The iconic and grandiose India Gate vista is all set to change permanently as the National War Memorial is now ready for inauguration.
The memorial will name of 20,600 Indian soldiers, who made supreme sacrifices in the wars that India fought after independence and the anti-insurgency operations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to inaugurate the national war memorial ahead of the Republic Day, but there is no official confirmation so far. Last week Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inspected the memorial along with officials.
Constructed at the C-hexagon of the India Gate, the memorial is spread over 40 acres and has four landscaped concentric circles – Amar Chakra (circle of immortality), Veer Chakra (circle of bravery), Tyag Chakra (circle of sacrifice) and Rakshak Chakra (circle of protection).
There would also be busts of 21 Param Vir Chakra awardees and a 15 mt tall central obelisk with eternal flames, defence ministry sources said.
The government, however, is yet to take two crucial decisions – whether the saluting post for the dignitaries will shift from the Amar Jawan Jyoti and whether the new memorial will have the names of the soldiers of the Azad Hind Fauj, led by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
With two eternal flames, it is also yet to be decided where the wreath-laying ceremony would be held on the Republic Day.
When asked Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat said it the government was yet to take a call on such issues, but in the armed forces there are precedents of war memorial being shifted from one location to another, depending on the location of the unit.
The Army chief gave the example of the war memorial in his own regiment, which was raised in Dehradun. While the unit’s first memorial was in Dehradun, a second one sprang up in Darjeeling when the unit was shifted there. But even that was discarded when the regiment moved to Lucknow where a third memorial was constructed.
“All regimental events now happen at the Lucknow memorial. Other two were forgotten,” he said.
There are currently 120 war memorials maintained by the armed forces but no National War Memorial to remember the heroes of independent India.
India Gate was constructed by the British government in the memory of 84,000 Indian soldiers killed fighting for the empire in the World War-I and Afgan war. The Amar Jawan Jyoti, on the other hand, was built to honour 3,843 Indian soldiers, who died in the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh.
The demand for a National War Memorial was pending with the government for a long time, but the process to construct it began by the Narendra Modi government, which approved a budget of Rs 176 crore for the project and selected the design through global competition. The first target date – August 15, 2018 – was missed as the construction wasn’t completed.
Later, a national war museum too would come up at the Princes Park, adjacent to the India Gate, at a cost of nearly Rs 350 crore.