The original date of Indian independence, 26 January, ultimately chosen as the first Republic Day returns again, promising to be even more spectacular as the constitution ages to become a septuagenarian.
As per tradition, 70 years ago, when the new head of state, Rajendra Prasad, also the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, took the salute, thousand men of the armed forces marched before the president and the artillery fired a thirty-one-gun salute while Liberator planes of the Indian air force flew overhead, according to historian Ramachandra Guha in his book India after Gandhi.
In 1950, Prasad had taken part in the parade in a horse-drawn carriage and our chief guest for the first ever Republic Day parade was none other than Sukarno, the first President of Indonesia. It was on this date that our constitution was formally adopted.
This year too will be more or less follow the same routine, albeit with a few differences. DH previews everything to expect from this year’s parade.
Focus on women
For the first time, a woman contingent of Assam Rifles will take part in the parade and a woman officer will lead the Army Services Corps.
The Daredevils Motorcycle Team will also include a woman officer in their team.
Spotlight on South Africa
Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa will be the Chief Guest for the event. Ramaphosa, one of the richest South Africans was formerly the Deputy President of South Africa from 2014 to 2018 and has also been an anti-apartheid activist, businessman, and trade union leader.
He is the second President of South Africa to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations after Nelson Mandela in 1995. This year also marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi who shared a special anniversary with South Africa.
As DH reported earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa are likely to announce a plan of action for New Delhi and Pretoria to step up cooperation in defence, energy, education and internal security over the next three years.
New weapons on display
Newly-acquired M777 howitzers and K-9 Vajra self-propelled artillery guns would be on public display for the first time along with the Surface Mine Clearing System (SMCS).
The versatile M777 gun system, with a range of 30 km, is a towed gun that can be lifted by helicopters and service aircraft, thereby providing the much-needed flexibility in deployment in various terrains. The howitzer is currently in service in the US, Canadian, Australian and several other armies, besides proving its mettle in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 155mm 52 calibre tracked, self-propelled K-9 Vajra is capable of firing three rounds in 30 seconds in the “burst” mode, 15 rounds in three minutes in the “intense” mode and 60 rounds in 60 minutes in the “sustained” mode.
Its main weapon is the anti-tank guided missile, Konkurs, that can destroy enemy tanks up to four kilometres away. Also on display would be the Main Battle Tank (MBT) T-90. The Russian origin tank can fire four types of ammunition and can also launch a missile from the gun. The 46-tonne lethal giant can hunt and kill at night effectively with the help of thermal imaging sight and can move in all types of terrain. The made-in-India Akash Weapon System will also be on display. The system is capable of firing short-range surface to air missiles against enemy aerial platforms. It is also capable of carrying out surveillance of airspace.
Tribal guests and performances galore
Fifty-eight tribal guests from various parts of the country, 22 tableaux of states and central government departments, and performance by school children will be showstoppers in this year’s 90-minute parade.
Three groups of children from Delhi schools and one group of children from Eastern zone Cultural Centre will be part of the parade. Each group will give a performance of about two minutes in front of the presidential dais at Rajpath.
Weather may play spoilsport
As DH reported earlier, Delhites, who would assemble at the India Gate on Saturday braving the early morning chills may miss the most enthralling part of the Republic Day parade – the magnificent flypast by the Indian Air Force.
Delhi and its four satellite towns are likely to experience a cloudy sky on January 26, thanks to a fresh spell of Western Disturbance that is slated to tell upon the weather pattern in the western Himalayas from next Friday.
“While rains are not likely in Delhi NCR on January 26, the sky will be overcast. Whether the IAF fly past would be visible to the crowd depends on the depth of the cloud cover,” K J Ramesh, director general of India Meteorological Department told DH.
IAF plans a flypast comprising 33 aircraft including 18 combat jets. While low flying helicopters may be visible to the spectators, weathermen fear that the fighter planes may not be visible.
How to attend
Tickets are available daily from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. from the 7th of January to the 25th of January every year in multiple locations such as Red Fort, Pragati Maidan (Gate 1), Jantar Mantar (Main Gate), Sena Bhawan (Gate 2), Jamnagar House (opposite India Gate), Shastri Bhawan (near Gate 3), North Block Roundabout, Parliament House Reception Office.
Ticket counters will be closed in the morning on January 23, due to the Republic Day Parade dress rehearsal. An ID proof is required to purchase the tickets.
(With inputs from PTI).