NEW DELHI, Jan. 26, 1998 : The nation got its annual shot of adrenalin today at the display of military might of the country to mark its 49th Republic Day. The Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces. President K. R. Narayanan took the salute.
Patriotic sentiment soared as the tricolour fluttered majestically, stretching in a never-ending line along Rajpath, ten thousand at a glance, placed alternately with the white flags commemorating the 50 years of Indian independence.
An awesome model of the national symbol, the Ashokan Lions, put up right opposite the Presidential dais created just the right setting for the occasion.
The R-Day parade commenced after the presentation of the Ashoka Chakra, the highest peacetime gallantry award to Second Lieutenant Puneet Dutta, posthumously. It was received by his mother in a poignant presentation ceremony.
The defence forces showcased their might and prepardeness at the ceremonial parade. lndia's indigenously developed battle tank, Arjun, surface-to-surface missile system, Prithvi, the pilotless target aircraft, Lakshya, and the aweome firepower of the MiG-29 and Sukhoi-30 aircraft were proudly presented to the nation.
Assuming an added significance in this, the 50th year of Indian independence, the parade highlighted the freedom theme and the 'unity in diversity' aspect in full splendour through cultural pageantary.
Thirty one tableaux from different States and organisations gave expression to the rich cultural heritage and national pride. They also reminded the nation of the price we have paid for our independence and liberty.
The cultural pageantary opened with the Rani of Jhansi tableau commemorating the uprising of 1857, the first war of Independence. This theme continued with the Champaransatyagraha tableau from Bihar. It reminded the nation of the merciless exploitation of indigo farmers by the British, which made Gandhi evolve the philosophy of satyagraha to fight foreign rule.
The tableau depicitng the central jail at Andaman and Nicobar Islands was next. Dandi, the glorious march of the Father of the Nation, was the highlight of the Sabarmati Ashram tableau from Guiarat. The Ministry of Defence presentation was a celebration of the success of India's parliamentary democracy. The government also reflected itspriority of providing food (roti), clothing (kapra ) and housing(makan) for all.
The grand flypast by the front ranking fighter and transport planes of the Indian Air Force marked the finale and provided the most thrilling moments. The excitement started with the Big Boy formation, demonstrating the variety, prowess and strength of the transport fleet.
Wave after wave, there were the Canberras, the MiG-29s and the Jaguars. But what made the crowds stand up and gasp in admiration was a low-speed loop and then the pulling up vertically into the heavens by a Sukhoi-30 aircraft, the pride of the IAF. 'Vertical Charlie', they said of the mind-boggling manoeuvre, as the aircraft soared, twisted and rolled, reaffirming the IAF motto of 'Touching the Sky with Glory'.