This year's R-Day parade will witness several firsts & several first time misses

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India's first woman combat fighter pilot, Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth, is part of the IAF tableau that rolled down the Rajpath on full -day rehearsal on Saturday.

NEW DELHI: This year’s Republic Day parade will be unique as it will witness several firsts and several first-time misses. From the participation of troops deployed in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, India’s first woman fighter pilot, a tableau of newly formed UT of Ladakh to the flypast by the country’s newly acquired multirole Rafale fighters over Rajpath, visitors will be enthralled to see many things for the first time.
However, the country’s 72nd R-Day parade will have no chief guest after more than five decades, no participation of military veterans and even no stunts by motorcycle daredevils. “Due to Covid restrictions, even the route of the parade has been curtailed till National Stadium (C-Hexagon of India Gate) unlike previous years when it was till Red Fort. Also, the size of marching contingents has been reduced from regular 144 to 96 so that marching personnel can maintain social distancing. Even the number of spectators has also been cut down to 25,000 from 1.5 lakh,” Chief of staff (Delhi area) Major General Alok Kacker, who is also the parade second-in-command, announced on Saturday. Mask has been made mandatory for all personnel marching in rows.
Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth, who became one of the first three women fighter pilots on May 22, 2019, will be part of the IAF’s tableau featuring mock-ups of an light combat aircraft, a light combat helicopter and a Sukhoi fighter jet loaded with made-in-India missiles that will showcase the air force’s Atmanirbhar Bharat capabilities. Ft Lt Kanth, who hails from Bihar’s Begusarai and used to dream about flying during childhood, is currently posted at an airbase in Rajasthan where she flies MiG-21 Bison jets.
Major Manish Verma, who is leading the 172 Madras contingent from the Andamans, told TOI, “For the first time, any contingent from the (A&N) islands is participating in such a big event on the mainland and therefore boys are very excited. Over 95% personnel are locals who are from different tribes. Our unit, which is part of Madras Regiment, was raised for the sons of the soil and its objective is to create a robust intelligence in the area as these people are from tribes and fishing communities that have a hold on their islands.” The contingent comprised 96 personnel, 2 JCOs and one officer, said Major Verma, who himself belongs to UP’s Bulandshahr.
The star attraction of the parade will be in the sky when IAF will display the country’s air prowess amid times of the LAC standoff with China. A total of 42 aircraft will fly in different formations but all eyes will be on a Rafale fighter when it will do a “vertical charlie” at the end of the flypast. A vintage Dakota aircraft, the squadron of which had helped Indian troops ‘save’ Srinagar from tribal militants backed by Pakistan in 1947 and also played a key role in Bangladesh's liberation war, will also fly over Rajpath. Apart from two Rafales, Sukhoi-30s, MiG-29s, Apache and Chinook choppers will also catch visitors’ attention on Republic Day.
The Ladakh tableau, which is making its debut in the parade, will depict the iconic Thikse Monastery and the region’s rich cultural heritage, and the UP tableau will display a model of the upcoming Ram temple. A tableau of the Department of Biotechnology will showcase the indigenous production of Covid vaccine showcasing India’s self-reliance in the fight against the pandemic.
A total of 32 tableaux — 17 of states and UTs, nine of ministries and six from the defence arm — will roll down Rajpath.

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