Nobody minds the pared down celebrations but everybody expects the PM to lay down a post-COVID roadmap
Like everything else in the new normal, the pandemic has affected Independence Day celebrations this year. Usually held with a lot of pomp and show, with thousands of citizens, politicians, dignitaries, diplomats, military brass and invitees attending, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may not have the live audience he is used to, listening to his speech. Everybody understands that the event cannot be spectacular enough and would much rather hope that our COVID-19 management is spectacular instead. Everybody also hopes to hear a spectacular speech from Modi himself, not pushing his Government’s or his party’s agenda and listing work done but presenting a post-COVID roadmap for India. Economic revival is a far cry and the credit-based relief packages are yet to work on the ground. And one would expect incentivisation for our domestic industries if we are to become a self-sufficient manufacturing hub. So far, the Government has left package announcements to specific Ministries but people are expecting the Prime Minister to be very specific and holistic. An August 15 speech should inspire hope and courage and in pandemic times, Modi should keep to a people-oriented vision and offer solutions than make grandiloquent announcements. Still, there are some ceremonial embellishments within norms like social distancing, wearing masks and proper sanitisation. So, about 200 VIPs will be seated in a special enclosure. There will be no school children, who have traditionally been a big part of the celebrations. Last year, Modi had mingled freely among them, shaking their eagerly outstretched hands. But suffice it now that they stay healthy and the Government strengthen the digital classroom network in the farthest corners so that they do not miss out on education. However, the National Cadet Corps is expected to be a part. Of course, to restore hope, around 1,500 Corona winners, or people who have recovered from the disease, will attend. These will include around 500 local policemen. Also, COVID-19 warriors like doctors, healthcare and sanitation workers will be honoured for their frontline role. The pandemic, in the end, has been more a people’s war than the Government’s.
The one good thing is that I-Day will be used to boost the “Digital India” campaign. School children may not be present at the ceremony but they can participate in online debates, quizzes and poetry competitions. The theme of “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” will also be publicised through webinars and online talks. The Government is attempting a public event with precautionary measures to perhaps lay a template for how celebrations can be managed in a post-pandemic world. It is using technology to include the masses on a national holiday and sending out a positive message by including Corona winners and warriors. By holding the event and not cancelling it completely, the Government is indicating we have to learn to co-exist with the virus and get on with our lives. That among all the uncertainty around us, there is certainty about what is seared in our memory and DNA, like August 15.
Monday, 27 July 2020 | Pioneer