A shorter parade from Rajpath to National Stadium, with fewer spectators, is how India celebrated its 72nd Republic Day against the backdrop of a pandemic.
At entry gates to the venue, Covid booths and thermal screening centres were set up along with security checks. Only 25,000 people were allowed to watch the parade at Rajpath, and approximately 4,000 tickets were given to the general public. The seats were also placed a few feet apart to maintain social distancing.
This year, the motorcycle stunt show — a major attraction for spectators over the years — was cancelled in view of safety concerns due to Covid-19. In its absence, the Rafale fighter jet took centre stage, with a ‘Vertical Charlie’ manouevre that left everyone in awe. The plane flew from Rashtrapati Bhavan at a speed of 900 km/hr before pulling up vertically at a 90 degree angle and spinning three-four times. The audience cheered as the jet vanished in the air and flew towards National Stadium. Other Air Force officers also flew jet planes in diamond and wing formations.
In another first, the parade witnessed a tableau from Ladakh, called ‘Vision of the Future’. Ladakh became a Union Territory in 2019 and this was the first time its tableau — a model of The Indian Astronomical Observatory — was part of the celebrations. The show’s highlight was to make the UT “carbon-free” in the future.
Another tableau that caught everyone’s attention was from Uttar Pradesh — the front portion showed Mahrishi Valmiki composing the Ramayana with a peacock by his side, while the second part had a mini-version of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
The ‘Coir of Kerala’ tableau was made with eco-friendly and biodegradable material. The tractor on which the tableaux was placed showed coir making and coconuts. The coir making also depicted women empowerment as the industry is mainly run by women.
A total of 17 states and UTs, 11 ministries, departments and paramilitary presented their tableaux.
The march past had over 35 marching contingents and bands from different departments. This included the Bangladesh Contingent — a 122-member contingent of Armymen, sailors and air warriors from the country.
The Black Cat Commandos, a contingent of the National Security Guard, also caught everyone’s attention as the ramp system used by the force had a K-9 dog squad member. The commandos also showed their armoured tactical vehicle.
Spectators, meanwhile, said they missed the old parade. Pankaj Vig (38), who works at a Maruti showroom in Delhi, said: “My family and I attend the parade every year. Sadly, my kids weren’t able to see the march past and dance performances this time. We wish the pandemic ends soon and we can enjoy the event like before.”
Ranjan Kumar (37), brother of CRPF officer Abhay Kumar, who died in the 2017 Sukma attack, attended the event with his family. “We usually don’t attend the parade but I liked the event today. The Ayodhya tableau and Black Cat commandos were my favourites. My brother died four years ago in the Sukma attack. We feel good when we see other officers serving the country.” Kumar came to the parade with his wife and parents.