As a Republic, India sets the benchmark for democratic ideals

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An optimistic future, orchestrated by a colourful past and challenging present

The National Document, Emblem, Flag and Debating Chamber

Venkat Raman
Auckland, January 25, 2022

Republic Day is a National Holiday in India, when the country marks and celebrates the date on which the Constitution of India came into effect on January 26, 1950, replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India.

The Constitution turned the Nation into a Republic.

Many of us, born before January 26, 1950, would consider this day as more significant than August 15, 1947 (the day on which India gained independence from the British Rule) because it was on this day that India was ‘complete’ as a Nation, establishing its own identity, with a National Flag, a National Anthem, a Constitution and most important of all. steering its own destiny with self-determination.

The day also marks the transition of India from an autonomous Commonwealth realm with the British Monarch as the Nominal Head of the Indian Dominion to a fully Sovereign Republic in the Commonwealth of Nations with the President of India as the Nominal Head of the Indian Union.

The Constitution was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, and came into effect on January 26, 1950, chosen so because it corresponds with this day in 1930 when the Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress in place of the Realm status as a Dominion, later instated by the departing British Regime.

India’s High Commissioner to New Zealand Muktesh Pardeshi with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at INL Lecture on August 6, 2020 (INL Photo by Naren Bedekar)

Adverse impact of Covid-19

Covid-19 has been raging across India and the pandemic is likely to impact the Republic Day festivities this year. However, Indians will mark the day with the pledge to stay united and promote peace and progress throughout the world.

“The economic impact of the pandemic has been largely disruptive,” says Muktesh Pardeshi, India’s High Commissioner to New Zealand.

“Economic growth in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2020 went down to 3.1%,” he said, quoting the federal government’s Ministry of Statistics.

“But India’s economy is poised for a rebound after enduring many waves of Covid-19 infections that constrained activity and took a heavy toll on its people and it expanded by 8.4% during July-September 2021 quarter following a record 20.1% growth in the previous three-month period. Our economy is expected to grow by 9.2% in the current financial year,” he said.

Mr Pardeshi said that India is supporting the world to deal with the pandemic, with doctors and health professionals of India winning the confidence of the world with their professional excellence.

Air Force Personnel at the Republic Day Dress Rehearsal 2022 in New Delhi (PTI Photo)

A colourful history

Although the British Raj as such was from 1857 to 1947, the Colonial Rule began on December 31, 1600, with the establishment of the East India Company, which gained territorial, political and administrative control over India, practising slavery, suppression, discrimination and other forms of unacceptable divisions.

At the time of Independence (August 15, 1947), George VI was the Head of State and Earl Mountbatten was the Governor-General of India. The British officially handed over the country (after partitioning Pakistan on August 14, 1947) to Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari who was the first and the last Governor-General of Independent India.

Like Britain, India did not have a written or ‘Permanent Constitution,’ but had its laws based on the modified colonial Government of India Act 1935. Leaders of the Freedom Movement, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Rajagopalachari, B R Ambedkar and others decided to have a written Constitution and appointed a Drafting Committee on August 29, 1947, under the chairmanship of Mr Ambedkar.

The Committee submitted its draft to the Constituent Assembly on November 4, 1947. Over the next two years, public participation was invited to make suggestions and improvements and the Constitution was adopted on January 26, 1950.

I have always considered the Indian Constitution to be ‘the most complete and ‘all-embracing’ document, giving shape and character to the Indian Nation. It is the Supreme Law of India and has determined the framework demarcating the fundamental penal code, structure, procedures, powers and duties of government institutions and set out fundamental rights, directive principles and the duties of citizens.

Women of Indian Army at the Republic Day 2020 in New Delhi (PTI Photo)

The Republic Day Parade

The Republic Day Parade is one of the most colourful events and certainly the best of its type in the world. This Reporter was a proud participant as a Cadet of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) in the early 1960s. Organised by the Defence Ministry, the Parade commences at the gates of the Presidential Palace (Rashtrapati Bhavan), Raisina Hill on Rajpath past the India Gate and ends at the Red Fort, covering a distance of about eight kms. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, it will conclude at the National Stadium (about 4.1 kms) this year.

The Parade involves the participation of all branches of the Indian Military including the Army, Navy and Airforce in their finery and official decorations, twelve contingents of the para-military forces of India, the Police, the floats of all the 28 States of India,  cultural performers and many others. The President of India, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, takes the Salute.

The Beating Retreat and Awards Ceremonies

The Beating Retreat ceremony is held at the conclusion of Republic Day festivities on January 29 at Raisina Hill, with the performance of the Army, Navy and Air Force bands. The performers include Pipe and Drum Bands, Buglers and Trumpeters from various Regiments and those of the Navy and the Air Force. Among the popular numbers are ‘Abide With Me,’  ‘Saare Jahan Se Achcha,’ a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi.

Floats of States at the Republic Day 2020 in New Delhi (PTI Photo)

On the eve of Republic Day, the President presents Padma Awards including Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri and rarely ‘Bharat Ratna,’ the highest civilian award. No titles or honorifics are associated with these Awards but recipients are allowed to prefix the Awards to their names and wear the medals on ceremonial occasions.

Marching towards its semi sesquicentennial (75th year) of Independence, India disparately needs its sons and daughters to promote the ideals of their forefathers, freedom fighters and leaders to make it even a greater Nation.

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