Fewer spectators, no chief guest: India celebrates unprecedented R-Day
India is celebrating its 72nd Republic Day today and the entire program has been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. From the iconic parade taking a shorter route to fewer spectators watching the event in New Delhi, today's affair will be like no other. A short while ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave his best wishes to countrymen on the auspicious day.
Children below 15 barred; parade will end at National Stadium
The annual parade has been kept off-limits for children under 15 and elderly having co-morbidities. The spectator size has been truncated to merely 25,000, a massive reduction from 1.25 lakh people who saw the event live last year. Social distancing will be strictly followed. The parade will start from Vijay Chowk and will climax at National Stadium, instead of the iconic Red Fort.
Bangladesh contingent will lead the march this year
Due to coronavirus-related restrictions, fewer soldiers will be present in Army and Navy's contingents. The march will be led by the 122-member-strong Bangladesh contingent, which has soldiers from the neighboring nation's Army, sailors from its Navy, and warriors from the Air Force. They will carry the legacy of Muktijoddhas, who fiercely fought against atrocities and played a key role in Bangladesh's liberation in 1971.
Rafale jets will participate in R-Day event for first time
Naturally, India's military strength will be on full display at today's event. Among the equipment that will be showcased is the third-generation Russian T-90 battle tank. The T-72 bridge-layer tank and the BMP-2 armored personnel carrier will also be displayed. For the first time ever, Rafale jets will take to the skies on R-Day and will conclude the flypast.
Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth slated to script history
Moreover, Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth will become the first woman fighter pilot to participate in the R-Day parade. The Bihar native was inducted into Indian Air Force's (IAF) fighter squadron in 2016. President Ram Nath Kovind honored her with Nari Shakti Puraskar last year. In total, 38 IAF planes, as well as four aircraft from the Indian Army, will participate in the R-Day event.
In a first, Ladakh will showcase tableau
The Union Territory of Ladakh will showcase its tableau for the first time ever. On display will be a model of the Indian Astronomical Observatory, situated in Hanle near Leh. Of the 32 tableaux, 17 are from different states and union territories. The Indian Navy's tableau will showcase models of INS Vikrant and other operations that were conducted during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Health crisis stalled Boris Johnson's arrival as chief guest
To recall, India had extended an invitation to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to arrive in Delhi as the R-Day chief guest. He, however, expressed regret, in view of the worsening coronavirus situation in his country. After his refusal, no other guest could be finalized, implying that for the first time in 55 years, the event will not have a guest of honor.
Facial recognition systems installed on Rajpath to identify miscreants
Unsurprisingly, the Delhi Police has made elaborate security arrangements for the big day. Dozens of CCTV cameras will watch the parade route. Moreover, facial recognition systems have been installed at 30 spots on the Rajpath. Data of 50,000 people, including suspected terrorists, criminals, and anti-social elements, have been fed into these systems. Notably, 6,000 personnel have been tasked with security.