As India woke up to celebrate its 74th Republic Day, thousands turned up on the newly-renovated and renamed Kartavya Path in New Delhi on a cold and cloudy winter morning to witness the Republic Day parade on Thursday.
The parade that always has something for each one did not disappoint this year’s gathering, a mix of men and women, senior citizens and children, students and working professionals, and vendors and daily wagers.
While the parade offered a range of attractions, including motorcycle stunts, various bands and marching contingents, tableaux, and cultural performance, for most visitors it was the experience of witnessing the grand event live that was memorable.
Ninety-year-old Vashisth Singh, a retired assistant engineer from Ranchi, who had seen the parade on TV for years, said it felt “surreal” to experience it sitting at Kartavya Path for the first time.
“I’ve always wanted to experience this, there are so many memories attached to the Republic Day parade, my grandson was here and I wanted him to see our country’s cultural heritage,” he said, adding that he liked the motor stunt in which a soldier rode a bike from an 18-feet ladder.
Air show hid in clouds
Even though the parade started at 10.30 a.m., people started coming in even before the sunlight as they wanted to grab the best seats to catch the ceremony. One particular event they were excited about was the fly past by 45 Indian Air Force aircraft, one from the Indian Navy, and four helicopters from the Indian Army.
However, the crowd was left disappointed as they could not witness the various manoeuvres in the sky above Kartavya Path by the likes of Rafale, Mig-29 and Su-30 MKI fighters.
A resident of Ghaziabad, Vibha, 36, was excited to see the Rafale fighter jets. “We’ve only heard about it in the news. My children were really excited about seeing the fighter jets, however due to the weather conditions we couldn’t,” she said.
Two students of Rashtriya Military College in Dehradun, Teluri Srujan, 16, and Sunand Kumar, 17, both residents of Andhra Pradesh, who came to see the parade, said that the marching contingents were the main attraction for them.
“The display of the aircraft was what garnered most attention. Even though we could not see much, we were in high spirits,” Mr. Kumar said.
Mr. Kumar also said that he liked the tableaux of Uttar Pradesh (Ayodhya Deepotsav) and Haryana (International Gita Mahotsav) as they “depicted India’s cultural history”.
Heavy security deployment
In view of “security threats,” more than 7,000 police personnel and paramilitary forces including Delhi Police, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), National Security Guards (NSG), and Military Police were deployed at various points.
Special Protection Group (SPG) commandoes, responsible for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s security, were also keeping a vigil across the venue. Snipers were also stationed at various temporary control centres at the venue.
With a seven-layer security cover, thorough frisking was carried out at each point. Various common articles, including pens, water bottles, umbrellas, and coins were also part of the banned-items list.
An officer stationed at the security check said, “There has been no mishap, the situation is smooth, security is in place.”
“Around 150 CCTV cameras have also been installed in vital areas, with facial recognition facility, and police visibility has also been enhanced,” an officer added.
A total of 24 help desks were stationed in the New Delhi district.
Entry was only permitted based on QR codes as all invitations and passes were moved online for the first time. Seating capacity was also reduced from more than 1 lakh to about 45,000 this year due to reorganisation of seating arrangements and a massive cut in the VIP invitations.