New Delhi: The armed forces are ready to operate beyond the stated mandate and assist the nation in the fight against coronavirus, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat has said, adding that this would not affect their operational capability.
His remarks in an interview to ThePrint come at a time when the government is increasingly utilising the resources and expertise of the Army, Air Force and the Navy to fight the coronavirus outbreak that has led to a nationwide lockdown of 21 days.
“We would like to emphasise that our main objective now is nation first – ‘Har Kaam Desh ke Naam‘,” he told ThePrint.
Gen Rawat further said the armed forces are mandated to provide assistance to civil authorities whenever requisitioned. “But we have decided to operate beyond our mandate and provide all kinds of assistance that we can provide, even if it causes inconvenience to our people, without compromising on health and hygiene issues,” he said.
The CDS, who is spearheading the military’s response to the challenges posed due to coronavirus, said the armed forces are in constant liaison with civil administration so that if there is additional requirement of assistance, they are able to respond effectively.
Asked specifically if the military should be deployed more in the war against coronavirus, he said, “Armed Forces are ready to operate beyond the stated mandate and assist the nation in the fight against coronavirus”.
Services strictly adhering to guidelines
Gen Rawat also said that the Services are strictly adhering to all instructions and guidelines being disseminated by the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Health and its own medical authorities.
“Viruses do not distinguish a person in uniform from others, however, our personnel follow a disciplined regime and hence are less likely to be affected,” he said.
He said the Services have taken various measures like curtailing movement by cancellation of courses of instructions, restrictions on leave, work from home wherever feasible, social distancing and ensuring proper health and hygiene of all personnel and families.
This will help in preventing the spread of the virus.
Asked if the virus has impacted operational preparedness, he said the Service Chiefs are aware of their roles and tasks in maintaining operational preparedness at all times.
“This is their primary responsibility,” he said.
Medical infrastructure to be augmented
Gen Rawat also said necessary instructions have been communicated to augment medical facilities and infrastructure including increasing the capacity for surveillance and isolation facilities at military hospitals.
“Services hospitals have been kept on standby for establishing Covid-19 hospitals in high infection identified areas. Responsive and agile Quick Reaction Medical Teams (QRMTs) are ready to mobilise at short notice to meet the requirements of civil administration.
“Also, services of military hospitals and laboratories are extended to assist civil administration on requisition,” he said.
The CDS underlined that there is excellent synergy between all organs of the government and the three services are geared to deal with any challenge arising out of the current Covid-19 situation.
“It is important to follow guidelines that will prevent the spread of the virus amongst our citizens. Mass movement of people from areas that are witnessing higher numbers of infected people, to the lesser affected regions, will only compound the problem,” he said.
He added that under such conditions, one must appreciate that it is not business as usual.
“Everyone has to be prepared for some inconvenience that is caused due to imposed restrictions, for our safety and well being,” he said.