A batch of 423 young officers graduated from the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun on Saturday, but parents were not allowed for their passing-out parade in a departure from practice due to restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Instead, the academy’s staff and instructors, and their wives placed stars on the uniform of the Gentlemen Cadets after their oath ceremony as a mark of them being commissioned in the army --- an honour usually reserved for friends and family.
Wearing masks, 333 officers from India and 90 from friendly foreign nations took part in the event at IMA grounds. The event was live-streamed on YouTube.
As the event started around 7pm, the Gentlemen Cadets maintained social distancing during their ceremonial parade. Flower petals from helicopters were not showered, another departure from practice.
The newly commissioned officers did not get leaves to visit their homes before joining their units due to the pandemic situation, according to IMA officials. They will join their units straight out of the academy.
“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 to 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,” said Abhishek Negi, 22, a newly commissioned officer from Dehradun.
Samrat Thapa, 22, a Bhopal resident, said his father, a Colonel in the Indian Army, wanted to see him passing out of the academy. “Unfortunately, due to obvious reasons, he couldn’t come… he cried over the phone when I called him after the ceremony,” Thapa said.
Sumati Gakhar, the wife of an Indian Army officer who put stars on the uniform of Gentlemen Cadets, said: “I felt extremely proud while putting the stars on the shoulders of these young officers along with my husband.”
Saturday’s event also witnessed a significant change with the introduction of ‘pahla Kadam’, or the first step.
Lt Col Amit Dagar, the public relations officer, IMA, said earlier there was the “antim pag”, or the last step after the parade, which symbolised the conclusion of training. He added that this season authorities introduced the “pahla kadam”, or the first step, after the “antim pag” to denote the beginning of the new journey of the officers.
IMA, which is one of the most prestigious training institutes of the Indian Army, was established in 1932 under the British rule. At the academy, Gentleman Cadets are trained to be commissioned as officers in the army, along with students from friendly foreign countries. With Saturday’s passing out parade, the academy has trained a total of 62,561 Gentlemen Cadets, including 60,059 from India and 2,502 from foreign countries.