India celebrated its 68th Republic Day on 26 January to mark the coming into force of India’s constitution, conscripted by Dr B.R. Ambedkar, on the same day in 1950. The government had chosen this date, since it was the anniversary of Purna Swaraj Day, held on January 26, 1930. The constitution, which replaced the Government of India Act 1935, gave Indian citizens the power to govern themselves by choosing their own government. Dr Rajendra Prasad took oath as India's first president at the Durbar Hall in the Government House, followed by a presidential drive to the Irwin Stadium, where he unfurled India's national flag.
This year, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of United Arab Emirates was the Chief Guest for the Republic Day celebrations. About 2.6 million strong and vibrant Indian community forms the largest expatriate group in UAE. A contingent of UAE soldiers marched during the parade on the Rajpath in New Delhi, only the second country after France to send its troops to participate in India's Republic Day.
Republic Day represents the true spirit of independent India. Like all previous years, this year also the parade on Rajpath displayed India's military might and cultural diversity. In a first, ‘black cat’ commandos of elite counter-terror force National Security Guard participated in this parade. India's light combat aircraft Tejas, a fourth generation fighter comparable to the best in the world, also made its debut at the parade. It is after a gap of about two decades (Marut flown in ’80s and ’90s) that an indigenously developed aircraft took to the skies on Republic Day. Indian Air Force performed a spectacular flypast of 27 aircraft including Mi-35 helicopters, C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, Netra surveillance aircraft, C-17 Globemaster and Su-30 MKIs. This year Republic Day Parade on Rajpath witnessed tableaux from 17 states and 6 ministries of the central government. These tableaux varied in themes starting from country’s rich cultural heritage and socio-economic development to nation’s progress in key areas like IT, Women, Empowerment and Environment Protection. To ensure security, large parts of New Delhi virtually turned into a fortress ahead of the annual Republic Day parade. The NDRF deployed 96 personnel on the Rajpath with sophisticated equipment and HAZMAT specialist vehicle to provide protection against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threat.
The President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee conferred the Ashok Chakra, the highest peacetime gallantry award, on Havildar Hangpan Dada of the Assam Regiment posthumously, for conspicuous gallantry in neutralising four intruding terrorists on 26 May 2016 on Shamshabari Ridge in North Kashmir Himalayan range at heights of 13,000 feet. Besides this, he also approved 398 gallantry awards and distinguished medals to personnel of Indian military that notably include 2 Kirti Chakras, 12 Shaurya Chakras and 29 Param Vishisht Seva Medals amongst others. This year, the President approved conferment of Padma Awards to 89 people (six posthumously) that includes 19 women and 5 persons from the category of foreigners, NRIs, PIOs.
In a run up to the celebrations, the Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat reviewed the NCC Republic Day Parade 2017, in New Delhi on 17 January. The nation conferred National Bravery Awards to 25 children, posthumously for four girls, on 23 January to recognise outstanding deeds of bravery and meritorious service. Beating Retreat ceremony at Vijay Chowk, organised three days after Republic Day, marked the end of festivities and signified the tradition of soldiers calling down a close to war at sunset.
The year gone by had a mixed bag of events both globally and within the country. On the world stage, Aung San Suu Kyi’s appointment as State Counsellor ended 60-year-old ‘junta’ rule in Myanmar to set the ball rolling for return to democracy, which is in India’s interest. Donald Trump’s electoral victory and consequent assumption of US Presidency is likely to derail Obama’s World outreach with implications for India. Britain’s referendum vote to exit European Union (BREXIT) will also affect its trade with India. Major terrorist strikes at Pathankot air base and Uri Army camp hurt the national pride that our gallant Army soldiers avenged through surgical strikes across the LoC. This created a tense border situation. Internally, the Kashmir Valley shut down with large-scale terrorist sponsored protests using local youth and women. Indian Space Research Organisation launched 20 satellites through a single rocket, breaking its 2008 record of launching 10 satellites in a single mission. Parliament passed Goods and Services Tax Bill, proposing system of indirect taxation in India merging most of the existing taxes into a single system of taxation. PV Sindu, Sakshi Malik and Deepa Karmakar salvaged the lost pride of the country at the Rio Olympics by their sterling performances. Mariyappan Thangavelu, an Indian Paralympics high jumper also did the nation proud by winning a gold medal. The year ended with upheaval of Indian economy due to demonetisation of high value currency notes. Finally, Soldier2ndLife extends its felicitations to the citizenry and exhorts them that through their deeds they must immortalise the unforgettable words of the man who gave us our constitution, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar – “We are Indians, firstly and lastly”.