India will celebrate its 72nd Republic Day on January 26, exactly a month after from today. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Republic Day celebrations at the historic Rajpath in the national capital may not be on the same scale. Besides creating "bio-bubble" for the participants of the parade, discussions are underway to even cut short the timing of the parade.
Bio-bubble is being created after reports of over 150 troops who travelled to Delhi to take part in the RD Parade testing positive for COVID-19. The affected soldiers have been quarantined at Delhi Cantonment.
The Ministry of Defence, the organiser of the parade, is working out the modalities for the parade as well as for the Beating Retreat ceremony, and to conduct them with limited attendance.
"Certainly, this year parade will not be at the same scale. Keeping Covid protocol in mind, several measures are being taken to organise the event. Though a final decision on this is yet to be taken, it will be on the lines of the last Independence Day celebrations with minimum attendance," an MoD official, privy to the development, said.
"Performance of cultural artists and school kids will be there but the number of participants (group) will be reduced," an officer said. He, however, added that since the presence of school kids will be risky, a decision to avoid them is also likely.
However, participation of marching contingents from armed forces and tableaus is expected to remain same. Uttar Pradesh will showcase the upcoming Ram temple in Ayodhya as well as the culture, tradition and art related to the temple town in its tableaux. Normally, time duration of the parade is close to 100 minutes and it ends with the flypast by Indian Air Force jets.
"We are trying to create a bio-bubble for the safety of all the marching contingents and other participants to prevent the spread of virus," an official added. He also said the timing of the parade may be cut short but the final decision in this regard is yet to be taken.
Amid reports of a rapidly-spreading mutated version of the coronavirus in the UK, New Delhi has so far maintained that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be attending the Republic Day parade as the chief guest.
But the MoD officials claim that a final decision will be taken by both sides only after December 31.
"I am sure both sides are pondering over the arrival of the British prime minister at the event as the UK has imposed the highest form of restriction (Tier 4) to contain the spread of virus and the measures will be reviewed on December 30. Before end of this year, it is difficult to predict anything on British PM's arrival at the event," another MoD official said.
With travel restrictions in Britain, it will be difficult for the advanced liaisoning team from Britain to come to India to review the arrangements for the British prime minister.
In order to restrict the presence of visitors of the parade on Rajpath, the sale of tickets is expected to be made only through online.