While the Armed Forces have responded with speed and efficiency to the on-going pandemic, the Chief of Army Staff has assured the nation that this will in no way affect their core duty of protecting the nation from external aggression and defending our borders. In a laudable move, our men in uniform have decided to contribute one day’s salary to PM-CARES Fund amounting to about INR 500 crores.
Indian army evacuates stranded citizens
The very first tasks assigned to the Armed Forces were two missions to evacuate Indians stranded in foreign lands which had become hotspots for COVID-19. 112 Indian citizens and citizens of friendly foreign countries were flown back from Wuhan on 27 Feb 2020 in a C-17 Globemaster and 58 Indians were evacuated from Tehran on 10th March 2020. Indians evacuated from Iran have been hosted in an Army Wellness Facility at Jodhpur under ‘Operation Namaste’. These centres provide holistic facilities for medical treatment, as also their physical and mental wellbeing.
AFMS at nation’s disposal
The Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) is the backbone of the Armed Forces response to the pandemic. More than 8,500 doctors, 50,000 paramedical personnel and the vast infrastructure of the AFMS have been placed at the disposal of the nation. Twenty-eight service hospitals have been earmarked purely for coronavirus cases, according to Lt Gen Anup Banerji, Director General Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS), who chaired a meeting with medical chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Twenty-five thousand cadets of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) are being mobilised to assist the civil administration in traffic management, supply chain management, sensitization of the public about social distancing and other essential measures.
The armed forces have taken a raft of preventive measures to stop the spread of coronavirus within their ranks. These include cancellation of all non-essential training, conferences and travel; a freeze on postings and foreign assignments; avoiding any assembly that involves more than 50 personnel; postponing of all courses for officers; and encouraging personnel to work from home wherever possible.
Indian army gets innovative
After setting up massive quarantine facilities at several places to counter COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian Army has now done multiple innovations to support the medical fraternity. The Army Base Workshop has experimented with using drones, normally used by the military for surveillance operations, to combat the global virus.
An Army official told The Week that owing to the spread of coronavirus, it is imperative to avoid physical contact with each other. Current thermometers in service, both mercury-based and digital, require physical contact with the patient thereby increasing the risk of spread of this contagious disease.
In order to avoid this, a non-contact infrared smart thermometer has been designed as a technology demonstrator. It has an infrared proximity sensor which detects the body without contacting it. The detected temperature by the sensor will be displayed on the LCD screen. Its developers say that this device avoids physical contact with the virus-affected person and also restricts access control at sensitive areas. It is economical and user-friendly with cost around Rs 1,800. It has been validated by the Military Hospital in Agra.
Other innovations include an anti-aerosolisation chamber used in disinfecting medical personnel, a 3D-printed surgical mask, and an ultraviolet light sanitizer. These could all turn out to be important contributions by the Indian Army towards the nation’s fight against the global pandemic.
Support to neighbouring countries
The Indian Army is readying separate teams to be deployed in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan to help those countries boost capabilities to deal with rising cases of coronavirus, reports PTI. A 14-member Indian Army team was sent to Maldives last month to help the island nation set up coronavirus testing laboratories and train local medical professionals to fight the pandemic.
Earlier this month, India dispatched a 15-member team of Army to Kuwait as part of bilateral cooperation between the two countries. The sources said the teams for Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan are being readied as part of India’s policy of extending helping hand to all friendly countries in the region to fight the pandemic.
Policemen witness surge in cases
India’s police force is often criticised for its high-handedness and bribery. It generates little trust in the eyes of the common people. However, the coronavirus crisis and the subsequent lockdown have brought out a less seen, compassionate side of them. Cops remain vulnerably exposed to rising Covid-19 infections and here’s why. They are guarding containment zones, enforcing the lockdown and some 20,000 home quarantines, besides handling thousands of migrants hitting roads in their attempts to go home. Cops are also carrying out high-risk evacuations in coronavirus clusters like Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi.
So far, four policemen have lost their lives to Covid-19 (one in Ludhiana two in Ujjain and another in Indore), more than 100 others have caught the infection (49 in Maharashtra, 22 in Delhi, 24 in Gujarat, 59 in Madhya Pradesh, two in Uttar Pradesh), while others show symptoms (over 100 in UP). In many cases, personnel say they often go on duty without adequate protective gear even though they share an equal risk of contracting the virus as any other healthcare worker.
The central government had announced a Rs 50-lakh insurance cover for healthcare and municipal workers who may contract the coronavirus while on duty. However, no such scheme has been announced for the police working 24×7 ensuring the lockdown. This has prompted retired Indian Police Service officers to write to the Centre, asking for an insurance scheme that specifically caters to the police. The Ministry of Home Affairs, however, said since law and order is a state subject, (except in Delhi), it is up to the states concerned to make sufficient arrangements, including insurance schemes for personnel.