EC, first woman parade leader make debut on Republic Day

EC, first woman parade leader make debut on Republic Day

EC, first woman parade leader make debut on Republic Day

As India’s growing military prowess and mesmerising cultural diversity was on grand display at Rajpath on the 63rd Republic Day, the Election Commission sent out a message loud and clear on the importance of voting to keep the world’s largest democracy alive and vibrant.

For the first time in Republic Day, the EC had its own tableau showing a large electronic voting machine and a banner urging the people to vote. As many as five states are going to the polls within weeks and the EC observed January 25 as the National Voter’s Day to maximise voter enrolment and enhance the quality of Indian democracy.

The EC tableaux was not the only first in the Republic Day parade in the capital. A woman officer, Flight Lieutenant Sneha Shekhawat, led the marching contingent of the Indian Air Force, which also showcased its latest acquisition – three C-130 J Super Hercules aircraft purchased from the USA.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation displayed its most potent missile Agni-IV that can strike at a target 3,000 km away as shown in a successful test in November. Army para-commandos on double march were also back in action after a gap.

As President Pratibha Patil took the salute from the marching contingents, chief guest Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh watched the impressive parade that began from the Raisina Hills and ended at Red Fort, ignoring the early morning chill.

The Army’s weaponry on display included T-72 tanks, carrier motor-tracked vehicle, Smerch missile Launcher, multi-barrel rocket system 'Pinaka' and a mine plough. The Navy showcased its Delhi-class destroyer and the IAF highlighted the achievement of IAF women reaching the summit of Mt Everest.

Other marching contingents included the camel-mounted BSF, Assam Rifles, Coast Guard, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, SSB, RPF, Delhi Police, NCC and NSS. On the cultural front, West Bengal was back in the Republic Day parade after 13 years, while Karnataka presented “Bhootharadhane” – an ancient cultural tradition of Holy Spirit and cult worship popular in coastal Karnataka.

Bihar highlighted the story of daughters of forests from Dharhara village where villagers plant 10 fruit-bearing trees once a girl child is born. As a result of this tradition, the village with 7,000 population has more than 1,00,000 trees, most of them mango and lychee. The historic Aamber Fort was brought alive by Rajasthan, while the Indian Railways tableaux focused on Punjab Mail, which crossed a century.