Under pandemic cloud, 24k people to attend R-Day parade with protocols

While this will be the second time that Republic Day will be celebrated under the shadow of the pandemic — and unlike last year, when the event fell in between waves this year, the celebrations will take place at a time when cases are surging — there has not been any drastic change in the way the event will be conducted.

Sources within the defence establishment said that compared to 25,000 people who attended the parade last year, 24,000 people will be allowed to view it this time. It will be a mix of general audience, dignitaries, government officials, children, NCC cadets, ambassadors, senior bureaucrats and politicians.

Like last time, which was the first instance in 55 years, the Republic Day celebrations may not have a foreign dignitary as chief guest. Even though India was working on getting Presidents of five Central Asian countries — Kazakhstan’s Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Uzbekistan’s Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Tajikistan’s Emomali Rahmon, Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and Kyrgyzstan’s Sadyr Japarov — as chief guests, sources said there is no confirmation yet about their attendance.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had last year opted out of attending the event as chief guest due to rising Covid-19 cases in his country at the time.

Sources said nearly 1.25 lakh people used to attend the parade before the pandemic, which was pared down to 25,000 last year; another 1,000 have been trimmed to take extra precautions. Of these, 5,200 seats are for the general audience, who can buy tickets. The remaining 19,000 or so will be invited guests, it is learnt.

Officials are still working out the protocols for vaccination demands for the audience. An official said, “We will insist on double vaccination.”

Like last year, the audience will be seated six feet apart to ensure distancing norms, and masks will be mandatory. The area will be sanitised, and sanitser dispensers are also likely to be installed close to the seating area. For all cultural participants and armed forces personnel, double vaccination has been made mandatory. All of them will also be tested for Covid-19.

As per convention, only VVIPs will be seated at the podium, which will include President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt. The Defence Ministry is expected to announce the details of the participating tableaux and marching contingents on Monday.

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