On January 26, while Marine Drive was gearing up for its first Republic Day parade, authorities in charge of the grand event were busy conducting a covert operation. Their secrecy was not aimed at protecting the crowds and leaders from a terror threat or security breach, but to cover up a massive blunder that they feared would leave them red-faced, if exposed.
An ID card shows the glaring error
The cover-up operation was a desperate attempt made by cops and other authorities to prevent the audience or the media from finding out a glaring error in the ID cards given to performers and coordinators by the administration department – the tricolour had been printed upside down.
Artistes had to ensure the cards were folded during their performances
To save themselves from embarrassment, the officials distributed the ID cards after folding each of them to hide the image of the inverted flag, and even asked the recipients not to undo the fold, so the error would remain hidden. A high level inquiry has now been set up in the matter. Needless to say, officials are trying hard to pass around the buck.
Performers confirmed that they were asked not to unfold the cards they had been given, so that the image of the inverted flag would not be exposed. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The ID cards were issued for participants and coordinators in the parade that marched through Marine Drive for the first time in the history of the city on Sunday. The cards were given out from the Mantralaya parking area on the eve of the parade, to heads of all the groups participating in the parade.
Before they were handed out, the officials had painstakingly folded each of the ID cards to hide the image of the flag. Special instructions were given to the group heads to ask the participants under them to keep the card folded through the entire duration of the parade.
A leader of one of the groups that danced in the parade said, requesting anonymity: “When the cards were handed over to me, the officer distributing them gave me folded cards. He said that the flags were upside down and explained that to hide it, they had folded it from below. They also asked me to relay the information to all the performers in my group.”
A performer from the East Indian Koli group said, “We had to provide all our details and photographs to our coordinator. He submitted the documents and brought the cards from Mantralaya.” A young dancer revealed, on condition of anonymity: “The day before the parade, the cards were distributed to us.
The group head asked us to keep the card folded at the bottom. On the day of the event, we were asked to hide the part with the flag. Some of the officials even patrolled and inspected all the groups to check.” A senior officer from the DG’s office (Maharashtra Police) blamed the Mumbai Police, saying, “It was a major mistake and inquiry is being conducted under the supervision of an IG-level officer. However, Mumbai Police should have taken note of the goof-up earlier.”
The Mumbai Police officials approached by MiD DAY refused to comment on the issue. Deputy Secretary (State Protocol) Ajay Ambekar said, “There was no goof-up, no error or mistake at all. It is not the Indian flag. Every thing with the colours saffron, white and green is not an Indian flag; there is no Ashok Chakra printed on it. It is just a shade and design given to ID cards. How can you call it a flag?”