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India shows glimpse of heritage and military precision at Republic Day parade

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Republic Day Parade
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New Delhi: The Republic Day parade in Delhi, with time has come to known for a mix of military precision and the country’s diverse cultural heritage. The parade gives a beautiful glimpse of both and this year was no different except for its business like and minimalistic nature.

The display of military prowess was without flourish. President Pranab Mukherjee took the salute from an enclosed podium on the magnificent Rajpath boulevard as the chief guest on the occasion, French President Francois Hollande, looked on at the passing men and machines of the services.

For the first time, a contingent from the French 35th Infantry Regiment – elements of which had served in India in 1781-84 – was given the honour of leading the marching contingents and it performed with panache, preceded by a pipes and drums band and saluting in a rather unusual style with the right hand held straight across the chest.

The celebrations began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi – dressed in a brown bandgalla suit and sporting a saffron Gujarati turban – driving to the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial to the Unknown Soldier at India Gate and laying a wreath in honour of the countless Indian soldiers who have died in battles since World War I.

Modi then drove up to the saluting base to receive Mukherjee and the visiting French President.

The President’s Bodyguard presented the national salute, the tricolour was unfurled and the national anthem was played to set the tone for a rather poignant moment – the posthumous presentation of the Ashok Chakra, the country’s highest gallantry award in peacetime. It was presented this year to the widow of Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami of the Parachute Regiment, who laid down his life while fighting terrorists in the Kashmir Valley last September.

The emotion on Mukherjee’s face was visible as he presented the medal and the citation to Goswami’s widow.

The French contingent apart, there was much that was different this time around. The armoured element was bare-boned – just the T-90 Bhishma main battle tank and the BMP infantry combat vehicle – the marching contingents were fewer, as were the massed bands.

Then, instead of a marching continent of ex-servicemen, there was a tableau dedicated to them in the first part of the parade, an army dog squad with handlers made an appearance after 26 years, and the camel-mounted troopers of the Border Security Force brought up the rear of the parade’s military element.

Still, there were the perennials, most notably soldiers of the Parachute Regiment trotting down in quick time in full battle gear, tableaux and marching contingents of the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force, and also a representation of the central paramilitary forces like the CRPF and the Assam Rifles.

There was, of course, the stirring martial music: “Jai Bharati”, “Galaxy Riders”, “Desh Hamara Anmol Hai”, “Vijay Bharat”, “Deshon Ka Sartaj Bharat”, “Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja” and “Assam Rifles Ka Sipahi Desh Ka Shan Badhaye”, to mention just a few.

But, in another break with tradition, the young recipients of the National Awards for Bravery came up towards the end, followed by the children’s pageant, a daredevil motorcycle display by the Corps of Signals, and a grand flypast by fighters, heavy-lift transports and helicopters of the Indian Air Force.

In between all this were the tableaux, 23 of them, representing 17 states and six central ministries, showcasing among others the government’s flagship Digital India and Swachh Bharat initiatives.

The tableaux, presenting India’s varied historical, architectural and cultural heritage, came as a welcome relief as they showcased the country’s progress in different spheres. What particularly caught the eye were floats from Goa, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal and Assam but one surely what the Central Public Works Department offers year after year – fully fabricated out of flowers and depicting a variety of themes.

Vice President Hamid Ansari, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the three service chiefs, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, cabinet ministers, a host of dignitaries and a group of women achievers seated in a special enclosure were on hand to witness the hour-and-half-long parade.

As the event ended, the stands quickly emptied out, with many perhaps wondering what Beating Retreat ceremony on Saturday, the precision display by the massed bands of the three services which bring the Republic Day celebrations to a close, would have in store.(IANS)(Image-pib)

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)