The official Republic Day celebration this year is going to be 25 minutes shorter, but will not compromise on its pomp and pageantry, officials said. The event will, in fact, add some fresh sparkle.
The cut-back on the duration, from 115 minutes to 90 minutes, is aimed at making the event crisper and less of a drag. In 2005, the then UPA government had shortened the event by 45 minutes. Defence minister Pranab Mukherjee had then said that the duration was “just too long”.
According to a memo from the home ministry, the event will keep its traditional format of military march past and cultural processions. However, this year’s event — which will have French President Francois Hollande witness it as the chief guest — will see a foreign marching contingent of 130 French soldiers for the first time.
In 2009, the Maratha Light Infantry had paraded the iconic Champs Elysee on French National Day on July 14, which commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison, an event that sparked the French Revolution.
Viewers will also be greeted by a march past by a canine crackteam, comprising 36 of the army’s thoroughbred Labradors and German Shepherds. A glistening all-woman CRPF team — Women Daredevils CRPF — too will take part in the parade, though women soldiers have routinely participated in the event. The Women Daredevils CRPF will replace the general CRPF team this year.
The defence ministry is expected to withdraw its camel-mounted contingent, which has been missing from the rehearsals, too this year.
According to the home ministry document, the event will begin, as usual, by a wreath-laying ceremony by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Amar Jawan Jyoti. President Pranab Mukherjee will drive in straight from Rashtrapati Bhavan and take the grand salute. Fly past by helicopters and echelon aircraft — a highpoint of the celebrations — too will take place as usual.