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COVID-19: Rajnath asks armed forces to help states

Last updated on: April 20, 2021 19:30 IST

It was decided that the senior-most Army officer in a state would get in touch with the chief minister to understand the requirement and take forward the process, including offering to treat civilians wherever possible

IMAGE: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, third from left, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, right, army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane, second from right, Northern Army commander Lieutenant General Yogesh Kumar Joshi, left, with officers at a forward base in Ladakh. Photograph: @DefenceMinIndia/Twitter

As India reels under a massive spike in coronavirus cases, defence minister Rajnath Singh has asked the Army to extend assistance to state administrations to deal with the pandemic, including by offering help in creation of additional capacities to treat COVID-19 patients.

Sources in the security establishment said following Singh's communication to Army Chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane, it was decided that the Army would consider offering treatment to civilians at its medical facilities, wherever possible, besides extending other assistance to civil administrations.

Earlier on Monday, the defence minister had asked defence public sector undertakings, DRDO and Ordnance Factory Board to work on a war footing to provide oxygen cylinders and extra beds to state governments at the earliest to help them in dealing with the surging cases of COVID 19.

At a virtual meeting with the top defence brass, Singh also granted emergency financial powers to three armed forces and other defence agencies for procurement of medical equipment and for creation of additional capacities in view of the pandemic, officials said.

The meeting was attended by defence secretary Ajay Kumar, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Army Staff Gen M M Naravane, Director General Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) Surgeon Vice Admiral Rajat Datta and DRDO Chairman G Satheesh Reddy.

Singh has conveyed to Gen Naravane that the Army units in various states can get in touch with state administrations to understand their requirement like creation of additional capacities to deal with increasing volume of patients.

Subsequently, it was decided that the senior-most Army officer in a state would get in touch with the chief minister to understand the requirement and take forward the process, including offering to treat civilians wherever possible, they said.

The sources said the defence minister has been in touch with the top brass of his ministry and the three forces on how the civilian administration across the country could be assisted in battling the coronavirus situation.

The sources said it was also communicated to the leadership of the Indian Air Force and the Navy to gear up their preparedness in dealing with the situation.

Separately, defence secretary Ajay Kumar reviewed the possible areas where the armed forces could extend assistance to the civilian authorities.

Following his review, the defence ministry instructed 67 hospitals run by Cantonment Boards across the country to ensure medical services to cantonment residents as well as those from outside.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has already been told to extend all possible assistance it can extend to civil administrations across the country.

The DRDO has already reopened a medical facility near the Delhi airport for treatment of COVID-19 patients. The facility has been made operational with 250 beds and their number is being increased to 1,000.

Officials said the DRDO has already shared with private industry its oxygen generation technology which was developed for use on board Light Combat Aircraft Tejas.

They also said work is going on to set up a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow, 750-bed hospital in Varanasi and 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad.

India has witnessed a massive spike in coronavirus infections as the country recorded over two lakh cases daily in the last five days.

In view of the rapid surge in infections, India is facing an acute shortage of hospital beds, oxygen, essential drugs.

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