26 January 2012 marks India's 63rd Republic Day. Although India gained freedom from British rule on 15 August 1947, it did not have a permanent constitution at that time. After independence, on 28 August 1947 a committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar to draft a permanent constitution. It took many deliberations and a few modifications before the Constitution was passed by the Assembly on 26 November 1949. But, it came into effect completely only on 26 January 1950. The governing document before 26 January 1950 was the Government of India Act 1935. Thus, the Republic Day celebrates the coming into force of the Indian Constitution. This day also marks respect for the freedom struggle and the many who laid their lives for their motherland.
All Indians unite and celebrate this day with patriotic zeal and pride. It is one of the three national holidays of India and is observed with formality in all states and union territories.
Republic Day is celebrated most majestically in the capital, New Delhi. The day starts off with the Prime Minister laying a floral wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, at India Gate to honour the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the nation. A two minute silence is observed in their memory and then the Prime Minister proceeds to the main dais at Rajpath. The President joins him there along with the Chief Guest and other dignitaries. The Chief Guest is usually the Head of State or Government from a foreign nation. The President hoists the flag and soon, the National Anthem is played. This is followed by a 21 gun salute.
The nation's military might and cultural wealth are displayed in a very impressive parade which takes place on Rajpath. One of the most magnificent attractions is the march past by the different regiments of Army, Airforce, and Navy. The Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, that is, the President takes the salute as the regiments pass by. School Children from various schools in the capital also present cultural programs. Many days are spent preparing for the event and a lot of logistics goes into arranging the uniforms, props and rehearsals. Even the biting cold is not a deterrent for these children who consider it an honour to participate in their national parade. The parade includes a pageant of spectacular displays from the different states of the country. Music and songs of that particular state accompany each display. The displays brings out the diversity and richness of the culture of India. The parade is telecast live by the National Television and is watched by millions across the country. Last but not the least, jets and fighter planes from the Indian Air Force fly past the parade symbolically saluting the President thereby, traditionally concluding the Republic Day parade. The patriotic zeal of the people on this day brings the whole country together even in her essential diversity. Every state of India is represented on this occasion, thus making the Republic Day the most popular and widely celebrated of all the national holidays of India.
To commemorate this event, major government buildings are beautifully illuminated with lights every evening from 26th to 29th January. On the third day after Republic Day, that is 29th, 'Beating the Retreat' ceremony is conducted consisting of massed bands marching to the popular tunes. The Drummer's Call follows wherein the drummers give solo performances. Thereafter, the Bugle Call follows which is characterized by the band master walking up to the President requesting to take the bands away. This marks the end of the closing ceremony of Republic Day. At 6 pm, the buglers sound the retreat and the National Flag is lowered. With this, the Republic Day celebrations are formally ended.
THE BRAVERY AWARDS
Twenty four children from different parts of the country will receive the National Bravery Awards for 2011 from the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh at a function in New Delhi on the eve of Republic Day this year. Among the awardees eight are girls and sixteen are boys. Five Awards will be given posthumously. The prestigious Geeta Chopra Award will be conferred on 13 year old Km. Mittal Mahendrabhai Patadiya of Gujarat who faced armed miscreants and foiled a robbery attempt.
Master Kapil Singh Negi of Uttarakhand will get the coveted Bharat Award posthumously. The 15-year-old-boy sacrificed his life while helping his younger schoolmates to cross an over-flooded stream on a day of heavy rain and landslide. The Sanjay Chopra Award has been given to 12˝-year-old Master Om Prakash Yadav of Uttar Pradesh who saved his schoolmates from a burning van.
The National Bravery Award Scheme was initiated by the Indian Council for Child Welfare to give due recognition to the children who distinguish themselves by performing outstanding deeds of bravery and meritorious service and to inspire other children to emulate their example. Children will get a medal, certificate and cash under the scheme and awardees will be granted financial assistance until they complete their schooling. The Government has reserved some seats for the awardees in medical and engineering colleges and polytechnics.
THE CHIEF GUEST
Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra is the chief guest at the 63nd Republic Day Parade. Yingluck Shinawatra is the first woman prime minister of Thailand. Yingluck is the youngest sister of former premier and tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra. She will be in India for 3 days starting January 24. During her visit, Yingluck will hold talks on ways to increase trade and investment opportunities between the two countries, particularly in energy, petroleum and food industries. Thai trade representative Nalinee Thaweesin said, Thailand viewed India as a major strategic economic partner because it was a big market with a population of more than 1.2 billion people. Once the Asean economic community takes affect in 2015, Thailand could become a trade and investment gateway to the community for India, while India would be a distribution centre of Thai products to countries in the South Asia region, she added.