Gentleman Cadets during the Passing Out Parade on Saturday at the Indian Military Academy in Dehardun.(Kalyan Das/HT PHOTO)
Gentleman Cadets during the Passing Out Parade on Saturday at the Indian Military Academy in Dehardun.(Kalyan Das/HT PHOTO)

Covid-19 bites IMA’s passing out parade, no kin of new officers allowed

There was no traditional showering of flowers from helicopters on Gentlemen Cadets who wore masks and keep extra distance during the passing out parade.
Hindustan Times, Dehradun | By Kalyan Das| Edited by Sabir Hussain
PUBLISHED ON JUN 13, 2020 06:08 PM IST

For the first time since its inception, a batch of young offices graduated from the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun on Saturday without their parents watching the passing out parade (POP) due to restrictions for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead, the academy’s officers and their wives played the role of parents for the Gentlemen Cadets (GCs) by putting stars on their shoulders as a symbol of getting commissioned as army officers.

The changes were introduced considering the precautionary measures as per the guidelines of government for Covid-19 pandemic. The IMA officials said that it was done to ensure the safety of the GCs and the academy staff.

In the morning, when the event started, the GCs in the POP wore masks and maintained extra distance than usual during the ceremonial parade. There was no shower of rose petals from helicopters on the GCs which have become a tradition to welcome the young officers into the army.

There were also some first-time changes during the Pipping ceremony which happens after the parade is over. The ceremony comprises taking the oath by the GCs and then putting the stars of their ranks on their shoulders by their family members.

But since family members were not allowed to attend the event, the IMA staffers and their wives played the role of their parents by putting the stars on their shoulders. The whole event was live streamed through a drone camera which was used for the first time. The venue of the ceremony was also changed from the ground near Khetarpal Gymnasium to the one near Nizam Pavilion of the Academy.

Some of the GCs at the event were quite emotional as their parents couldn’t witness them becoming officers in the army but said the void was filled by their instructors and IMA officials from the Indian Army.

Twenty-four-year-old Abhishek Negi, a newly commissioned officer from Dehradun said, “Obviously it felt bad that my parents couldn’t see me wearing the officer’s uniform despite living in the same city. But then, it is for the safety of all. We are thankful for our instructors at the academy who played the role of our parents and made us realise once again, that we all are one big family.”

Samrat Thapa, 22, another newly commissioned officer from Bhopal, said his father cried over the phone while speaking to him after the ceremony.

“My father, who is a serving Colonel in the Indian Army, wanted me to see passing out as an army officer with flying colours. Unfortunately, due to obvious reasons he couldn’t come and cried over the phone when I called him after the ceremony. I consoled him asking him not to cry as from now onwards I will also be wearing the uniform like him,” said Thapa.

The IMA officials and their wives who played the roles of the GCs’ parents said they were more than proud of the role they played.

“I felt extremely proud while putting the stars on the shoulders of these young officers along with my husband. We are all one family,” said Sumati Gakhar, wife of an Indian Army officer, also an IMA official.

Saturday’s ceremony also witnessed a significant change with the introduction of ‘Pahla Kadam’ or first step, a symbolic stair in the Pipping ceremony.

Lt Col Amit Dagar, public relation officer while speaking on the introduction of Pahla Kadam said, “Earlier, there was Antim Pag or last step after the parade which symbolises the conclusion of training, but from this season we introduced Pahla Kadam after Antim Pag which symbolises the first step of the new officers in their army careers after completing the training.”

This time, the newly commissioned officers also didn’t get their leave to go home before joining their respective units. They will join their units right away.

“All these changes were introduced due to the ongoing pandemic in the country as we wanted to ensure the health safety of the GCs, their family members as well as the IMA staffers,” said Lt Col Dagar.

A total of 423 GCs passed out of the academy including 333 from India and 90 from friendly foreign countries. The coveted award of Sword of Honour was awarded to GC Akashdeep Singh Dhillon of Punjab. The gold medal for the GC standing first in the Order of Merit was awarded to GC Shiv Kumar Singh Chauhan while the silver and bronze medals went to Sakshyam Rana and Suraj Singh respectively. Doan Van Son from Vietnam was awarded silver medal for the GC standing First in the Order of Merit among foreign GCs.

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