‘We feel represented’: Republic Day parade’s ‘special guests’

Workers who helped beautify Kartavya Path were declared ‘special guests’ this year but a few of them complained that they weren’t allowed to attend the parade due to the limited number of seats; the stretch was inaugurated in September last year 

January 27, 2023 02:43 am | Updated 02:45 am IST

The Central Vista lights up with a laser show on the 74th Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi on Thursday evening.

The Central Vista lights up with a laser show on the 74th Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi on Thursday evening. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

As the tricolour unfurled on a cold windy morning, the sky above the newly renovated and renamed Kartavya Path looked glum. But the sight of the imposing flag and the sea of humanity gathered to celebrate the country’s 74th Republic Day lit up the faces of a group of ‘special guests’ invited to witness the grand parade — workers who were involved in the beautification project.

Akash, 25, a contractual worker, said his contractor encouraged him and his friends to attend the parade. “He told us that we have worked hard to redevelop Kartavya Path, which is historic. If we don’t get to see the event, what is even the purpose of our hard work,” said Mr. Akash.

He said their contractor and junior engineer shared the invites with all the workers. “We came here to see Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we had seen him only on television,” Mr. Akash added with excitement.

The renovated stretch of road between Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate was inaugurated in September last year with a new name. It was earlier known as Rajpath. On Thursday, President Droupadi Murmu led the celebrations while Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was the chief guest for the ceremony.

Sharing Mr. Akash’s excitement, Dinesh Kumar, 31, said, “When I told everybody in my village in Raebareli (Uttar Pradesh) that I have been invited for the Republic Day parade, they asked me to send pictures.”

Mr. Kumar’s parents felt particularly proud as he had always watched the parade on television as a child and had never dreamt of sitting with such dignitaries.

Mukesh Kumar, 30, who also attended the parade, said he was excited to see the fly-past and the Rafale fighter jet. “I had only heard about it on TV news. When I saw it today, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said.

When Gaya Prasad, 30, told his family that he had been invited to the R-Day parade, his family insisted they too wanted to attend the event.

“I wish I could bring my family along but there were limited seats available. I clicked photographs of every contingent, I hope they like the pictures,” he said.

Asked how it felt to be attending the jamboree as an invitee, he said he felt “represented”. “The hard work that so many people have put in to renovate Kartavya Path hasn’t gone unnoticed and people will remember it.”

“Today, we are remembered for our small contribution in this historic journey, it is a proud moment,” he said.

Rajesh Kumar, 28, a labourer from Madhya Pradesh’s Kesarganj, has been working at Kartavya Path to help prepare the stage. “When I saw the entire ceremony unfolding before my eyes today, it felt dreamlike”.

Mr. Kumar, who has always watched the parade on TV, said when everybody stood in attention for the national anthem, it gave him goosebumps.

But not everybody was as lucky.

‘Not allowed to attend’

While the celebrations were under way, a few workers at Kartavya Path complained that they weren’t allowed to attend the parade due to the limited number of seats. “We were told that we have also been invited since we helped redevelop Kartavya Path, but most of us weren’t given passes. We had to see it from outside the venue,” a worker said, asking not to be named.

He said around 200 daily wage labourers have been living on the premises and were invited for the parade last year. However, this year, most of them were “forgotten”.

‘Much more beautiful’

Abdul Khader Nadakattin, a Padma Shri awardee from last year for his innovations in grassroots agriculture, said he could not help but get emotional experiencing “the grand event”.

“I am a poor farmer, don’t even know how to read but the government gave me so much respect by giving Padma Shri. Last year, I could not attend the parade but this year I came for it,” said Mr. Nadakattin, who came all the way from Dharwad, Karnataka.

He added that while he had seen the Rajpath, the new Kartavya Path looked “much more beautiful”.

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