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By Sushil Silvano, Our Special Correspondent, Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi, TIO: Will President of India Droupadi Murmu continue the tradition of using the 6-horses driven gold plated buggy to travel to Parliament for her oath-taking and other ceremonial occasions like the Republic Day and Beating The Retreat? This beautiful, majestic buggy originally belonged to the imperious Viceroy of India. It adequately epitomised the might and grandeur of the British Raj.
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In 1947, when India was divided into two parts (countries), the other being Pakistan, a tussle ensued between the two newly independent nations over the question of who will get to keep the Viceroy’s buggy. With no superior power now to adjudicate on the issue, this vexatious tug-o- war was resolved by the simplest of methods: tossing up a coin– heads you win, just as it is done on the cricket field all over the world.
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India’s Lt Col Thakur Govind Singh and Pakistan Army’s Sahabzada Yaqub Khan participated in the coin tossing.
India won the toss and clinched the royal buggy for good. Since then it has remained in India and was used by successive elected presidents.
After 1984, for security reasons the buggy was not frequently used by any president for a few decades. While they did use it now and then, it was properly used again in 2014 by Pranab Mukherjee.
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Earlier, the gold-plated buggy was used by the president not only for ceremonial purposes, but also to move around in his 320-acre residential space. Over the years, as the president’s security grew tighter, the use of the buggy lessened, limited to ceremonial formalities at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. However, with President Mukherjee’s term, the buggy was brought back into action.
In 2014 former President Pranab Mukherjee revived it during Republic Day celebrations.
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President Ram Nath Kovind continued his predecessor President Pranab Mukherjee’s tradition of riding the fancy gold-plated buggy to the Parliament when he took oath as India’s 14th President.
Outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee was seated on the left side of the buggy and the new president on his right. On their way back, once Kovind had taken his oath, the two exchanged seats, leaving Mukherjee on the right and Kovind on the left.
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The President of India has his/her own Presidential Guards, with colourful attires for both summer and winter seasons. Actually, The President’s Bodyguard (PBG), raised in 1773, is the senior most Regiment of the Indian Army. It is a Regiment carrying out ceremonial duties for the President of India. The PBG personnel are excellent horsemen, capable tank men and paratroopers.
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The minimum height is 6 feet. Earlier, it used to be 6.3 feet. The guards belong to only three castes: Sikh Jats, Hindu Jats and Rajputs.
The PBG is an elite household cavalry regiment of the Indian Army. It is senior-most regiment in the order of precedence of the units of the Indian Army. The primary role of the President’s Bodyguard is to escort and protect the President of India which is why the regiment is based in the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, India.
It is equipped as a mounted unit, with horses for ceremonies at the presidential palace and BTR-80 vehicles for use in combat. The personnel of the regiment are also trained as paratroopers and nominally are expected to lead in airborne assaults in the role of pathfinders. The regiment is the successor of the Governor General’s Bodyguard of the British Raj.
Curated and Compiled by Humra Kidwai
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