Spirit of India rises to celebrate freedom

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The Independent Online
New Delhi (Reuters) - Just two months before India celebrates the 50th anniversary of her freedom from British colonial rule, the country's government is still considering a vast array of proposals to commemorate half a century of independence, including one to erect a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Antarctica.

"There is one such proposal that the government is considering," the Human Resource Development Minister, SR Bommai said, in response to questions about why the government had chosen Antarctica when there was not a single prominent statue of the spiritual father of independent India in the capital, New Delhi.

India gained independence on 15 August 1947. So far, the planned celebrations include enactments of historical events, and a special session of parliament at midnight on 14 August will simulate independent India's first parliamentary session.

For two days, the government will waive a law banning ordinary citizens from flying the national flag, and will encourage people to hoist the saffron, white and green colours on their homes and cars.

The celebrations will cost the government some 510m rupees (pounds 9m). In addition to three committees and 10 advisory groups, the federal government has set up an 88-member Secretariat for the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Indian Independence.

One government minister said they had received more than 2,000 suggestions from the public on how to celebrate the anniversary.

These included parades, starting a site on the Internet, releasing an audio tape of speeches by prominent Indian leaders, broadcasting Mahatma Gandhi's favourite hymns on state-run media and requesting every family in the 930 million-strong nation to light a candle at a specified time on 15 August.

Photographs from India: A Celebration of Independence, 1947 to 1997; published by the Aperture Foundation, New York