New Delhi: The teeth-chattering cold on Wednesday morning failed to dampen the spirits of the people coming to witness the Republic Day parade at the majestic Rajpath in New Delhi.
The people started arriving at the Rajpath as early as 5am in the morning, even as the parade begins at 10:30am.
Amid the ongoing Covid wave, the government has decided to significantly curtail the number of people who will physically attend the Republic Day celebrations this year.
All those attending the republic day parade must be fully vaccinated and children below 15 years of age will not be allowed to attend the function. Visitors must carry proof of vaccination and must adhere to all Covid-protocols, such as wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.
People, who were standing in the queues, could be heard singing and chanting patriotic songs and slogans.
Amid chilly weather in the morning, the slogans "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" and "Vande Matram" injected the heat of patriotism in the veins of the people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid homage at the National War Memorial, a monument to the soldiers who have made supreme sacrifice for the country, on Wednesday morning.
Modi was joined by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the three service chiefs as he paid tributes at a solemn ceremony.
Republic Day events commence with the homage ceremony at the war memorial.
The national flag was unfurled at Rajpath followed by the National Anthem with a booming 21-gun salute.
According to the tradition, the 21-gun salute was presented by the ceremonial battery of 871 field regiment.
The ceremonial battery was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Jitender Singh Mehta.
President Ram Nath Kovind honoured the proud winners of the highest gallantry.
Flower petals were showered by four Mi-17 V5 helicopters flying in the wineglass formation.
The march past on Republic Day on Wednesday began with Param Vir Chakra and Ashok Chakra gallantry award winners following the parade commander in their jeeps.
Retired Subedar Major Yogender Singh Yadav, who won India's highest wartime gallantry award Param Vir Chakra for showing exemplary bravery during the 1999 Kargil war, was in the first of the three jeeps.
Yadav was conferred the rank of Honorary Captain on Independence Day last year.
Subedar Sanjay Kumar, who also won the Param Vir Chakra for showing exceptional bravery during the 1999 Kargil war, was in the second jeep.
Colonel D Sreeram Kumar -- who won India's highest peacetime gallantry award Ashok Chakra for showing exceptional bravery during an anti-terrorist operation in Imphal on October 23, 2008 -- was in the third jeep.
All three jeeps -- each with an award winner -- drove parallel during the parade.
Centurion tank, PT-76 tank
The Indian Army showcased at the Republic Day parade the Centurion tank, PT-76 tank, 75/24 Pack howitzer and OT-62 TOPAZ armoured personnel carrier that played a major role in defeating Pakistan in the 1971 war.
India in 2021 celebrated the Swarnim Vijay Varsh (Golden victory year) to commemorate India's win over Pakistan in the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh.
On Wednesday, the mechanised columns of the Army showed one PT-76 tank, one Centurion tank, two MBT Arjun MK-I tanks, one OT-62 TOPAZ armoured personnel carrier, one BMP-I infantry fighting vehicle and two BMP-II infantry fighting vehicles.
One 75/24 Pack howitzer, two Dhanush howitzers, one PMS bridge-laying system, two Sarvatra bridge-laying systems, one HT-16 electronic warfare system, two Taran Shakti electronic warfare systems, one Tiger Cat missile system and two Akash missile systems were also part of the mechanised columns at the Republic Day parade.
At the parade, the detachment of Centurion tank of "The Poona Horse' regiment was led by Captain Rahul Sharma.
Centurion was the main stay of the Indian Army in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Delhi has been brought under a heavy security cover as the city police has intensified patrolling and sealed the borders of the national capital in coordination with its counterparts from the neighbouring states to thwart any untoward incident amid a terror alert by intelligence agencies.
Over 27,000 police personnel have been deployed on Republic Day security duties in Delhi and anti-terror measures intensified.
According to the officials, the police personnel deployed include deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners, inspectors and sub-inspectors. Armed Police Force personnel and commandos, officers and jawans of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) have also been deployed.
CCTVs fitted with a facial recognition software and anti-drone equipment have also been installed, police said.
All major border points of Delhi, including Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur, have been sealed to ensure incident-free and smooth Republic Day celebrations unlike last year. Extra pickets have been deployed and patrolling has been intensified at the border points, the officials said.