How the Indian Army is helping in the fight against COVID-19
New Delhi, June 07: The Indian Army's Northern Command devised a four-pronged strategy, including running awareness campaigns, to support the civil administration fight the coronavirus pandemic even while delivering on its commitments on the security and law and order fronts, its chief Lt Gen Y K Joshi has said.
He said the force reached out to the distressed population in the rural, remote and mountainous areas of the union territory through hundreds of 'Covid patrols' to lend help in the fight.
The Northern Command is an operational command guarding the sensitive borders with China and Pakistan, and also countering the proxy war in J&K, he said.
The Army commander said while this was their primary focus, "we were also seized with our responsibilities to the citizens of our nation".
"Despite heavy operational commitments and the need to keep the force safe from COVID-19, the Command carved out a four-pronged strategy to support the civil administration and serve the people of the UTs of J&K and Ladakh," Lt Gen Joshi told PTI.
The four aspects of the strategy included: raising awareness about Covid-19, offering medical services to the ex-service personnel and their dependents to take the load off the civil assets, allowing the use of military medical assets for civil population, and pro-actively helping boost the capacities of the civil administration to meet the increased demand during the second wave of Covid, he said.
The Kargil war-hero said, "Special helplines for ex-servicemen were established, means and methods put into place to actively help them even in the remotest areas and each of them telephonically contacted and educated about the Covid or non-covid facility nearest from their place of residence." The Army commander said the ex-servicemen also came forward in support of the civil administration and formed volunteer groups.
The Army's medical facilities at Udhampur, Poonch, Srinagar and Leh shared the loads of civil patients, he said.
"A 250-bedded Covid care facility at Rangreth, Srinagar, a 20-bedded facility at Baramullah, and a 20-bedded facility at Uri were some efforts towards this. In fact, a 200-bedded facility was jointly established by Northern and Western Command at Muthi Damana, Jammu, and a 100 bed facility was established in Akhnoor," he said.
The GoC-in-C said that Covid awareness patrols, based on the concept of 'Khairiyat Patrols', was started to serve multiple purposes at different times.
"During normal times, they act as surveillance patrols for keeping the rural and remote areas under the watch. During disasters, they serve to mitigate the hardships due to closure of connectivity, electricity and access to health care services", he said.
These patrols took the form of Covid awareness patrols (CAP) and performed multiple tasks such as making people aware about safety measures, safe distancing and other protocols, he said.
"Depending on the nature of habitation, the patrols are often able to address a large chunk of the village, few people or even a single family at a time," he said.
"Stories of these patrols evacuating serious patients, carrying pregnant women over large distances and ensuring safe deliveries or helping specially-abled people keep surfacing in the media and social media frequently", he said.