R-Day: Passes pruned; scribes livid at restrictions

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, January 24: Politicians made long faces when they came across demands for passes for Republic Day Parade in the national capital. Journalists were left huffing and puffing after being told by the Defence Ministry of curtailment of the passes, including vehicle restrictions. Delhi’s much awaited show, which is seen by the ‘Aam Aadmi’, as the full might of the Indian armed forces show glimpses of their prowess, appears becoming less of an ‘own eye saw’ experience and more of a television event.

“Passes which were made available to politicians, embassies and others are no more available. The only mode to access the passes is the online sale of the tickets. But people have come out with complaints that they were not able to procure tickets even from the online mode. It appears that there will be less number of spectators watching the tanks marching on the Kartavya Path on January 26 when the supreme commander, President Droupadi Murmu, takes the salute of the three armed forces,” said a senior Defence journalist.

Another senior scribe, Rajat Pandit, took to Twitter to lament: “The drastic curbing of media passes, and more importantly car stickers, by the defence ministry for reporters to cover even the Republic Day is astonishing.” With reduced car stickers, scribes even if they have the passes, will need to walk more than five kms to reach the destination early in the morning of January 26 to cover the parade.

“I have never seen such restrictions, while I covered the Ministry of Defence for several years, which included the Kargil War. By not giving adequate number of vehicle stickers, reporters are being inconvenienced so that they don’t cover. Also, restrictions on number of passes also entail that there will be lesser media presence,” said Umakant Lakhera, president of the Press Club of India.

Another senior Defence journalist said that similar curbs and restrictions are being made for the Beating Retreat ceremony. “A column at Kartavya Path for Republic Day parade that used to have 2500 seats previously is now left with just 300. There will be less number of the people watching the parade this year,” said the senior journalist.

Lakhera argued that the media curbs for the Republic Day is in the league of similar restrictions for the coverage of the Lok Sabha. “The message is clear that journalists are not welcome. This is a dangerous trend. In the name of the Covid restrictions, the media access is being curtailed,” said Lakhera.

Efforts to reach out for the official reaction were unsuccessful.

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