Republic Day parade to be shorter, with fewer spectators due to Covid-19 protocols

Fewer people will be allowed to witness the Republic Day parade at Rajpath, with the government following strict social distancing protocols due to the Covid-19 pandemic, people familiar with the developments said on Wednesday. The parade itself will be shorter, with smaller marching contingents compared to previous years, the people said.

No 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 that showcases India’s military might and cultural diversity, the people cited above said. 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 para-military will also be smaller. These squads will only have 96 participants compared to 144 in the ordinary course, officials said. The shortened route of the parade will see it end at the National Stadium instead of the Red Fort, the officials said, adding that the number of cultural programmes will also be fewer.

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The Independence Day celebrations were also muted due to the pandemic this year, with fewer VIPs attending the August 15 event at Delhi’s Red Fort while schoolchildren skipped it altogether.

The Republic Day 2020 parade showcased several firsts. 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 parade for the first time as a Union Territory. Its tableau was based on the theme “Back to Village”. In August 2019, the government revoked the special status of the state by scrapping Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated J&K into two Union Territories – J&K and Ladakh.

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