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India gears up for military parade corona

No foreign dignitary as chief guest at India's Republic Day event.

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India’s military polished tanks and put soldiers, horses and camels through their paces on Thursday in preparation for a scaled-down Republic Day parade in New Delhi next week.

The annual January 26 event showcases India’s military might with missile launchers and flypasts as well as motorcycle stunts and the brass band of the dromedary-riding Border Security Force.

With Covid-19 cases surging around the country, attendance has been slashed to between 5,000 and 8,000 from last year’s 25,000, and there will be no foreign guest of honour, reports said.

To allow the parade to go ahead, workers have also been rushing to complete construction work on a multibillion-dollar revamp of a government complex in the heart of Delhi that will include a new parliament building.

Vanity project

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for a new parliament building on Thursday that critics have branded a “vanity project” that will have a disastrous impact on the capital’s environment.

The $121 million construction project is part of the Indian government’s $3 billion program to redevelop New Delhi’s historic Central Vista area, which stretches from the presidential palace to the India Gate war memorial and was designed for colonial authorities by British architects.

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In a speech during the cornerstone ceremony, Modi said: “Today is a milestone in the history of India’s democratic history. It is an important stage in the history of India’s democratic history. Today is a historic day. Today is a day that in a way is like the foundation stone of our India.”

The foundation stone was laid despite a Supreme Court ruling on Monday that told the government to hold construction amid mounting petitions from civil society groups pleading with the apex court to prevent the “destruction” of Delhi’s landscape.

While the court’s decision put building work on hold, it allowed the cornerstone ceremony to take place.

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Critics have called the overhaul of the area lined with colonial-era buildings and trees a needless and wasteful vanity project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk