Millennium Post

For the city's working class, R-Day an outing like no other

For many, it was an opportunity to take rounds of historic buildings in the city

New Delhi: Every year on Republic Day, they start filling up the velvety lanes of Lutyens' Delhi at the crack of dawn. This year was no different.
They are the city's working class, toiling away through the year, in settings quite different from the spick and span environs of Lutyens' tree-lined streets, the abode of the rich and mighty.
But come January 26, they troop in by the thousands, virtually taking over the lanes and bylanes in and around the Rajpath, creating a carnival-like ambience in the VIP zone, where grey-haired men glide around in sleek sedans on other days.
Many, like Pradeep, by virtue of being group D staff in one of the many central government offices located in the area or the sprawling President's Estate stay in residential quarters in and around the Parliament House or Gurdwara Bangla Sahib.
Not everyone, however, manages to get a seat in the enclosures lining the Rajpath. Jagdeep, a resident of Seemapuri, said he almost managed to enter the general enclosures but was forced out by the rising tide of crowd.
But going back is not an option as their families, especially the children, eagerly wait for this special day through the year as both the parents are away most of the time, trying to make ends meet as factory workers or domestic helps.
"Years back, our parents used to bring us to the parade. We are, in a way, taking forward that 'parampara' (tradition).
"The children really love it, especially the camel contingent and the flypast. They shout at the top of their voices," he said.
But their excitement gets marred at times due to the arrangements, which largely cater to those seated in the VIP enclosures near the dais where the President takes salute.
"When the tableau of Assam reaches us, the announcements are for the tableau of Maharashtra which has reached the VIP dais. Even the cultural performances of schoolchildren are for the VIP guests," Shipra, who came from east Delhi's Patparganj, said.
For many, this is also an opportunity to take rounds of historic buildings in the area such as Parliament House, Akashvani Bhawan, the Reserve Bank of India, Gole Dak Khana, Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, Jantar Mantar or marvel at the imposing North Block or South Block, or the distant dome of Rashtrapati Bhavan.
People also could not hide their excitement upon seeing the heavily-armed NSG commandos keeping a hawk-eye on visitors. But after the proceedings winded up, even the jawans loosened up a bit and obliged the milling crowd's seemingly endless demands for selfies. Since they come from far-flung areas on the margins of the national Capital, metro is the preferred mode of travel for most.
The gates of the Metro stations located at Central Secretariat and Udyog Bhawan remained shut between 6 am and 12 pm, while entry and exit were prohibited at Patel Chowk and Race Course stations between 8.45 am and 12 pm.
As the parade ended, the home-bound crowd queued up outside metro stations that were visibly ill-equipped to handle the overwhelming rush.
Metro authorities did open some additional token counters but they were simply not enough. At Central Secretariat and Patel Chowk stations, crowd spilled on to the streets, forcing the metro staff to let people enter in batches.
Be it the freezing cold or the mad rush at the stations, hardships may be many, but the pull of the Republic Day pageant is such that nothing deters them from turning out in such large numbers, year after year.
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