New Delhi: Tight security cover failed to dampen people`s patriotic spirits as large number of Delhiites turned up at the majestic Red Fort to celebrate the country`s 67th Independence Day.
Light showers early in the morning made the weather pleasant lifting the spirits of school children and guests gathered at the main venue for celebration.
Over 3,500 girl students from 36 government schools of Delhi, dressed in track suits formed the replica of the national flag.
At 7.20 AM, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s cavalcade reached the Lahore Gate where he was received by Defence Minister AK Antony, Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh and Defence Secretary RK Mathur.
The Defence Secretary introduced the General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area, Lt General Subroto Mitra to Singh.
Singh, then accompanied by the GOC Delhi Area, reached the saluting base where a combined Inter-Services which include contingents of Army, Navy and Air Force and Delhi Police presented general salute.
Thereafter, Singh inspected the Guard of Honour and proceeded to the ramparts of Red Fort where he unfurled the national tricolour from a closed enclosure.
Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne and Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral RK Dhowan greeted him.
The unfurling of the tricolour and national anthem was synchronised with the 21 gun salute by the 871 Field Regiment (SHINGO).
During his 40-minute speech, the Prime Minister was being cheered by the students.
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and a host of dignitaries including foreign diplomats were present on the occasion.
As soon as the Prime Minister finished his speech school children and NCC Cadets sang the national anthem. 700 NCC cadets from the Delhi Directorate participated.
The children cheered when a large number of balloons were released at the end of the function to signal the spirit of true freedom.
Gun-totting security personnel were all over the Red Fort keeping a tight vigil on the area to thwart any untoward incident. Barricades were put up across the city as part of security drill to ensure an incident-free Independence Day celebration.
Tanya Chauhan, Akanksha, Saloni Mehta and a number of girls studying in a Delhi government run school left home at 4:00 AM in the morning to be at the function.
They were all excited to see the Prime Minister and host of other leaders.
An elated Gausiya Parveen was in awe of the security personnel and their elan.
"I want to join the security forces and be a commando some day," she said.
14-year-old NCC cadet Rohan Verma said that he was inspired by the men in uniform and wished that he could join the armed forces one day.
"My heart skipped a beat when the Prime Minister unfurled the national flag amid the national anthem and the guns roaring," he said.