No late breakfast or family outing for babus this Independence Day. Thunder, lightning or rain, early on August 15 they have to ‘grace’ the celebrations at the Red Fort.

The Cabinet Secretary has sent a diktat to officials to ensure that those invited are present at the Red Fort when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unfurls the national flag and addresses the nation.

“Considering the importance of this function where the Prime Minister addresses the nation, all officers who are invited must attend the ceremony,” says a letter doing the rounds in a Ministry.

Officials in one Ministry are particularly amused by a thinly veiled “be-there-or-else” threat in the directive — the Cabinet Secretary has conveyed that a “serious view” would be taken of their absence on the occasion.

However, there were mixed views on whether this directive would be an annual affair or a one-off instance. An official from the Railways stated that such letters, seeking mandatory presence on January 26 and August 15, were a norm.

“There is usually more excitement for the Republic Day function compared with the Independence Day function because of the parade,” said an official.

However, a Health Ministry official said that the directive could be a fallout of what happened a few years ago when “thin attendance” at the Red Fort attracted undue attention, especially from the media.

True enough, the directive has left some babus wondering when they would get real ‘independence’ to celebrate the national Independence Day their own way!

(This article was published on August 10, 2012)
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