New Delhi: The stage is set for this year’s Republic Day parade which will be held for the first time on the newly redeveloped majestic Raj Path in the heart of India’s national Capital.
However, the 73rd Republic Day celebrations will bear the shadow of the Covid pandemic which has forced the government to put in place strict measures and a pruned guest list for the otherwise grand parade that every year showcases India’s military might and rich cultural diversity. The scaled down celebrations, in view of the rising Covid-19 cases, will also be held across states and union territories.
For the second successive year, there will not be any chief guest or foreign dignitary at this year’s Republic Day parade in the Capital on January 26. It was earlier planned to invite leaders of five Central Asian nations — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan — to be joint chief guests at this year’s Republic Day parade but the government decided not to host the leaders in the wake of recent surge in Covid 19 cases of the latest variant of Omicron that has gripped several nations across the world. Last year the U K Prime Minister Boris Johnson had expressed his inability to undertake the visit as the UK was affected by the pandemic. The longstanding tradition of inviting a foreign dignitary was broken in 2021.
At the first Republic Day parade on January 26, 1950 President Sukarno of Indonesia was the chief guest and the first President of India Rajendra Prasad had unfurled the national flag.
This year, Defence Ministry has indicated that the guest list will be drastically pruned and only a few thousand people will be permitted to attend the parade in person. Last year about 25,000 people were allowed to attend the event and the duration of the parade was also shortened.
The government has also decided to implement strict Covid protocols, wearing of masks will be mandatory, thermal checks will be conducted and invitees and ticket holders will have to carry their double-vaccination certificates. Any invitee having even mild temperature will be denied entry to the enclosures.
Covid booths have been set up at entry areas and if anyone displays symptoms, the person will be kept in isolation in such booths. This year’s Republic Day parade will begin at 10.30 a.m., half an hour later than usual time and the route will be from Vijay Chowk to the National Stadium just behind India Gate.
This year’s theme for the Republic Day parade will be India@75 and “Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav” and the grand finale to the parade will be provided by the Indian Air Force (IAF) showcasing the biggest flypast with the participation of 75 aircraft, including India’s latest acquisition Rafael multi-role fighter jets.
For the first time, the parade will be held at the redeveloped Central Vista Avenue where the work was finished at a swift pace with a large number of workers being deployed round the clock to meet the deadline. The newly developed Rajpath from Vijay Chowk near the Rashtrapati Bhawan to India Gate has new stone-studded pavements, new bridges over canals, newly installed electric poles with modern lighting system. The redevelopment is part of the ambitious Central Vista project which is witnessing construction of a new Parliament building, Vice President’s residence and a new office and residential complex for the Prime Minister.