INDIA. Mumbai: Despite a shadow of COVID-19 still looming large, with ongoing vaccination drive and unlock measures, people are expected to participate enthusiastically in the 72nd Republic Day celebrations, looking forward to the resumption of normalcy across the country soon.
Although the celebration of R day at Rajpath in New Delhi will be a low key affair, the participation of contingents and floats from states and students’ cultural programs, is certain to add flavour to the R day parade. The 321 school children and 80 folk artists will present the programs on different themes such as “Aatma Nirbhar Bharat: Vision for A Self Reliant India” (Mount Abu Public School and Vidya Bharti School, Delhi) and “ Hum Fit Toh India Fit”( Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Delhi). 127 children from DTEA Senior Secondary Schools, Delhi will showcase folk dances of Tamil Nadu. Besides 80 folk artists of Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, Kolkata will present the folk dance Bajasal from Kalahandi, Odisha.
In keeping with COVID-19 protocol, not more than 25,000 spectators will be allowed, compared to nearly a lakh people turning up for the parade that showcases India’s military might and cultural diversity. Children below the age of 15 will not be permitted. The replica of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya is expected to be special attention.
The size of the marching contingents from the armed forces and the paramilitary has been trimmed with 96 participants in a squad compared to 144 in the ordinary course. Fifteen floats of central government departments and 17 floats of different states will participate in the parade. More than a year after the state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, a tableau representing Ladakh will take part in the Republic Day Parade this year for the first time ever. It will depict the iconic Thiksey Monastery located on top of a hill in Thikse in Leh district.
Maharashtra’s float depicting the 800-year-old tradition of Warkari saints (a congregation of saints) will participate in the Republic Day parade. The float features Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the centre, while Saint Tukaram stands alongside. Besides, there are a host of other saints including Saint Gora Kumbhar and Saint Eknath. Lord Vithoba is in the background.
For the first time in the history of R-Day, the parade will not culminate at the Red Fort. It will start from Vijay Chowk and end at the National Stadium. The distance of the parade has been cut down from an earlier 8.2 kilometers to 3.3 kilometers.
The main Republic Day Parade, in New Delhi, will get underway at 9.30 a.m., following the flag hoisting at 9 a.m. Although it used to run for around three hours, this year it will be shorter.
The parade will be led by the three divisions of the Indian armed forces (Army, Navy, and Air Force) who will display their strength. Features include performances by India’s Border Security Force “Daredevils” motorcycle stunt team, Sikh Light Infantry, the Grenadiers, and the Parachute Regiment. There will also be a showcase of weapons and combat vehicles and a dramatic air show. Rafale fighter plane, the latest multi-role fighter aircraft acquired by the IAF will be part of the flypast at the culmination of the parade. A total of 42 aircraft will be seen in the flypast including 15 fighter planes, five transport, and one vintage aircraft. Some new formations will also be seen for the first time.
A contingent of Bangladesh
A contingent of the Bangladesh armed forces will also take part in the parade given the 50 th anniversary celebrations of the 1971 war of liberation of Bangladesh.
The R Day reminds people about sacrifices by freedom fighters and armed forces. The patriotic songs are played and the air is filled with patriotism. On the occasion of Republic day, an assessment of the situation in the country becomes imperative.
The COVID-19 pandemic has battered the country’s economy with a heavy burden on state coffers. This will be reflected in the ensuing union budget. The budget estimates for 2020-2021 were: Receipts: Rs 22.46 lakh crore and Expenditure: at Rs 30.42 lakh crore, with an estimated growth of GDP at 10 percent. It was based on- “Aspirational India”, “Economic Development” and “Caring Society”. The fiscal deficit was set at 3.5%. However now GDP is projected to contract by 7.7% in 2021 and it could be about 8% next year. The economy grew by only 4.2% in 2019. Getting the economy back to 7% plus growth from 2022-23 onwards is the real challenge. The fiscal situation has gone haywire. The deficit was originally targeted at 3.5% of GDP but it is likely to be 7.5-8%, including off-budget items. Since the states’ deficit will also increase to around 5%, the combined deficit in 2020-21 would be around 13% or so, much higher than at any other time.
Although revenues can bounce back in 2021-22, a reduction in the fiscal deficit may not be feasible, given the heavy expenditure for vaccination of over 30 million healthcare and frontline workers, income support to the poorest, recapitalize banks to deal with non-performing assets, and raise defence expenditure.
However, there was a 16 percent surge in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows till August 2020. According to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), foreign direct investment(FDI) equity inflows into India crossed the $500 billion milestones between April 2000 and September 2020. About 29% of the FDI came through the Mauritius route. It was followed by Singapore (21%), the United States, the Netherlands, Japan (each 7%), and the United Kingdom (6%). The other big investors have been from Germany, Cyprus, France, and the Cayman Islands. India’s FDI is projected to trend around 2600.00 USD Million in 2021.The key sectors which attracted the maximum FDI include the services segment, computer software and hardware, telecommunications, trading, construction development, automobile, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.
Loss of jobs
India’s lockdown was announced on March 24, 2020, and extended thrice, over 12 crore informal and migrant workers lost the jobs with an estimated wage loss of Rs 33,800 crore, as per the survey by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). People between the ages of 20 and 44 were most impacted. However CMIE’s December 2020 report stated that although unemployment reduced from July to September, now the recovery phase is over and a decline is setting in again. Parliament passed three labour bills –industrial relations, occupational safety, and social security, in September, arguably to simplify existing labour regulations. The 29 central labor laws have been amalgamated into four codes, which the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment claims as a “game-changer”. However, trade unions have branded them as a “death blow” to the working class.
As per the figures released by the Union agriculture ministry, the target of total foodgrains production for 2020-21 is around 298.3 MT, comprising 149.92 MT in Kharif season and 148.4 MT during rabi. In 2019-20, production was 291.95 MT, against the target of 291.1 MT.
The country’s population is estimated at 138 crores, equivalent to 17.7% of the total world population. 35.0 % of the population is urban, while 65 percent the population is located in rural areas. The total land area is 2,973,190 Km2 (1,147,955 sq. miles) and the population density is 464 per square kilometer.
At present, the Literacy rate of India 2021 is 74.04% (aged seven and above). The male literacy rate is 82.14% and the female literacy rate is 65.46%. Kerala is the most literate state, with 93.91% literacy. Bihar is the least literate, with a literacy of 63.82%.
Amid the pandemic, the economy is slowly limping back to normalcy. India is expected to become one of the most powerful countries in the time to come. Let us hope that we become a superpower soon.