CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam hoisted the Indian flag in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue amidst petals showered by an Indian Air Force Chetak helicopter to mark the beginning of Republic Day celebrations here on the Marina Beach.
The Chief Minister, on his arrival, took a drive past for the crowd, greeting them with folded hands before being received by senior officers from the armed forces. The flag was unfurled with the police band playing the national anthem.
The Parade Commander Wing Commander Anshu Puri came leading the march of contingents to the beat of marching bands and Panneerselvam took the salute in the absence of a full-time Governor for Tamil Nadu. Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, who holds additional charge of Tamil Nadu, was attending the Republic Day ceremony in Maharashtra.
Two multi-axle trucks carrying T-90s Bhishma and T-72 Ajeya battle tanks followed the Army contingent. The Navy displayed a model of its Kalvari stealth submarine. Models of the fighter aircraft Mirage 2000 and attack helicopters sat atop the Air force tableau. The Coast Guard showcased a model of their fast interceptor ship. Soon followed the Tamil Nadu Police with its several contingents including the Commando unit, dressed in its all black uniform.
Following the fire brigade contingent with its yellow helmets, marched several other auxiliary service contingents, until performances by students, mostly from Government schools and colleges, brought sound and colour to the ceremony. The various dance performances, such as the Kolattam and a special dance from the North-East, sought to celebrate the culture and heritage of both Tamil Nadu and India.
The Republic Day celebrations, which saw a low attendance this year, had received a loud cheer the previous year despite Jayalalitha’s absence at the parade. A tableau, designed and assembled at the premises of Tamil Nadu State Council for Higher Education on Kamarajar Salai, was seen carrying huge posters and a life-size model of Jayalalitha. The exhibit this time didn’t receive the criticism that it faced last year following Jayalalitha’s conviction in a disproportionate assets case.
The awards ceremony began once the cultural presentations ended. The Chief Minister presented the Anna Medal for Gallantry to W Durgadevi from Vellore for rescuing her friend from drowning.
Gandhi Adigal Police medal, awarded to police officers who restrict the distribution of illicit liquor, was won by P Thangadurai, Additional Superintendent of Police, Prohibition Enforcement Wing, Nagapattinam.
Deputy Superintendent of Police K Jeevanandam, Central Investigation Unit (North), Erode, Inspector E Velu, Prohibition Enforcement Wing, Adyar, Sub-inspector K Ramesh Kumar, Central Investigation Unit, Special Sub-Inspector V Madhappan, also won the medal.
Agriculture Department’s award was presented to Sankara Narayanan, a paddy farmer, for achieving the highest yield.
Kottai Ameer Communal Harmony award and Police Medal for Gallantry were the other awards given away at the ceremony. Each of the awards presented carried a cash prize, a citation and a medal.
The ceremony came to an end with the singing of the National Anthem.