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The Indian Armed Forces have played an instrumental role in combating the spread of the lethal Corona virus. The civil authorities can call upon the defence forces to render aid; this falls under the Armed Forces, 1970; Regulations for the Army, Chapter VII, Paragraphs 301 to 327; and Manual of Indian Military Law, Chapter VII.
The crisis at hand has once again highlighted that the role that the armed forces have to play in nation-building is not just limited to countering external aggression. It also involves a wide range of roles varying from disaster relief to increasing connectivity in remote parts of the nation. This article discusses the efforts of all the three services, The Indian Army, Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force.
The Indian Army has played an enormous role in countering the threat of Covid-19 by ensuring the construction of quarantine facilities, providing medical assistance (including doctors and supplies) in remote areas of the country. The Army launched ‘Op Namaste’ on 27th March 2020 to signal the beginning of its fight against Covid-19.
They established nine quarantine facilities across the country which are staffed by doctors from the Army Medical Corps. The Army has also sent doctors to remote areas of the country and even to friendly foreign nations. They also conducted awareness drives, especially in areas with a minimal presence of civil authorities. The A.M.C personnel do not shy away from treating people with different ailments even during the global pandemic and truly live up to their motto 'SARVE SANTU NIRAMAYA’ which means ‘may all be free from illness’.
The Indian Army's Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers have created a remote-controlled trolley utilized by healthcare workers to deliver essential items to frontline healthcare staff and has the necessary attachments which include a dustbin, a washbasin, etc. The Indian Army has put in place strict drills to stop corona virus from getting into its bases, such as a change in langar timings and restricted entry for civilians and veterans. For the soldiers coming back from leave, temporary duties or courses, there are separate quarantine barracks with beds and other necessary facilities at the battalion level. The returning personnel will have to undergo a two-layered medical screening at field areas — first at transit and then at the units — after which they will spend two weeks in the quarantine barracks. Every barrack will have about 15 to 25 people.
Left: (Thermal screening of members of the Army. Source: The Wire)
Right: (The remote-controlled vehicle created by the Indian Army’s Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) of Indian Army. Source: Indian Army/Twitter)
The Navy under ‘Operation Samudra Setu' repatriated Indian nationals, built quarantine facilities for them and also treated those citizens who were corona positive. The operation began on 5th March 2020, and more than 3000 Indian nationals have repatriated. The Indian Navy under Mission Sagar has also rendered aid to foreign countries to combat Covid-19, and deployed I.N.S. Kesari with a 14-member Naval medical assistance to Mauritius and Comoros for 20 days. It made port calls at Male (Maldives), Port Louis (Mauritius), Antsiranana (Madagascar), Moroni (Comoro Islands), and Port Victoria (Seychelles), for delivering 580 tonne of food aid and essential medical stores of the local authorities.
The Navy has also created various technological innovations such as sanitizing units, low-cost temperature guns, portable multi-feed oxygen manifolds and personnel protective equipment. The Portable Multifeed Oxygen Manifold would enable one oxygen bottle to supply six patients concurrently, thus enabling critical care management to a larger number of Covid-19 patients with limited resources. The different naval bases spread throughout the country helped district administrations by providing rations, equipment and workforce. Training of battlefield nursing assistants was also imparted by the Navy to non-medical naval personnel to act as force multipliers. They were taught basic hand hygiene, donning and doffing of P.P.E. kits, etc. The citizens who had been repatriated were provided with amenities in their quarantine centres like currency exchange, new sim cards, wifi and telephone facilities. The Navy has reduced civilians in its dockyards, kept minimal staff at offices and restricted entry of guests and domestic help in its residential quarters to protect its personnel and their families.
Left: (Operation Samudra Setu: INS Kesari at Port Louis (Mauritius) delivering the second consignment of essential medical supplies. Source: The Financial Express)
Right: (Portable Multifeed Oxygen Manifold designed and manufactured by the Indian Navy. Source: The Indian Navy)
Indian Air Force
The Indian Air Force has mobilized its Transport and Rotary Wing aircraft along with the support infrastructure to maintain ‘air-bridges’ between various places across the country. I.A.F. undertook transportation of medical supplies including P.P.E. kits, ventilators and related equipment along with the movement by air of medical personnel. I.A.F. has airlifted material to locations in 16 States and Union Territories. The requirement of transporting samples for testing from Ladakh continues to be undertaken by I.A.F. They have also airlifted Covid support material for DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization) and ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research). Till date, I.A.F. has transported more than 600 Tonnes of medical equipment and support materials.
I.A.F. airlifted 6.2 tonnes of essential medicines and hospital consumables onboard C-130 aircraft from India to Male (Maldives) as a part of Operation Sanjeevani on 2nd April 2020. The Maldives faced a shortage of medical supplies as its connectivity with India which is its primary source of medical supplies broke after Covid-19 lockdown. The I.A.F. has created nine quarantine facilities of 200-300 personnel capacity each, at nodal I.A.F. bases across the country. Command Hospital Air Force Bangalore (CHAFB) has been designated as the first laboratory in the I.A.F. to undertake Covid-19 testing. To monitor the prevailing situation and provide immediate response and assistance as required, a 24x7 crisis management cell is there at multiple locations.
3 Base Repair Depot (BRD) of the Indian Air Force has designed and manufactured Airborne Rescue Pod for Isolated Transportation (ARPIT), to evacuate critical patients with infectious diseases, such as Covid-19, from high-altitude areas or isolated and remote places. Information about COVID-19 along with the regular guidelines issued by the Government of India is made available to all I.A.F. bases. Strict sanitization and social distancing measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of the novel corona virus in I.A.F. bases.
Left: (Operation Sanjeevani: The C-130 aircraft in Male with the consignment of essential medicines and hospital consumables. Source: The Print)
Right: (The Indian Air Force inducts Airborne Rescue Pod for Isolated Transportation (ARPIT). Source: PIB)
Particular efforts have been undertaken collectively by all three services such as mobilization of N.C.C. cadets for maintaining order, increasing awareness and providing assistance. Increasing awareness on multiple social media platforms is also a tri-service effort. The COVID pandemic has, once again, highlighted how India’s Armed Forces have always risen to the country’s call for help and have served bravely in the face of any adversity- war, a natural disaster and even a global pandemic.
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