Despite the numerous constraints and challenges in handling the COVID pandemic, the synergy seen among the three Armed Forces in India is unprecedented, according to General Bipin Rawat. “Such synergy among the three Armed Forces has never been seen before,” India Today quoted him as saying in an exclusive interview.
While handling the pandemic within the borders, the Armed Forces are also being vigilant on the borders, said the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). The Army, Navy and Airforce, along with other wings of the Defence Ministry, are deploying every available resource to battle the pandemic, said Rawat.
Late in April, Rawat had called on the forces to rise to the occasion, supporting the civil administration in developing COVID mitigation facilities quickly. Further, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had authorised Armed Forces Medical Service (AFMS) officers to exercise emergency financial powers. This was meant to boost their ability to provide medical services to military personnel as well as civil administration to combat COVID.
Currently, the worst-hit nation by the second wave of COVID, India has seen over 2.3 crore cases till date, leading to nearly 2.5 lakh deaths, per an official estimate. The unrecorded cases and deaths are suspected to far outnumber these.
As the Centre, states and union territories struggle to cope with the sharp spike in cases and fatalities, the three services have been pitching in with assistance in various forms.
Hammered by the caseload, the healthcare system has been facing an acute shortage of ICU beds, oxygen supply, ventilators and other lifesaving devices and drugs. International assistance has been pouring in, and the Air Force has been playing a key role in the logistics.
Speaking to India Today, Rawat said the mobilisation of the armed forces enabled the transport of oxygen to regions that do not have indigenous oxygen manufacturing facilities. He did rue that the armed forces do not themselves generate oxygen. “Even for our own hospitals, we bank on agencies to provide us with oxygen,” he pointed out.
Line of coordination
The synergies between the armed forces have yielded excellent results, said Rawat. “We are utilising all resources to help India overcome the overwhelming situation,” he added. “The line of coordination is well-defined and we all work together to maximum utilisation of our resources.”
Apart from helping with logistics, the Armed Forces have also developed new hospital infrastructure and other resources. “The kind of positivity that is being generated…we are walking that extra mile to ensure that we move forward and work together. The Air Force, without even getting directions, is supporting the Army in moving equipment and forces. We were able to send additional troops to Ladakh. It happened because of coordination. The directions came from the top leadership of the three services,” he observed.
While the forces help citizens cope with the pandemic, its own men and women are being cared for, too. The personnel posted along the borders are tested and quarantined rigorously ahead of deployment, said Rawat. “We can’t let our guard down to make sure COVID doesn’t spread among the personnel deployed on the frontline,” he told India Today.