A Young Republic at 72

Jan/25/2022 / by Swarnendu Biswas
Image credits: Shutterstock

India will be celebrating its 73rd Republic Day in a few hours from now. It is the day when the Constitution of India came into effect by replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India.

India became an independent nation on 15th August 1947, but it became a republic on 26th January 1950. India’s Independence Day celebrates our country’s freedom from British rule, while Republic Day is celebrated to commemorate it becoming a republic state through the Constitution of India coming into force.

Historical Significance

The Constitution of India, the longest written Constitution in the world, was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly on 26th November 1949 and finally came into effect on 26th January 1950, thereby completing India’s transition to a sovereign democratic republic.

Republic Day is also the day when the President of India became the nominal head of the Indian Union. Between 15th August 1947 and 25th January 1950, the British monarch was the nominal head of the Indian Dominion, even though India was already a politically independent nation during that period.

Here it’s worth mentioning that republic is a form of government where the head of the state (in India’s case, the President) is either nominated or elected and is not hereditary. A nation can be democratic and not republic and vice-versa. For example, the UK is a democracy but is not a republic, and China is a republic and not a democracy. Like the US and many other western nations, India is both a democracy and a republic.

There is a historical significance behind choosing 26th January as the Republic Day. On 26th January 1930, the Indian National Congress promulgated the Declaration of the Independence of India (Purna Swaraj), while opposing the dominion status offered by the British government.

The Annual Parade

The annual parade, which commences from the gates of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President of India’s official residence) at Raisina Hill, Rajpath in New Delhi and ends at Red Fort in Old Delhi, is the main attraction of the Republic Day celebrations in India. This Republic Day parade in the capital of India is organized by the Ministry of Defence of the Government of India.

The parade presents the defence prowess and also the cultural heritage and diversity of India. In this parade, select personnel from Indian Army, Navy and Air Force march in glory with their bands, decked in their finery and official decorations. The President of India who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, takes the salute. Attractive tableaux of various states showcase the rich cultural facets of the states of India.

Coveted Awards

The First Lady of Global Indian Cuisine Madhur Jaffrey is one of the three Indian-Americans being honored with the Padma Bhushan this year (image credits: Shutterstock)

One of the highlights of the occasion, the Padma Awards, which comprise the second, third and fourth  highest civilian awards of the Republic of India, are announced annually on the eve of Republic Day. The awards are given in three categories: Padma Vibhushan (for exceptional and distinguished service), Padma Bhushan (distinguished service of higher order) and Padma Shri (distinguished service). Padma Vibhushan is the second highest civilian award of the Republic of India, Padma Bhushan is the third highest and Padma Shri the fourth. These awards seek to recognize achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved.

Celebration in the Pandemic’s Shadow

In the Republic Day parade of 2022, according to the statement of the Indian Army, 16 marching contingents, 17 military bands and 25 tableaux of various states, departments and armed forces are going to take part. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 menace, the number of troops in marching contingents for the 73rd Republic Day parade has been curtailed from 144 to 96.

In this year’s Republic Day festivities, the length of the parade has also been reduced for the marching contingents. This year, the parade will end at the National Stadium instead of concluding at Red Fort. The reason is as you’d expect – Covid-19. Another unusual facet of the 73rd Republic Day celebrations is that there will be no foreign dignitary as the chief guest during the forthcoming parade.

It is for the second year in a row that the Republic Day parade in India is not having any foreign dignitary as the chief guest. No prize for guessing the reason for this; yes, it is the increase in Covid-19 cases and the new Omicron variant on the rise. However, Delhi has witnessed a sharp decline in Covid-19 cases during the last few days.

But beyond the celebrations and showcasing of military might, our Republic Day is also the occasion for our citizens and our governments to cherish and uphold not only the apparent laws but also the latent values enshrined in our Constitution. Then only we can become worthy of emulating republic across the world; a republic in both letter and spirit.