India gears up for Republic Day

Indian women of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) march during a rehearsal for the forthcoming Republic Day parade on a foggy winter morning at Rajpath in New Delhi.

Security has been tightened in Delhi as India prepares for Republic Day, the date on which the Constitution of India came into force on Jan 26, 1950.

A senior police official told the Indian Express: "Delhi police chief (B.S. Bassi) has asked his force and police departments of the neighbouring states to keep a vigilant eye on drones, as they have been perceived as a major threat to security, especially in view of Republic Day."

Specialised teams of commandos have been posted along the city borders, the official said. The force, he added, has also acquired 200 digital cameras which can capture minute details and will be installed at strategic locations in and around Rajpath where the parade will be held.

This year, camels which have been part of the parade since it started in 1950 will be missing.

Officials said that the 90-member Border Security Force (BSF) camel-mounted troops and band contingent has not been practising during the dress rehearsals of the event being held in the capital, in the absence of official directions.

"While the contingent has been in Delhi for the last few months, it has not been included in the rehearsals as there are no official orders issued in this regard," an official said.

Usually, there are two contingents which take part in the event - the 54-member mounted contingent and the 36-member band. While the first contingent showcases smartly-dressed BSF border guards with weapons riding camels, the second follows with bandsmen in beautiful multi-coloured dresses on the back of camels playing martial music.

Officials said the parade this time is undergoing a number of changes such as non-inclusion of paramilitary forces like ITBP, CISF and SSB, whereas some new features have been added including the army's dog squad contingent and a contingent from France.

"The camel contingent may also not be a part of the Beating the Retreat Ceremony to be held onJan 29 where they stand along the ramparts of the North and South blocks on Raisina Hill," an official was quoted by the media as saying.

The dogs are making a return after 26 years. The army, which has about 1,200 Labradors and German Shepherds, have selected 36 canines to march down the Rajpath with their handlers.

The dogs are from the army's Meerut-based Remount and Veterinary Corps (RVC).

"They share the burden of operations, especially when it comes to duties like Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorism. So we thought it is time they share the spotlight too," a senior army officer told India Today.

"Since dog behaviour is critical to the success of the show, how well the men march comes second. We have been practising three times a day for the last four months," Captain Anurag Boruah from the RVC told the magazine. Since dogs are known to not react favourably to increased noise levels they have been getting training in that too.

Added Captain Boruah: "We have been simulating the environment we will face at Rajpath, especially in terms of noise so that dogs do not panic or react differently."

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