It is high time for India to realize that military deployment is the way to strengthen and increase our chances to win against our unseen enemy.

The war against COVID-19 is not an ordinary one. The enemy remains invisible and countries are unequipped to fight against it. The rapid spread of coronavirus would only make our efforts to fight against it ineffective. The social distancing policy that has been widely accepted by most countries has proved to be the only effective way to stop the outbreak of this deadly pandemic. It is the only way to guard ourselves from the unforeseeable enemy.

Armed Forces can support Health-care workers and Police Forces

The selfless service of health-care workers, police force and workers at the hospital, who are being hailed as our heroes, are working selflessly to save many who have met with such misfortune. Without proper cure to COVID-19, the lives of those who are attacked by the virus remains uncertain. This has possessed threat to humanity and calls for alarming attention towards this deadly pandemic.

The emergence of COVID-19 is now a global epidemic and has called upon the army’s role in this situation. Duty of every army personnel is to protect the country from attack and combat full scale war, though this particular war calls for a different approach.

Countries like the US, Italy, China and Spain that have been massively affected by the outbreak have realised that the outbreak might get out of control if there are not enough trained professionals to assist. The army men have been deployed and this action is likely to increase.

In India, the army has been setting up quarantine centres throughout the country for evacuees from abroad. The Indian Army names anti- COVID-19 operations as ‘Operation Namaste’. The Indian Air Force has collaborated with Air India to bring Indians back that are stuck abroad. Recently, the army has been assigned to take tests of suspicious COVID-19 patients. Armed Forces Medical Services is the backbone for India’s defense against this urgent medical crisis. It has helped to establish and create quarantine facilities with over 7000 specialists and super specialists, and over 130 hospitals all over India. The expertise and treatment facility that is provided by the military hospitals is incomparable to anywhere in India.

Security personnel from the military during the lockdown for the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic

Other countries have realised the importance of deployment to fight against coronavirus pandemic

Palestinian soldiers sharing hand sanitizer

Israel has reported almost 3000 cases and has deployed their army forces to assist police in street patrol.

In Britain, 20,000 troops are being held on standby as the pandemic continues to spread across Europe.

The Russian Military are fighting against coronavirus pandemic with total units of 1,000 servicemen and 200 pieces of advanced equipment overall. They are also using drones to rehearse quarantine measures.

South Korea, set up an extensive protocol in just a few weeks and tested more than 200,000 people.

Australia has also taken up steps to enforce quarantine for citizens returning home and deployed army forces to ensure that self isolation measures are complied.

Lessons from the past: How India braved Influenza pandemic in 1918

Historically in India, towards the end in June, 1918, a novel influenza virus hit Bombay and by mid-July 1918, the emergence of unknown illness was noticed, across Madras and Allahabad. In October, three months right after the cases were observed, the health care centres were incompetent and people were requested to follow self-help measures. The 1918 experience was India’s last major epidemic before COVID-19.

Even though medical support is seeked from the army, it is still not enough and the need of hour is to deploy these army men and utilise their skills to fight this war against the COVID-19. The areas in which skills of army personnels can be utilised :

Maintain law and order during and after the lockdown to control the spread of the virus

After the 21-day lockdown announced by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the police have been bestowed with an important duty to ensure that the self isolation policy is maintained.

The government should make sure that sufficient military men are deployed for maintenance of lockdown if the need arises. This would eventually reduce the burden on doctors and health care workers as the COVID-19 patients would drastically reduce in a short time. The military can be mobilized to play a central role in holding patients exposed to the Covid-19 virus.

Indian Army on the streets for law enforcement

Medical Assistance to epicenters of coronavirus outbreak in India

One of the greatest assets of Indian army is the team of specialists and trained assistants. The medics are required to be deployed to virus hit areas before the outbreak gets out of control.

The Indian military has hospitals and clinics all over India. They have all the necessary infrastructure and efficient facilities that were required for treating soldiers and veterans. It is expected that the government makes the deployment to the fullest in this war against the coronavirus. In India there are no state run medical centres like Armed Force Medical Services (AFMS). The skills, expertise and its size is unparalleled match to any of the medical services in India and with the help of assistance from military personnel, the health-care sector would get a lot of support.

On Wednesday, the first day of 21 days lockdown, a military facility in Jodhpur received 277 evacuees from Iran. The military has already provided shelter for 1200 patients in Manesar, Hundan, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. This is a very crucial responsibility as it is the only way to reduce the outbreak and nullify it. Assistance of army personnels in ensuring that the order of the policy is obeyed by the citizens is utmost important. The need right now is to ensure strict security across the nation so avoid any ‘leaks’ in this time of pandemic.

The Indian Navy has also built quarantine shelters in Visakhapatnam, which is maintained by nearly 200 personnels from the crew, along with isolation wards in Indian Navy Hospital Ship in Mumbai. In Kochi, the naval base is coordinating and working with Kerala health officials and plans are laid down to utilize resorts and farmhouses to provide shelter to COVIS-19 affected patients.

A hospital ward

Providing Manpower for National Security and Law Enforcement

India’s police force is taking all the effective steps to ensure that the lockdown is maintained as per the order of the government for national security of the citizens. But the number of trained officers is limited as against the population of India. Also, adequate security and maintenance is required in rural areas where resources are very limited.

In such circumstances, it is the duty of the government to ensure maximum deployment of military forces to ensure effective lockdown which is often the last resort to maintain law and order when the available police officials are insufficient during the time of crisis.

Indian army soldiers carrying a patient

Bring the Armed Forces into the battlefield now before its too late

As the coronavirus cases are hiking up, the need for urgent tests and treatments is required in large scale all over the country within a limited time period. To fulfill such a requirement, the Modi government should make sure that the Indian military is on standby and ready to assist civil administration and health care clinics in dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19.

The military force would create a system to recall by which they can request assistance from retired personnels in the last two years. Also, the services of volunteers would be coordinated with the plans of military command.

The increase in resources and manpower is of utmost importance, almost overnight because even a day of negligence and delay would cost us a threat to life as the number of cases surfacing are increasing rapidly every single day. The time of outbreak of coronavirus pandemic is very crucial and would decide the fate of our nation as India is currently at stage 3 of the crisis and calls for immediate action. It is important to identify cases as quickly as possible. The impact of Coronavirus can be observed in Italy and the US, it is high time for India to get prepared to avoid being the next victim.

Even a pandemic can be easily defeated if there is unity and willpower, by understanding ground realities and connecting the efforts of stakeholders. The fight for sustainability is also quite similar.

Earth5R’s Global Sustainability Hub is a cross-sector and cross-country collaboration in pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is an excellent opportunity for governments and the private sector to engage with communities, use Sustainability-based models to drive economic changes and create social and environmental impact. The project brings experts and experiences of multiple sectors together which drives collective learning. Under this project, we work with policymakers, scientists, entrepreneurs and various other types of leaders and take them to grass root levels to understand ground realities for better decisions, policy-making, and innovations.

Written by- Anu Chaudhary, Earth5R

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