This year's Republic Day parade will include 11 to 18-year-old slum children who used to begging at traffic lights and hold banners with the message "bhiksha se shiksha ki ore" (from beggary to education).
"Beggars from slum regions will march in any state's Republic Day parade for the first time. Over 40 kids who used to ply their trade at intersections are practicing every day for the R-Day procession, according to municipal commissioner Inderjeet Singh.
"Now, as a result of Project Smile, which aims to lift these kids out of poverty and integrate them into society, their lives have been completely altered. In addition, Singh said, "We have been dealing with these kids for the last 1.5 years.
"Work is being done to provide them with education and set them up with schools. Now that they have some fresh experience, we are taking them to the parade practice so they may get confidence from it, he added.
Project Smile supporter Balbir Singh Maan of the Umeed NGO said: "In the past, these underprivileged kids would beg for money. But since last year, we have been teaching them. They are quite confident right now and want to march in the R-Day parade.
Project Smile has altered our lives, according to Rupa, 17, who used to ply her trade at intersections. I'm excited to participate in the parade on January 26.
"It is a dream come true for me to participate in the R-Day parade after years of pleading. Afsana, 17, said, "We have never seen anything like this before, and we never imagined that we would take part in the march in front of so many people.
Another underprivileged youngster, Hrithik, 11, said: "Papa works as a laborer and there isn't always food in the family. Therefore, we had to rely on begging or street balloon sales to support ourselves. Since the Project Smile employees scooped us up from the street, our lives have transformed. After taking part in the march, I believe my wish to join the army will come true.
"The youngsters are performing at par with the students of convents and government institutions, practicing for the R-Day parade," said Pratap Vikram Singh of Project Smile. These kids didn't want to speak to anybody a year and a half ago because they weren't ready to trust us. Building trust was a lengthy process for us. We gave them toys, began teaching them in intelligent classrooms, and exposed them to new things. After seeing the governor at the Raj Bhavan, we escorted them to the divisional commissioner and DM office, where they spoke with Roshan Jacob and Suryapal Gangwar, respectively. They can already sense the shift today.