Republic Day 2022: COVID-19 shadow looms over R-Day parade, only 4,000 spectators to be allowed

Taking into account the rising number of coronavirus cases across the country, the total distance of the march has been reduced by around 5 km. Also, the time of Beating the Retreat ceremony has been extended by 15 minutes

Amrita Nayak Dutta January 18, 2022 12:16:27 IST
Republic Day 2022: COVID-19 shadow looms over R-Day parade, only 4,000 spectators to be allowed

Indian Army commandos practise march during the rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade at the Raisina Hill, New Delhi. AP

Just around 4,000 spectators are likely to be present at the Republic Day parade in Delhi on 26 January this year, while the Beating the Retreat ceremony three days later may see hundreds of drones swarm the skies for the first time ever, aside from a special laser show, News18.com has learnt.

Highly-placed government sources said that taking into account the rising number of COVID cases across the country, only select people will attend the ceremony. The distance and the route taken by the various marching contingents will remain the same as last year.

“There will be just about 4,000 spectators at the parade this year,” a top government official said. He added that all standard COVID-19 protocols will be followed during the event, such as adhering to adequate social distancing among those present at the venue, thorough sanitisation of the premises, thermal screening at entry points, availability of masks, sanitisers and gloves as well as setting up of isolation and booths at the venue for emergencies.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the Republic Day parade used to see anywhere between 1.15 lakh to 1.25 lakh spectators. An important national event, the ceremony epitomises India’s cultural diversity and military strength.

COVID effect

The Republic Day parade on 26 January, 2020, months before the pandemic gripped India, saw 1.15 lakh spectators. Taking into account the pandemic, this was cut to just 25,000 spectators last year. It was decided to bring down the number further in view of the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases this month, sources said.

Clearing apprehensions that several roads which were dug up at the central secretariat area may lead the parade to follow an alternative route, a second government official told News18.com that the marching contingents will start from Vijay Chowk at Rajpath and go up to the National Stadium.

The Republic Day parade in 2021 had also covered the same route and distance.

However, in the years prior to that, the parade usually started from Vijay Chowk and culminated at Red Fort. The difference in distance between the National Stadium and the Red Fort is about five kilometres.

The sources quoted above also added that the 21 tableaux selected may go up to the Red Fort from Vijay Chowk.

Please see: Here's what you can expect from this year's Republic Day celebrations at Rajpath

Five of the six marching contingents of the Army, which took part in the Army Day parade on 15 January, will participate in the Republic Day parade. The force will also display the same equipment and uniform on the theme ‘Evolution of Indian Army’ in the 75 last years as it did on Army Day this year.

The Indian Air Force on Monday said that the Republic Day flypast this year at Rajpath will be the largest and grandest. Seventy-five aircraft of the IAF, Navy and Army will fly overhead — including Rafales, Sukhoi-30s, Jaguars, C-130J special operations aircraft, MiG-29Ks and P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft — to commemorate 75 years of India’s independence.

A vintage Dakota aircraft and two Dornier planes will also fly in the Tangail formation to commemorate the historic Tangail airdrop — a major airborne operation carried out by India in the 1971 war between India and Pakistan.

The IAF will also have a marching contingent and a tableau showcasing the Mig-21 and Gnat fighters, which participated in the 1971 war, the Rafale fighter jets, indigenous Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), Aslesha 3D surveillance radar and G-SAT7 communications satellite at the parade.

Beating the Retreat ceremony to up the spectacle

For the first time ever, a unique event showcasing hundreds of “eyes in the sky” has been organised on Beating the Retreat on 29 January.

While the number of drones to participate in the event is immediately not known, sources say it could be around 800.

Additionally, there are also plans to organise a laser show, during the ceremony displaying important events from military history.

The two special events will increase the total length of the ceremony by around 15 minutes, the sources said.

They said there are also plans to have an Indian musical composition, which could be the closing tune for the ceremony.

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