Construction workers who were part of the Central Vista project, heads of border villages, school children and teachers — around 1,800 ‘special guests’ were part of the Independence Day celebrations at Lal Qila on Tuesday.
Around 250 farmers — 50 participants each of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme and the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana — as well as teachers and students from Delhi schools were invited.
“It’s a great initiative where the government has decided to invite students and teachers from different schools each year. This year, students and staff from the Delhi East zone were invited, which is why we got the opportunity to visit the Red Fort and watch the Independence Day celebrations live,” Devika Dhawan, a teacher from SKV school in Geeta Colony said.
Fifty students each from 10 East Delhi schools were invited.
“We gathered at our school at 3.30 am and were seated here by 5 am. My students waited patiently because they eagerly wanted to hear the Prime Minister’s address,” she added.
Over 1,100 NCC cadets were also among the attendees.
“It was a great experience for us to watch the march by senior NCC cadets, we hope we can receive the opportunity to march so perfectly someday,” said Renuka Yadav, who is a part of Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya NCC.
“I personally liked everything about the speech, but what I specifically loved were the balloons and the helicopters,” Aman Kumar from government boys senior secondary school said, after a helicopter whizzed past showering flower petals on the guests during the ceremony and Tricolour balloons were released into the air.
Hours before the PM spoke, small Tirana yatras were seen across the city, all headed towards the Red Fort at 6 am.
Meanwhile, scores of people gathered outside the venue, wearing saffron, white and green outfits and hoping to gain entry. Among them was 80-year-old Abdul Gaffar. “I have seen all PMs hoisting the flag — from Nehru to Indira Gandhi,” he said. He walked two kilometres to get to the Red Fort as cars without parking passes weren’t allowed to enter due to stringent security measures.
Many, however, could not make it inside in time because of the long queues. Among them was Satya Narayan, who came to Delhi from Nagaur in Rajasthan. He was among the representatives from 510 Farmer Producer Organisations who were invited.
“My wife and children were extremely excited for me, this is the first time that someone was invited by the government to watch the Independence Day celebrations. We had been asked to be seated by 6:30 am, I reached at 6 but couldn’t enter…,” he said.