Floats depicting welfare schemes of various departments of the DMK government were the main attractions of the 62nd Republic Day parade held in Chennai on Wednesday.

The Rural Development Department, which implements some of the major schemes such as the Kalaignar Housing Scheme and the national rural employment guarantee scheme, won the first prize for its floats.

The department headed by Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin very effectively conveyed the message through a float depicting the transformation of mud and thatched roof houses into concrete houses. Another float explained the real changes that are taking places in the field of education and employment in rural areas.

Information Department and Health Department won the second and third prizes respectively.

Earlier Governor Surjit Singh Barnala unfurled the national flag and took the salute of the three armed forces and other security agencies. Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi presented bravery awards and medals.

Anna Medals for Gallantry were given to Madurai-based traffic porter R. Vivekanandan, Coimbatore-based driver J. Ravi, Kanyakumari-based S. Rajagopal and T Rajeshkumar of Cuddalore.

Mr. Vivekanandan, an employee of the Southern Railway, saved the life of a boy while crossing the tracks. He also rescued many other students from accidents by giving timely warning to them.

Mr. Ravi working in the forest department saved the lives of seven persons by driving a car in reverse gear for 200 metres when an elephant chased them.

Mr. Rajagopal is a tempo driver who has rendered timely help to several accident victims by admitting them to hospitals. In one incident, he saved more than 30 lives by stopping a bus after chasing it in his vehicle after noticing that a tyre had been detached from one of the wheels of the bus.

Mr. Rajeshkumar saved the lives of many patients in Cuddalore Government Headquarters Hospital during a fire accident by the timely use of a carbon-dioxide fire extinguisher.

The Kottai Ameer Communal Harmony Award was given to M.E. Jamaludeen of Tiruvannamalai for promoting communal harmony.

Gandhi Adigal Police Medals were given to three police officials for their outstanding work in curtailing illicit liquor. The recipients are P. Saravanan, ASP, Dharmapuri; R. Ghajandrakumar, Assistant Commissioner, Chennai, and C. Saravanan, Inspector, Dharmapuri.

Sixteen sportsperson received medals and cash incentives. They are S. Sathya (Athletics), C. Sridhar (Archery), A. Sarath Kamal, Amal Raj, R. Abishek and K. Shamni, (Table Tennis), Rushmi Chakravarthi (Tennis), Kavitha (Kabbadi), Sourav Ghosal, Harindar Pal Singh, Deepika Pallikal, Anaka Alangamony, Anwesha Reddy and Joshna Chinnappa (Squash), B Athiban and K Sasikiran (Chess). The award ceremony was followed by carnival of school and college students and traditional cultural programmes.