PM to address the nation from Red Fort for 7th consecutive time amid pandemic shadow

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver his seventh straight Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Saturday – an address that comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, a border standoff with China and a slew of reforms by the government under the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative.

All eyes will be on what the prime minister says as his August 15 addresses have often been marked by big announcements, his government’s achievements and bringing to people’s attention what he believes to be the major challenges facing the country.

Fresh from his re-election with a thumping mandate, Modi, in his Independence Day speech last year, had highlighted his government’s move to bring in the law against triple talaq and to abrogate Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

He had also underlined the need for population control and the country’s vision to achieve a USD 5 trillion economy.

The government’s efforts to deal with COVID-19 are likely to be in focus when Modi addresses the nation on its 74th Independence Day.

The Modi 2.0 government is now into its second year and is in the midst of carrying out wide-ranging economic reforms to boost the economy which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Centre has asserted that despite the rise in total number of cases, India’s response to the pandemic is marked by a high recovery rate and low fatality rate, putting it in a much better position than other countries.

His address also comes days after Modi on August 5 performed the ‘bhoomi pujan’ of a Supreme Court-mandated Ram temple in Ayodhya, bringing to fruition the BJP’s ‘mandir movement’ that defined its politics for three decades and took it to the heights of power.

It also comes amid the border standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in the eastern Ladakh. India and China have been holding diplomatic and military talks on disengagement of troops from all the friction points in eastern Ladakh.

There is also anticipation of more reform measures with the government having already announced measures in various sectors, including agriculture and defence, to realise the goals of Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).

Political watchers believe that Modi may also touch upon his government’s initiatives for Jammu and Kashmir.

Over 4,000 people including diplomats, officials and media personnel have been invited for the Independence Day ceremony at the Red Fort and it is being organised maintaining a balance between dignity of the event and factoring in COVID-19 protocols, the defence ministry said on Friday.

Previously, Modi had chosen the Independence Day to make some big ticket announcements regarding government policies and schemes – be it the government’s flagship Jan Dhan Yojana or the Start Up India initiative.

In the run up to the Independence Day, Modi had last Saturday launched a week-long garbage-free India campaign and asserted that the Swachh Bharat Mission has been a big support in the fight against coronavirus.

The defence ministry said the seating arrangement has been made under the guiding principle of “Do Gaz ki Doori” (maintaining distance of two yards) between any two guests.

It said members of the guard of honour have been under quarantine.

All invitees have been requested to wear masks, it said, adding that an adequate number of masks are being kept handy for distribution at various points of venue.

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