THE newly-inducted Rafale fighter aircraft was the show-stopper as India displayed its military might and vibrant cultural heritage on Rajpath on the 72nd Republic Day on Tuesday, with the ceremonial event this year being drastically scaled-down in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
India also displayed its key assets from the Army, including T-90 tanks and BrahMos missile system, BMP-II,two Pinaka multiple launch rocket system, two bridge laying tanks, electronic warfare equipment ‘Samvijay’ and one upgraded Schilka air defense weapon system, the last one being led by Captain Preeti Choudhary from 140 Air Defence Regiment (Self Propelled).
The Rafale fighter aircraft featured for the first time in the RepublicDay flypast as it carried out the ‘Vertical Charlie’ in a fitting finale. Besides, it also flew as part of the‘Eklavya’ formation with two Jaguar jets and two MiG-29 aircraft.
A total of 38IA Fair craft participated in the flypast. The ceremony began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the nation in paying homage to the martyrs by laying a wreath at the National War Memorial. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Army Chief General MM Naravane, Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria were also present on the occasion. There was no chief guest at the parade this year.
The parade, commanded by Lt GeneralVijayKumarMishra, with Major General Alok Kackeras the second-in-command, began with President Ram Nath Kovind taking the salute. The national flag was unfurled followed by the national anthem, synchronized with a 21-gun salute.
Another first at the ceremony was a 122-member marching cum-band contingent of the Bangladesh armed forces taking part in the parade. The Bangladeshi tri-services contingent was the first marching contingent to walk down the ceremonial boulevard.
Lt Col Abu Md Shahnoor Shawon of the Bangladesh army, who spearheaded the parading contingent said, “It was an honour for us to be part of this august ceremony of India, and that too in the 50th year of our Independence. And, India gave us the honour to lead the parade.” The Bangladeshi military band right behind the marching contingent played six tunes in all, including some of the iconic ones like war song‘ChalChalChal’ by poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, and ‘Shono Ekti Mujiborer’.
Known otherwise to witness huge bustling crowds across many age groups, the annual ceremonial event at Rajpath was scaled down this time in view of the coronavirus pandemic, with spectators’ size drastically cut to 25,000 from about 1.25 lakh last year.
From members of contingents to spectators, everyone wore masks, the audience maintained the mandated distance while sitting, and standing spectators were not allowed.
The marching contingents’ route was also curtailed and they stopped at the National Stadium this year instead of following the regular route all the way to the Red Fort.
The size of the marching contingents was also reduced from regular 144 to 96 so that they could maintain social distancing, a senior official said.
Due to COVID-19 safety norms, gravity-defying stunts by motor cycle borne men — a major attraction for the crowd at Republic Day celebrations on the Rajpath — were also missing this year.
Depicting the nation’s rich cultural heritage, 17 tableaux from States and Union territories, and nine from different Union ministries and paramilitary forces took part in the 72nd Republic Day celebrations.