77th Independence Day, in Delhi on Tuesday, August 15, 2023. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Unfurling the tricolour

After paying his tributes at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial at Rajghat, Mr. Modi reached Red Fort at around 7:18 a.m. A combined Inter-Services and Delhi Police Guard presented him with a general salute, following which the PM inspected the guard of honour contingent, comprising one officer and 25 personnel each from the Indian Army, the Air Force and the Delhi Police, and one officer and 24 personnel from the Indian Navy. It was commanded by Major Vikas Sangwan.

The PM then headed to the ramparts of the Red Fort and was received by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt, Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane, Chief of Defence Staff Anil Chauhan and the chiefs of the three services.

Assisted by Major Nikita Nair and Major Jasmine Kaur, the Prime Minister unfurled the tricolour, which was followed by a 21-gun salute from the gunners of the elite 8711 Field Battery synchronised with the national anthem, played by the Army Band.

At the end of the PM’s speech, tricolour balloons were released into the sky, to the cheers of the crowds. Mr. Modi also interacted with cadets from the NCC after his speech.

Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Director General SL Thaosen, National Security Guard (NSG) Director General M. A. Ganapathy, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) Director General Rashmi Shukla and other dignitaries during the 77th Independence Day function at the Red Fort, in New Delhi, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023.

Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Director General SL Thaosen, National Security Guard (NSG) Director General M. A. Ganapathy, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) Director General Rashmi Shukla and other dignitaries during the 77th Independence Day function at the Red Fort, in New Delhi, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Heightened security

Multiple security agencies made heavy arrangements to guard the Red Fort venue, the multiple routes leading to it, and the entire national capital. More than 5,600 personnel of the Delhi Police, SPG, NSG, SSB, CISF, CRPF as well as multiple SWAT teams, including women teams, were deployed at and around the Red Fort.

A senior Delhi Police officer said that multiple anti-drone systems were installed around the venue to shoot down any unmanned aerial vehicles.

Heavy traffic restrictions were also put in place with several check points across the city. Personnel diverted any vehicle without an invite or a parking pass to the routes away from Red Fort.

At the venue, a three-layered security check was in place with security personnel thoroughly frisking all visitors. Various common articles like water bottles, umbrellas, and car remote controls were also not allowed. More than 1,000 CCTV cameras and over 15 AI-based cameras with features like facial recognition systems were also installed to track any suspicious activities.

People at Red Fort during the celebrations of 77th Independence Day, in Delhi on Tuesday, August 15, 2023.

People at Red Fort during the celebrations of 77th Independence Day, in Delhi on Tuesday, August 15, 2023. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Enthusiasm beats the heat

Attendees from various walks of lives shared their experiences and what kept them seated at the venue despite the sweltering heat. For some, it was the excitement of attending the ceremony at the Red Fort, while others were just there to listen to the Prime Minister.

Ganesh and Mamta Patel, one of the 75 couples from various States and Union Territories who were invited to attend the ceremony in their traditional attire, said that they felt represented.

The Patels, who hail from Rajasthan’s Pali district, said, “We could not believe when we got the PM’s invite. We were so excited that we prepared for our dresses in advance and even spent on them specially.” While Ganesh donned a white kurta-pajama and a Jodhpuri safa, Mamta wore a yellow Rajputi suit.

While feelings of pride and ‘josh’ were felt across the enclosures of Red Fort as Mr. Modi spoke for over 80 minutes, his fourth longest Independence Day address, the extreme glare of the sun also wearied many citizens attending the function.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with NCC cadets after his speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort during the celebrations of 77th Independence Day, in Delhi on August 15, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with NCC cadets after his speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort during the celebrations of 77th Independence Day, in Delhi on August 15, 2023. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

‘Goosebumps’

Parts of the PM’s speech elicited loud cheering from the crowds, especially as he touched upon the topics of youth and women empowerment.

NCC cadets Ankush and Kunal, 16, said, “We saw the PM live for the first time. We’ve seen on TV but the difference was palpable, we had goosebumps when he unfurled the tricolour.”

Similarly, girls from a Delhi Government school also spoke about how the speech encouraged them to be brave. Khushi Chauhan, 15, said, “We felt so proud when PM Modi spoke about women empowerment and how India has a leading number of women pilots.”

Manoj Kumar, who travelled all the way from Bihar with his wife and small child, said, “We were not allowed inside because we had no pass but we travelled all the way just to see how the nation celebrates its Independence.”

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