Army, Navy, Air Force contingents will have reduced numbers to ensure social distancing.
India celebrated its 72nd Republic Day parade today with a shortened programme because of the coronavirus pandemic. Apart from a reduced list of events, the parade saw 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 was among the many stars on show, as was a Bangladeshi tri-service contingent that led 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 - took part. "Wishing all the people of India a Happy Republic Day. Jai Hind!," Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted this morning.
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In a first, the tableau of the Union Territory of Ladakh, which came into existence in 2019 following the scrapping of Article 370, was displayed in this year's parade. The tableau highlighted the ''Vision'' for Ladakh to be carbon neutral and exemplary for the world.
Uttar Pradesh's tableau displayed the state's cultural city of Ayodhya and the Ram temple, which is under construction. In the first part of the tableau, Maharishi Valmiki has been shown composing the Ramayana. In the middle part of the tableau, Shri Ram Mandir, the epitome of Ayodhya's cultural identity associated with mass sentiments and devotion, was featured.
As they do every year, the nation's armed forces once again took 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.
India's new Rafale fighter jet took to the skies and concluded 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.
History was also made today when Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth - the first Indian woman to qualify for a combat mission in a fighter jet - became the first to participate in the flypast. A total of 38 Air Force and four Army aircraft took part in the flypast.
Army, Navy and Air Force marching contingents were on display, albeit in reduced numbers to ensure social distancing. The Army and Navy had only 96 (instead of 144) soldiers each, while the Air Force contingent comprised 94 soldiers.
Indian Navy's tableau showcased models of INS Vikrant and naval operations that were conducted during the 1971 India-Pakistan war. The forward section showcased the attack on Karachi harbour, while the rear will show aircraft carrier INS Vikrant conducting operations that "contributed immensely to the victory at sea".
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.
The 2021 Republic Day parade began with a 122-member contingent of the Bangladeshi armed forces - led by Lieutenant Colonel Mohatsim Haider Chaudhary. The first six rows of the contingent was led 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.
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.