Thousands of people braved a morning chill yesterday on a ceremonial boulevard in India’s capital to watch a display of the nation’s military power and cultural diversity, but the colorful annual Republic Day spectacle was curtailed amid COVID-19.
Nearly 500 schoolchildren, folk dancers, police and military battalions, floats and stunt performers on motorbikes paraded from the presidential palace down the refurbished tree-lined boulevard of Rajpath.
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind received salutes from the marching columns, which included a camel-mounted regiment with its mustachioed riders led by shiny brass bands with tubas. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ministers and foreign envoys applauded the performers.
The 90-minute parade ended with a flypast featuring 75 air force fighters, including Rafale jets, transport planes and helicopters.
Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country’s constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. India won independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
The parade started half an hour late to ensure better visibility for participants and of the flypast. Authorities also shortened the parade route, which normally culminates at the 17th century Red Fort after marching through various districts.
The number of people watching the parade was limited and included only fully vaccinated adults and children over 15 who have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. All spectators were required to wear masks and observe social distance.
Cases of infections from the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 have begun declining in big cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, and authorities are now focused on curbing infections in smaller cities, towns and villages.
The Indian Ministry of Health yesterday reported 285,000 new cases, including the Delta and Omicron variants, and 665 deaths across the country in the past 24 hours, with a test positivity rate of 16.16 percent.
India’s government also announced civilian awards in art, trade, literature, science, social work and other fields. Satya Nadella and Sundararajan Pichai, the Indian-born CEOs of Microsoft and Google respectively were among those honored.
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