NEW DELHI: Thousands of participants of the 'Run for Unity' on Thursday braved bad air quality in the city as they made their way through a smoky haze to mark the 144th birth anniversary of the country's first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
The run was flagged off by Union Home Minister Amit Shah from the national stadium here shortly after 7 am.
While the participants comprising sportspersons, enthusiasts and personnel from central police forces wore uniform white T-shirts with a photo of Patel embossed on it, none were seen using a face mask.
The flag off also saw the presence of Union ministers Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank', Hardeep Singh Puri, R K Singh, Kiren Rijiju, G Kishan Reddy, Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal and Union Home Secretary Ajay K Bhalla on the dais with the home minister.
The national capital and its adjoining areas remained shrouded in toxic haze for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday as air quality remained in severe category.
The runners of the 1.5 km stretch around India Gate were seen clicking photographs and selfies as they sprinted in slow and fast pace.
At 8 am, the city's overall air quality index stood at 408, a tad better than 415 at 8 pm on Wednesday but it remained a major health concern.
Twenty-two of the 37 air quality monitoring stations across Delhi recorded the air quality in the severe category on Thursday morning.
The central government observes October 31 across the country as a special day to foster and reinforce the government's dedication to preserve and strengthen unity, integrity and security of the nation by celebrating it as a 'Rashtriya Ekta Diwas' or National Unity Day to commemorate the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel.
The Modi government has been observing Patel's birth anniversary as 'Ekta Diwas' or National Unity Day since 2014.
Patel was born on October 31, 1875 at Nadiad in Gujarat.
India's first Home Minister, Patel is credited for merger of over 560 states into the Union of India.