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Tanks tumble from R-Day

Tanks will not roll down Red Road this Republic Day.

The gleaming T-72s brought from the army’s Panagarh base — one of the main attractions of the parade and the only day of the year when tanks are seen on Calcutta roads — became the casualty of a crisp request from the state administration to keep the Rebublic Day programme short.

In response to the state government’s request to restrict the parade to an hour, the army has decided to curtail the programme to 63 minutes. This was the official line.

“A very senior official in the state administration had proposed the change, without citing any reason,” said a source in the home department.

Sources at Nabanna, the state secretariat, said the proposal to cut short the parade was mooted at a meeting a few weeks ago between army officers, the chief secretary, Calcutta police and officials of the information and cultural affairs department.

A source in Fort William, the Eastern Command HQ, said the reduced time was approved with a rider. “We asked the state administration to decrease the number of tableaux from the parade,” an officer said.

Other than the tanks, the Calcutta police tableau would be missing from this year’s show, sources said.

The Republic Day parade normally starts at 9am and continues for an hour and 45 minutes. The three services — army, air force and navy — along with the coast guard, paramilitary units and state police contingents take part in the march past along Red Road. Military equipment, cultural tableaux and programmes are the other highlights.

Last year, it was an hour-and-a-half affair.

Sources said they could foresee a curtailed Republic Day parade when the Independence Day programme last year was reduced to an hour and 20 minutes because chief minister Mamata Banerjee was not happy with the 2012 edition that dragged on for an hour and 40 minutes.

The August 15 event is organised by the state administration.

Organised by the army, the Deputy General Officer Commanding of the Bengal Area leads the Republic Day parade. The governor, representing the President, unfurls the Tricolour and takes the salute.

The chief minister and officials of the state administration attend the programme as “VIPs”. Protocol does not permit the chief minister to leave till the governor has taken the salute and the programme is over.

Mamata Banerjee has been attending the parade since 2012 as chief minister.

The parade was truncated only once before in recent times, in 2008 because of torrential rain.

Bengal Area, a formation under the Eastern Command, had earned praises for putting up a show that would be second only to the showpiece event on Rajpath, Delhi.

The buzz in the defence circle was that a shortened show could take the sheen off the annual Red Road extravaganza.