New Delhi, January 26
India on Tuesday is celebrating its 72nd Republic Day amid tight security and Covid concerns.
With the national capital witnessing two big events – Republic Day celebrations and a farmers’ tractor parade – the city has been brought under heavy security cover with deployment of thousands of security personnel in central Delhi and several border points.
The Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 41 unions leading protests against the Centre’s farm laws, said their tractor parade would not enter central Delhi and it would start only after the official Republic Day parade on Rajpath concluded.
The unions said around two lakh tractors were expected to participate in their parade, which would move into the city from three border points -Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur (UP Gate).
According to the unions, there is no limit on vehicles.
Patrolling has been intensified at power substations in Delhi following a threat from the banned Sikhs for Justice outfit to disrupt the city’s supply during the Republic Day celebrations.
An official said around 6,000 security personnel had been deployed to maintain vigil. Facial recognition systems had also been set up at vantage points for suspect identification, the official said.
The security personnel are keeping a hawk-eyed vigil over Rajpath, where President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be celebrating the occasion along with other dignitaries and thousands of people.
Checking and frisking at Rajghat would be done by personnel in PPE kits, with mask and face shield, keeping in line with Covid protocols, the official said.
A five-layer security cover had been deployed in and around the city to maintain law and order, a senior police officer said.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Eish Singhal said more than 6,000 police personnel had been deployed at Rajpath for the Republic Day celebrations.
Following Covid protocols, only 25,000 people would be allowed to attend the ceremony at Rajpath as opposed to over one lakh spectators who usually attended the event every year, he said.
The parade would be shorter this year. Instead of marching up to the Red Fort, the parade would end at the National Stadium. Only tableaux would be allowed at the Red Fort, he said.
“We have 140 CCTV cameras on the Republic Day parade route and along the enclosures. We have identified and set up facial recognition systems at 30 spots on Rajpath from where the public would enter.
“This system is fed with a database of nearly over 50,000 people, including that of suspected terrorists, criminals and anti-social elements,” said another senior police officer.
According to an advisory, no traffic will be allowed on Vijay Chowk from 6 pm on Monday till the parade is over. Rajpath is already out of bounds. There will be no cross-traffic on Rajpath intersections from 11 pm on Monday at Rafi Marg, Janpath, Man Singh Road till the parade is over.
To maintain law and order during the farmers’ tractor parade, thousands of security personnel have been already deployed at several border points.
Deependra Pathak, Special Commissioner of Police (Intelligence), claimed on Sunday that over 300 Twitter handles had been generated from Pakistan to disrupt the tractor parade.
The traffic going towards the NH-44 and the GT Karnal Road will be diverted from Singhu Shani Mandir, Ashok Farm/Janti Tall, Hamidpur, Sunderpur Majra, Zindopur Mukhmelpur, Kadipur, Kushak Colony, Mukarba Chowk and GTK Depot,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Meenu Chowdhary said.
The second batch of vehicles would start from the Tikri border and pass through Nangloi, Baprola Village and Najafgarh, excluding Phirni Road, Jharoda Border, Rohtak Bypass (Bahadurgarh) and Asoda Toll Plaza, Chowdhary said.
Police said the traffic would be diverted from different points. Traffic would not be allowed to enter on the Rohtak road from Kirari Mor and would be diverted towards Mangolpuri. It would also be diverted from Ghevra Mor towards Khanjawala, they said.
Tractors from the Ghazipur border would cover some portion of the NH-24 from where they would take a right turn to Road Number 56, ISBT Anand Vihar, Apsara Border, Hapur Road, Bhopura, IMS College, Lal Kuan and Ghazipur Border, police said.
Hundreds of women farmers are also expected to drive tractors.
Farmer leaders have appealed to those participating in the parade to carry enough ration for 24 hours and ensure that the rally remains peaceful.
“No one should carry any weapon or take alcohol. Banners carrying inciting messages are not allowed,” a farmer leader said.
Enacted in September last year, the three farm laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the minimum support price and do away with the ‘mandi’ system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. PTI