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Explained: How are Republic Day tableaux designed and selected?

When does the process to decide the tableaux start and who can participate? Can the participating states or central government departments depict anything through their tableaux? Do they have to be of a particular size?

12 tableaux from states and Union Territories and nine departments under the Central Government or independent institutions have made the cut. (File)

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday saying that she was “profoundly shocked” as West Bengal’s tableau for the Republic Day parade “was rejected without assigning any reasons or justifications.” She mentioned in her letter that the tableau was set to commemorate the contributions of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his INA on his 125th birth anniversary year.

While the government is yet to announce publicly the final selected tableaux for the parade, according to sources there will be 21 tableaux in the parade, with 12 from states and Union Territories and nine departments under the Central Government or independent institutions have made the cut.

West Bengal is not the only state whose tableau has been rejected, Kerala’s proposed tableau featuring Sree Narayan Guru is not among the selected ones, according to state officials. Officials of the Defence Ministry, which is responsible for the parade and is the coordinating body for the tableaux, say that the selection is done by an expert committee, and asserted that there is no political involvement in it.

When does the process to decide the tableaux start and who can participate?

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Around September every year the Defence Ministry, which is responsible for the Republic Day parade and the celebrations, invites all the states, the Union Territories, Central Government departments, and a few constitutional authorities to participate in the parade through tableaux.

The Defence Ministry wrote letters to the 80 Union Ministries and departments, all 36 states and Union Territories through their secretaries, and the Election Commission and the Niti Aayog on September 16, inviting them to participate. The letter mentioned that it “initiates the process of inviting tableau proposals for participation” in the Republic Day parade.

The proposals had to be submitted by September 27, and the shortlisting of the proposals began in the second week of October.

Can the participating states or central government departments depict anything through their tableaux?

The participants have to showcase elements relevant to their state/ UT/ department, within the overarching theme. The theme given to participants this year was around 75 years of India’s Independence. The theme, the government told willing participants is India@75 – Freedom struggle, Ideas @ 75, Achievements @ 75, Actions @ 75 and Resolve @ 75.

The Defence Ministry also shares the basic guidelines about what all the tableaux can or should include. The participating entities must engage “young qualified designers from renowned institutions”, electronic display walls for bright display of images or content, moving elements using robotics or mechatronics, 3D printing could be used for certain elements, use of augmented or virtual reality, and special effects to improve the optics and visual effects of the tableau.

The tableaux of two different states/ UTs cannot be too similar, as the tableaux, together, should showcase the diversity of the country.

The tableaux cannot have any writing or use of logos, except for the name of the state/ UT/ department, which should be written in Hindi on the front, English on the back, and a regional language on the sides.

The Defence Ministry also asked the participants to use eco-friendly material for the tableaux, and avoid the use of plastic or plastic-based products.

How are the tableaux selected?

The selection process is elaborate and time-consuming. The Defence Ministry constitutes an expert committee of distinguished persons from fields like art, culture, painting, sculpture, music, architecture, choreography, etc, who help in shortlisting the tableaux from the proposals.

First, the submitted sketches or designs of the proposals are scrutinised by this committee, which can make suggestions for any modifications in the sketch or design. The sketch should be simple, colouful, easy to comprehend and should avoid unnecessary detail. It should be self-explanatory, and should not need any written elaboration.

If there is a traditional dance involved with the tableau, it should be a folk dance, and the costumes and musical instruments should be traditional and authentic. The proposal should include a video clipping of the dance.

Once approved, the next stage is for the participants to come up with three dimensional models for their proposals, which are again examined by the expert committee for final selection, taking in view several criteria.

In making the final selection the committee looks at a combination of factors, looking at the visual appeal, impact on the masses, idea/ theme of the tableaux, degree of detail involved, accompanying music, among other factors.

The committee meets for around half a dozen rounds over a number of days, eliminating and shortlisting the proposals as they go along. Only those who are shortlisted, are informed about the next round.

The letter inviting participation stressed: “Final selection does not guarantee movement on Rajpath in the final parade, if it has not been created in terms of the final approved version during selection round.”

The Defence Ministry recommends the participants to try and not engage any firm or fabricator that are involved in creation of two tableaux, including their own.

Do they have to be of a particular size?

The Defence Ministry provides each participant with one tractor and one trailer, and the tableau should fit on that. The ministry prohibits use of any additional tractor or trailer, or even any other vehicle to be part of it. However, the participant can replace their ministry-provided tractor or trailer with other vehicles, but the total number should not be more than two vehicles.

The tractor has to be camouflaged in harmony with the tableau’s theme, and the ministry stipulates a distance of around six feet between the tractor and the trailer for turning and manoeuvering.

The participants can add ground elements on some tableaux, considering the theme.

The dimensions of the trailer on which the tableau will be placed is 24 feet, 8 inches long; eight feet wide; four feet two inches high; with a load bearing capacity of 10 tonnes. The tableaux should not be more than 45 feet long, 14 feet wide and 16 feet high from the ground.

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