Fighting Corona: Indian Army ready for challenge
by Jaibans Singh on 27 Mar 2020 3 Comments

The response of the Indian Government to Corona Virus is creditable. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi the Government is not hesitating from taking necessary decisions, however difficult and unpopular they may be. Chief Ministers are responding with great commitment; even the Police and administration are working with a sense of purpose. It is being hoped against hope that these efforts will bear fruit, at least to the extent where the damage remains manageable. There is a realisation that this might not happen, that despite efforts, the virus may spread to community levels; hence the need to prepare for the worst case scenario. 


In such a scenario, all eyes will once again be directed towards the Armed Forces that have traditionally been the last bastion in all natural disasters and emergencies, and have stood up to the challenge commendably in all instances. The present scenario is grim enough to cause considerable alarm and anxiety to the forces too; hence they are preparing with a grim sense of purpose and on war footing for the times ahead.


The Indian army, in view of his numerical strength, infrastructure and wherewithal will be steering the campaign with sterling support from the Air Force and Navy. The all important segment will be the Armed Forces Medical Corps which are a Tri-service entity. In this preparation stage, the Indian Army is working on three prongs. The first is to maintain the health of the soldiers themselves so that they are fit to take on all tasks; the second is to remain prepared to aid the civil authority in whatever manner required, from dealing with medical emergency to maintaining law and order; the last is to remain prepared for the primary task of keeping the nation safe from inimical designs.


Tremendous efforts are being put in from unit to the Headquarter level to ensure success of the first prong which is by far the most critical. Military medical experts have devised Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which have been disseminated to the grassroots level for strict implementation. Screening, quarantine and isolation mechanisms have been put in place; personnel coming from leave are quarantined for 14 days with immediate isolation of symptomatic cases.


The Northern Command that has an enhanced role to play in all three prongs has issued an exhaustive “Best Practice” directive. It caters for multiple-level screening from the Transit Camps to the Formation/Station level for all personnel returning to duty from leave etc. This process culminates only after segregation on day-wise basis for 14 days after arrival to unit.  To trace contact history All Ranks are instructed to carry a notebook and record details of all such persons with whom they come in contact. Screening by Regiment Medical Officers during Physical Training and Roll Call parades is being carried out. Door-to-door screening of all family quarters by medical teams is underway.


Round-the-clock control room for COVID-19 related activities have been established in all units. These are linked with Corona Virus control centres in Headquarters. The control centre monitors movement of all personnel. The army has doctors who are experts in public health activities, with immense experience in implementation of National Health programs in the Armed Forces and in containing diseases like Malaria, TB, HIV and Viral Hepatitis. They have been tasked with the formulation, planning and implementation of preventive activities against the Corona Virus outbreak within the army and in the J&K and Ladakh sectors.


Boots on ground capacity is being enhanced by creation of Ad-hoc medical platoons of Group -D (Combat soldiers) personnel with basic training being imparted. Personnel on leave are being contacted telephonically for coordination of their move and other instructions from the unit. SOP for lockdown is in place and being practiced over a few days. Corona Virus protocols in presentation form have been issued down the command chain. Commanding officers are creating awareness during Sainik Sammelans to encourage self-reporting of health status. In case there is a confirmed case, extensive disinfection of living areas is to be resorted to.


Formations across the country are preparing for aid to civil authority should the need arise. Liaison with civil authorities is being carried out to remain well informed about the situation. The operations rooms of all units and formations have a war-like atmosphere with war-gaming and planning underway round-the-clock. Every possible contingency is being considered and response being fine-tuned. Preparation for crisis expansion, law and order and administrative issues, including provision of tented accommodation, flag marches and securing of facilities is underway. Helpline telephone numbers for all, especially veterans, are already in place and widely circulated, especially in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The Armed Forces, should the need arise, will be in a position to provide massive medical and logistics facilities across the country.


Since COVID-19 is a global phenomenon, it is widely believed that all countries will shed animosity to meet the challenge. Such a thought, unfortunately, cannot be harboured with regard to our neighbour, Pakistan. Despite being in the depths of despair, the country continues to look for options to harm India. Hence, ceasefire violations, infiltration attempts and terrorist activity in the hinterland of Kashmir is underway and will remain so. It will probably accentuate with the intention of putting more pressure on Indian forces. An attempt to infiltrate Corona-infected terrorists into India is not beyond the imagination of the evil terrorism planners in Pakistan. The army, especially the Theatre commands deployed on the Indo-Pakistan borders, is ready for all eventualities, Corona or no Corona.


Citizens need to remain assured that the Indian Army on which they have maximum faith is fully poised to come to their assistance in whatever manner required and will not allow the situation to get out of control. People can help by adhering to the same discipline and resolve as the army to overcome this challenge. If this is done, then together the people, the leadership and the Indian Army will emerge victorious and stronger than before.


(Jaibans Singh is a reputed columnist, author and commentator)

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