Removal of jumbos from R-Day parade disappoints winners

January 17th, 2009 - 8:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 17 (IANS) Thirteen-year-old Saumik Mishra’s happiness will remain incomplete and his excitement restrained as the national bravery award winner for 2008 will ride “just another” military vehicle and not an elephant as he wants to in this year’s Republic Day parade.”I am disappointed that we will not get to ride on the elephant. It would have been fun,” he told IANS.

Organisers of the annual Republic Day parade have decided to break a three-decade-long tradition this year by banning the use of elephants at the march held here Jan 26.

The tradition of parading colourfully caparisoned elephants will be done away with to avoid any incident if an animal goes berserk and creates a disturbance. Also, it aims to ease pressure on the security apparatus.

Children awarded for acts of bravery used to ride on the elephants at the parade. The jumbos were usually hired from private handlers for Rs.2,000 by the Defence Ministry.

“We sourced them from various mahouts. We don’t know how they are handled. There were qualms about them going berserk. Following various advisories, including suggestions from wildlife activists, we decided to have no more elephants,” Defence Ministry official Nungsanglemba told IANS.

This year 20 kids have been selected for the National Bravery Awards 2008. They will be riding open military jeeps during the parade.

Mishra, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, will receive the Sanjay Chopra Award for bravery. He fought two motorcycle-borne assailants when they tried to snatch his mother’s purse. He successfully foiled the theft attempt.

“I have had fun in Delhi. I was looking forward to riding the royal elephants but I am told there will be no elephants,” he said.

Another child M. Marundu Pandi, who travelled all the way to the capital from a small town near Madurai, Tamil Nadu, for the award ceremony, was also disappointed.

“I was excited about the elephants… I saw them on TV once. When I found out I was selected for the award I thought I will be in the parade riding the magnificent elephant,” said Pandi, who reported a snag on a railway track near his home that averted a train accident.

His mother said he must not be fussy and that a military vehicle would be just as good. “We should be happy with any opportunity or gift of god that comes our way,” she said.

Ten-year-old Yumkhaibam Addison Singh, who wants to join the army, thought it would be “cool” to ride in a military jeep. The child from Manipur saved another young boy from drowning.

“It would have been fun to ride an elephant, but an army vehicle is also cool,” said Singh.

The bravery awards are an initiative of the Indian Council for Child Welfare. A committee including the president and other state level representatives choose the children for the awards every year.

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