New Delhi, Jan 26: The nation is celebrating its 59th Republic Day by showcasing its achievements in various fields at the parade at Rajpath.
President Pratibha Patil unfurled the tricolour and took the salute of marching contingents. The parade is being attended by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and top political and military brass. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the chief guest for this year's Republic Day celebrations. A tight security apparatus has been put in place in the wake of intelligence warning about possible terror strikes. Around 20,000 security personnel have been deployed while commandoes of the ITBP and the Delhi Police took positions at strategic locations.
Anti-sabotage and anti-explosive checks have been intensified, especially on the route of the parade. Sharpshooters of paramilitary forces have also been deployed on Rajpath as well as on other locations in Lutyen's Delhi. Mobile-hit teams, anti-aircraft guns and snipers were also pressed into service.
The 59th Republic Day parade, which showcases the country's military might and cultural diversity, began on a poignant note at the India Gate with rememberance and honours for the brave soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice for the nation.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, accompanied by the three service chiefs, led the nation in paying homage to the martyrs by laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti -- the eternal flame. Thereupon, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, accompanied by this year's Chief Guest, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, arrived at the ceremonial dais on the majestic Rajpath in a clatter of hooves, escorted by the armed horsemen of the President's Body Guard.
Ms Patil then became the first female head of state to unfurl the national tricolour of the world's largest democracy on its most revered national day. The President then conferred the country's highest peacetime gallantry award -- the Ashok Chakra -- posthumously to Major Dinesh Raghu Raman of Jat Regiment/34 Rashtriya Rifles, Captain Harshan of 2 Parachute Regiment, the twice decorated Naib Subedar Chunnilal of 8 Jammu&Kashmir Light Infantry and Col Vasantha Venugopal of 9 Maratha Light Infantry.
It was a poignant moment as the kin of the brave soldiers -- Colonel Vasanth's widow Subhashini, Major Raman's father Capt S Krishnamurthy, Captain Harshan's father K Radhakrishnan Nair, and Subedar Chunnilal's widow Chintha Devi-- received the awards.
After the investiture, the parade, commanded by General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area Major General K J S Oberoi came down the Rajpath. Comprising almost 9000 participants including defence personnel, para-military personnel, schoolchildren and others, they will march down from Vijay Chowk, via India Gate and culminate at the Red Fort. The entire procession will take about two hours.
Leading the parade were the living recipients of the Param Vir Chakra and other high military honours for bravery.
The marching contingents of Army will be from the Punjab Regiment, the Grenadiers, the Rajputana Rifles, Sikh Light Infantry, the Assam Regiment, the Mahar Regiment, 8 Gorkha Rifles and Territorial Army (126&155 Infantry Battalion). The marching contingents of Navy, comprising 144 men, will be led by Lt Commander Ravi Kant Pandey and the Air Force contingent, comprising 148 men, will be led by Sq Ldr Ashok Sharma.
The marching contingents of para-military and other auxiliary civil forces will include contingents from Border Security Force, Assam Rifles, Coast Guard, Central Reserve Police Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Central Industrial Security Force, Sashastra Seema Bal, Railway Protection Force, Delhi Police, National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme. The camel mounted band and contingent of the BSF will also participate.
Tableaux from 26 states and Central Ministries and Departments will present the varied historical, architectural and cultural heritage of the country, and also showcase the country's progress in different fields.
Eighteen of the 22 children selected for the National Bravery Award 2007 will also participate in the parade riding on caparisoned elephants. Four were awarded posthumously.
In the children's pageant section, more than 1400 boys and girls drawn from different school of Delhi and various cultural zones will present dances and other programmes.
Jaanbaz, the motorcycle display by the Border Security Force will be a major attraction of the parade. It will consist of 178 riders on 34 motorcycles performing breathtaking stunts.