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Republic Day military parades: outdated Soviet-era show or tradition worth preserving?

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India’s 70th Republic Day Parade, this year, will showcase the Army’s newly acquired artillery guns, an all-women paramilitary contingent march and a lady-officer leading an all-male army contingent. The Republic Day parades reportedly cost  several hundred crores each year. 

ThePrint asks: Republic Day military parades: outdated Soviet-era show or tradition worth preserving?

The Republic Day parade is possibly the most watched TV programme in the world

Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd)
Director, Center for Joint Warfare Studies and former DGMO, Indian Army

The nation prepares to celebrate the 70th Republic Day with the usual parades showcasing the military might and cultural diversity. The Republic day celebrations are not confined to the Rajpath in Delhi alone, state capitals, districts and schools all across the country celebrate the Republic day with great fervour. The celebrations and parades are definitely at a cost, resource, energy and focus that some feel can be better utilised for the much-needed development projects contributing to the well being of the 1.3 billion Indians.

The celebrations, however, are a must. The Republic Day parade not only showcases the military might but also instills a sense of pride and belonging among all Indians in the idea of India and their faith and belief in the constitution. The celebration at Rajpath is possibly the most watched TV programme in the world with more than a few hundred thousands lined up on either side of the parade route. The parade also demonstrates India’s soft power, the rich cultural heritage and ancient civilisation in addition to the many technological advances, innovations and national initiatives. It is a must for India as we pride ourselves as a nation displaying ‘Unity in Diversity’.

A military parade on Republic Day can take place once in five years

Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd)
Former chief of the Naval Staff

The Republic Day parade is a colossal waste of time and money. The money spent comes out of the defence budget. The entire parade is organised by the armed forces, but the credit is taken by the bureaucrats.

Apart from requiring a huge expenditure, it is also a major inconvenience for the residents of Delhi. All this effort is put in for a completely unnecessary display of military might, something that is not required in a democracy.

If the government wants to indulge in cultural displays, they can go ahead and do that.

I don’t think anyone realises the amount of effort it takes to bring the heavy duty vehicles and fly down the troops from all over the country. The troops have to stay in Delhi for a few weeks before the parade and practice.

It may make for a good tamasha for the citizens, but it’s just that.

The naval fleet review takes place once in every president’s tenure i.e., once in every five years. Similarly, we can have a military parade on Republic Day once in every five years.

There are a lot of things we can derive national pride from, a military parade is not required for the same.

Republic Day visual treat is a display of Indianness and pride

Lt Gen Satish Dua (Retd)
Former chief of Integrated Defence Staff, Indian Army

Republic day parade is not merely a military parade, it is a national affair showcasing everything that India stands for. Our country is so vast and varied that news often gets localised. So, this annual display of our military might — especially the newer, modern editions become important. Moreover, showcasing achievements in different fields, through the cultural kaleidoscope of sorts serves to renew our pride in our nation.

It also serves as a learning experience for the younger generation, who are enthused when achievers are honoured each year. Most notably, conferring gallantry awards and bravery awards for children is an essential part of the Republic Day parade. For instance, the Ashoka Chakra is being conferred to Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani of the Jammu and Kashmir posthumously this year. His is an incredible story of a terrorist-turned-soldier, and his supreme sacrifice for the country.

In this era of virtual reality, this display of Indianness becomes an annual visual treat, and is nothing but a matter of great pride. Not to forget, in showcasing India to the world, the Indian diaspora across the globe would also feel a heightened sense of belongingness. Thus, it serves to reignite the love and camaraderie the citizens of this country feel for each other.

Care for our troops should go beyond just cheering Republic Day parades

Major Navdeep Singh
Advocate, Punjab & Haryana High Court

If I think about the proposition deeply, it puts me in a quandary and my mind is divided on it.

On the one hand, the parade does seem to be a vestige of the past, an expensive practice reflecting a strange kind of a time-warp; on the other, the exposure of our citizenry to the profession of arms is pretty low and the event gives a chance to people to experience some ceremonial regalia of our forces and the weapon systems that they operate. It also provides an opportunity to our varied contingents to compete against each other in drill, something that they look forward to because it is a morale-booster not only for the troops and their families, but also the spectators.

However, I am concerned that for many of us, nationhood or care for our troops begins and ends with celebrating days of national importance with military parades and high-sounding nationalistic statements. Instead, this should be a continuous process and must emanate from within. What we need is not just words but real on-ground practical support for our women and men in uniform and their families back home and also a need to put them at ease to alleviate the stress and strain of military service and ensure their psychological wellbeing when they are away from their loved ones. To that end, we have a long road to traverse.

By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint. You can follow her on twitter @khanthefatima.

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  1. The customs and traditions running since 1950, is good for few hundred common citizens of our mother land. Most of the space occupied by Politicians, betas Babus ,military officers, Diplomats and their families.
    CRores of Rupees spent for this 2 hour ceremony and Army, Navy, AF and para military personnel deputed months in advance at Delhi along with associated equipments. This huge money can be utilized for development. modernizing military equipments and towards Medicare.
    This function can be celebrated once in Tenure of President and Prime Minister.

  2. Its too big a question and has to be answered in many parts. I know of only one advantage of the Republic Day parade, I got inspired by the parade as a young boy and joined the armed forces.We come from a humble background and we never knew anything about the armed forces except the RD parade. That was the age of Doordarshan. So atleast, there is one benefit, I can see for young boys in far off remote places who might see the RD parade and get inspired too like me. Cost Benefit analysis ..mmmm Dont know…dont care.

  3. Republic Day in the past was really a day of Public with little security. But of late security has become so important that it has become “No Public Day”. Republic without public can no longer be consisted Republic Day.

  4. Why not showcase the performances of every departments and what have the same have done to alleviate the carcinogenic phenomena which have been lingering in India since before independence like stagnant economy, distressed farmers, educated itteterates, widening income gaps, hellish conditions in medical field, so on and so forth. But seems like only the military might is a benchmark for development, unity, nationalism and patroatism in India. I mean, what are the mighty defence forces are protecting? A country which is in the deathbed for centuries? A Govt. must make the country worth protecting for in first place.

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