Armed forces spearhead India’s Covid battle


At a time when millions have been literally gasping for breath, the armed forces have fanned out far beyond India’s borders on a HADR mission that has no precedence, reports Ateet Sharma

The Indian armed forces earned international accolades when they reached to people in distress from Indonesia to Sri Lanka during the infamous Asian Tsunami of 2004.

As an undersea earthquake triggered mammoth waves that devastated long stretches of the Indian Ocean coastline, Indian warships rose to the occasion providing HADR to people well beyond India’s maritime borders.

But the second wave of Covid-19 have by a wide margin, dwarfed the HADR demands of the Asian Tsunami. At a time when millions have been literally gasping for breath, the armed forces have fanned out far beyond India’s borders on a HADR mission that has no precedence.

Right at this moment, containers filled with Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) are being loaded on to Indian Navy’s INS Jalashwa�the navy’s massive tanker, in Brunei. INS Shardul has entered Kuwait today. Simultaneously, and with clockwork precision, Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft are ferrying home life-saving oxygen from several corners of the globe.

Till early hours of Wednesday, IAF planes had conducted 98 sorties from different countries, airlifting 95 containers of 793 Metric Tonnes (MT) capacity and other hardware of 204 MT capacity. This equipment has been ferreted from Singapore, Dubai, Thailand, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Indonesia, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Israel and France.

The IAF has also airlifted 403 oxygen containers of 6,856 MT capacity along with other equipment of 163 MT capacity, in 634 sorties from different parts of the country. The cities covered are Jamnagar, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Panagarh, Indore, Ranchi, Agra, Jodhpur, Begumpet, Bhubaneshwar, Pune, Surat, Raipur, Udaipur, Mumbai, Lucknow, Nagpur, Gwalior, Vijayawada, Baroda, Dimapur and Hindan.

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As part of operation Samudra Setu II, seven Indian Naval ships have returned home with 260 MT of LMO from 13 containers for direct supply to various states, eight oxygen containers of total capacity 160 MT, approximately 2,600 oxygen filled cylinders and 3,150 empty cylinders for oxygen from the Gulf and Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, heavy load carriers TATRA vehicles and military grade railway bogies of the Indian Army are moving heavy machinery, oxygen generators and cryogenic tankers to ensure their timely delivery.

The hospitals set up by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at New Delhi, Patna, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and some other places that are scheduled to come up, such as that in Varanasi, are all being manned by more than 500 armed forces doctors and nurses. A large number of Battle Field Nursing Assistants (BFNAs), soldiers/sailors/airmen, who are trained in basic medical care, have also been deployed to assist the trained workforce.

The paramilitary forces and home-grown voluntary organisations have also not been far behind this mammoth relief effort. For instance, in the national capital, the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) has teamed up with the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Policy (ITBP) to care for the Covid infected. The two organisations are working together at the sprawling Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Covid Care Centre (SPCCC) at Chhawla in western Delhi.

“On a daily basis 250 volunteers are preparing four meals a day � from Karra early in the morning, to breakfast, lunch, the evening tea and dinner � for every soul inside the Covid care centre,” said an office-bearer of the RSSB in Chhatarpur, in the capital, as quoted by Hindustan Times.

A new and a typically Indian hybrid model of HADR where the men and women in uniform are enmeshing with social organisation, imbued in the inclusive spirit of “seva” or service without strings, is rising to the occasion to defeat a deadly disease.

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