Covid-19 hits India’s biggest ceremonial event, Republic Day parade curtailed
The Republic Day parade of 2021 will be shorter, involve fewer participants and only a fourth of the usual number of spectators will be allowed at Rajpath to witness the country’s military might and cultural diversity, with India’s grandest ceremonial event being curtailed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, officials familiar with the development said on Wednesday.
This year’s Independence Day celebrations were also muted because of the coronavirus disease outbreak and measures imposed to check the spread of the disease.
Fewer people will be allowed to witness the parade on January 26, with the government following strict social distancing protocols, and the parade itself will be shorter and with smaller marching contingents compared to previous years, the officials cited above said on condition of anonymity.
Not more than 25,000 spectators will be allowed at Rajpath this year, compared to over 100,000 people who usually turn up for the parade, braving cold weather and standing in queues before the crack of dawn to enter the area. Children below the age of 15 will not be permitted at the parade.
The size of the marching contingents from the armed forces and the paramilitary will be smaller. These squads will only have 96 participants compared to 144 in the ordinary course, the officials said. The shortened route of the parade will end at the National Stadium instead of the Red Fort, the officials said, adding that the cultural programmes will also be fewer.
Independence Day celebrations were also hit by the pandemic this year, with fewer VIPs attending the annual August 15 event at Delhi’s Red Fort while schoolchildren skipped it altogether.
The Republic Day-2020 parade had many firsts to it. For the first time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid a wreath at the National War Memorial. Until 2019, tributes were paid to martyrs at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate. Also, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) showcased its anti-satellite weapon for the first time.
Jammu and Kashmir took part in the 2020 parade for the first time as a Union territory. In August 2019, the government revoked the special status of the state by scrapping Article 370 of the Constitution and also bifurcated J&K into two Union Territories – J&K and Ladakh.
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