Republic Day Parade With Many Firsts Amid Covid Restrictions

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    India will celebrate its 72nd Republic Day today with a shortened programme – scheduled to start at 9 am and conclude after the traditional fly past 11.25 am – because of the coronavirus pandemic. Apart from a reduced list of events, the parade will also have a shorter route, no chief guest, fewer spectators, no children under 15 in the annual parade, and fewer soldiers in the Army and Navy contingents. However, the newly inducted Rafale fighter jet will be among the many stars on show, as will a Bangladeshi tri-service contingent that will lead the parade on the 50th anniversary of the 1971 India-Pakistan war. A total of 32 tableaus – 17 from states and UTs, six from the Defence Ministry and nine others – will take part. “Wishing all the people of India a Happy Republic Day. Jai Hind!,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted this morning.

    1. The 2021 Republic Day parade will begin with a 122-member contingent of the Bangladeshi armed forces – to be led by Lieutenant Colonel Mohatsim Haider Chaudhary. The first six rows of the contingent will be Army, followed by two rows each of Navy and Air Force. “The Bangladesh contingent will carry the legacy of legendary Muktijoddhas, who… liberated Bangladesh in 1971,” the Defence Ministry was quoted by news agency PTI.
    2. As they do every year, the nation’s armed forces will once again take centre-stage on Delhi’s iconic Rajpath, with the third-generation Russian T-90 battle tank, the T-72 bridge-layer tank, the BMP-2 armoured personnel carrier, the Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher, and the land-attack variant of BrahMos among the equipment that will be on display.
    3. India’s new Rafale fighter jet will take to the skies and conclude the flypast by carrying out the demanding and spectacular “Vertical Charlie” formation – in which the aircraft flies at low altitude, pulls up vertically and rolls multiple times before stabilising at higher altitude.
    4. The nation will also see history being made when Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth – the first Indian woman to qualify for a combat mission in a fighter jet – becomes the first to participate in the flypast. A total of 38 Air Force and four Army aircraft will take part.
    5. Army, Navy and Air Force marching contingents will also be on display, albeit in reduced numbers to ensure social distancing. The Army and Navy will have only 96 (instead of 144) soldiers each, while the Air Force will have 94. The Army will have six contingents, while the Navy and Air Force will have one band and one marching contingent each.
    6. Indian Navy’s tableau will showcase models of INS Vikrant and naval operations that were conducted during the 1971 India-Pakistan war. The forward section will depict the attack on Karachi harbour, while the rear will show aircraft carrier INS Vikrant conducting operations that “contributed immensely to the victory at sea”.
    7. As part of Covid safety protocols, all Army soldiers have been kept in bio-bubbles – no one allowed to enter or exit, with no exceptions. Other Covid precautions include restricting the number of attendees at Rajpath to 25,000 (all seated) instead of 1.15 lakh, reducing the number of school children from 600 last year to 160 (none below 15) and requiring everyone – spectators and participants – to wear face masks.
    8. Other tableaus that will be part of the Republic Day parade include one from UP that will feature a model of the Ram temple to be built at Ayodhya. More history will be made when one of India’s newest union territories – Ladakh – makes its parade debut with a tableau depicting the iconic Thikse Monastery and its cultural heritage.
    9. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was scheduled to be the Chief Guest. However, Mr Johnson was forced to cancel his visit after a mutant strain of coronavirus affected tens of thousands in that country and led to a new and stricter lockdown. Mr Johnson would have been the second British Prime Minister to be the Chief Guest at a Republic Day parade; the first was John Major in 1993. Last year Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro was the chief guest.
    10. This year’s parade will also take place against the backdrop of protests against the centre’s agriculture laws, with farmers being allowed to hold a tractor rally through the national capital after the festivities at Rajpath are over. Last week the centre told the Supreme Court the rally would cause huge embarrassment, but the court, which had earlier upheld the farmers’ right to protest peacefully, left the decision to Delhi Police.