Curtailed by pandemic, the Republic Day parade is different this year
Many events that were a regular feature of the Republic Day Celebrations in the national capital will be missing this year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the social distancing measures put in place to contain its spread, said government officials.
One prominent event that drew crowds and cheers – stunts on motorcycles by the army and the personnel of the paramilitary forces – have been cancelled this year.
The veterans’ parade by ex-servicemen and women, too, has been knocked off the programme chart, and so is the parade by recipients of the national bravery awards. In the 2020 Republic Day parade, veterans as old as 99 and 100 years had participated in the parade and the motorcycle stunts were performed by women officers of the Central Reserve Police Force.
Government officials, who did not wish to be named, said these events were cancelled because the elderly and children are more susceptible to contract Covid-19. “There will be no enclosure for schoolchildren this year either. The total number of the enclosures has also been reduced -- from 36 to 22. The number of attendees will be 25,000 as against 150,000 until last year. Only 4,000 entries will be through tickets, the others would be invitation-based. The motorcycle stunt event was cancelled as it involved the participants sitting closely together and supporting each other while staying in close proximity on moving motorcycles,” said a senior official involved in the Republic Day arrangements.
The official further said no children below the age of 15 years would be allowed at the venue on the India Gate lawns on January 26. Unlike the 12X12 format of the marching contingent with 124 participants, the format this year is 8X12, with only 96 participants.
“Not just the spectators but the number of media persons has also been reduced from 300 to 100. The workers on the lawns are currently being tested at the Covid booth set up at the venue. Police personnel who will be at the gates and in charge of frisking will be wearing personal protective equipment suits and will carry thermal scanners. Officers from the security unit, who will guard the VIPs, will undergo Covid-19 testing and are already in quarantine for seven days before the Republic Day function,” a second official, privy to the arrangement details, said.
Also, this year, instead of a gallery (benches arranged in rows and raised on platforms) for spectators, the ministry of defence has arranged for chairs -- so that they can be kept apart on the lawns to ensure a distance of six feet between spectators.
“Another change is that only the tableaux will go to the Red Fort. The parade will culminate at the National Stadium at the C-Hexagon of India Gate,” the second official said.
But there is an addition as well this year. At least 122 soldiers of the Bangladesh Armed Forces will be taking part in the parade. According to a press statement issued by the High Commission of India in Dhaka, this is only the third time since Independence that a foreign military contingent has been invited to participate in the national parade.