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Opinion

Covid-19 Hits India’s Largest Ceremonial Event, Republic Day Parade Down

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The 2021 Republic Day parade will be shorter, involve fewer participants and only a quarter of the usual number of spectators will be able to witness the country’s military power and cultural diversity, and India’s greatest ceremonial event on Rajpath. It will drop due to the Covid-19 pandemic, officials familiar with the development said Wednesday.

This year’s Independence Day celebrations were also silenced due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease and measures imposed to control 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, officials cited above said under condition of anonymity.

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No more than 25,000 spectators will be allowed on Rajpath this year, compared to the more than 100,000 people who generally show up for the parade, braving the cold weather and queuing before dawn to enter the area. Children under the age of 15 will not be allowed in the parade.

The size of the contingents marching from the armed forces and paramilitaries will be smaller. These squads will only have 96 participants compared to 144 in the regular course, officials said. The shortened parade route will end at the National Stadium instead of the Red Fort, officials said, adding that cultural programs will also be fewer.

Independence Day celebrations were also affected by the pandemic this year, with fewer personalities attending the annual event on August 15 at Delhi’s Red Fort, while schoolchildren skipped it entirely.

The 2020 Republic Day parade had many novelties. For the first time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid a wreath at the National War Memorial. Until 2019, tributes were paid to the martyrs at the Amar Jawan Jyoti in India Gate. In addition, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) displayed its anti-satellite weapon for the first time.

Jammu and Kashmir participated in the 2020 parade for the first time as a Union territory. In August 2019, the government revoked the state’s special status by removing Article 370 of the Constitution and also forked J&K into two Union Territories – J&K and Ladakh.

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