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Armed forces procure oxygen, medical supplies as Covid cases go up in rural areas

The armed forces have identified states and regions which need more help, based on existing capacities and number of cases, and are also preparing for a possible third wave.

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New Delhi: The Indian armed forces are procuring a large number of oxygen concentrators, generators, cylinders and medical supplies from both India and abroad, as it focuses on serving key regions, especially rural areas, which lack adequate civil health infrastructure to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, while also preparing for a possible third wave, ThePrint has learnt.

For this, the forces are using the emergency financial powers extended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to not just the senior military medical officers, but also to formation commanders.

“The armed forces are doing everything possible to aid the civil administration. While the focus [so far] has been on major cities, the corona spread is increasing. We are taking this into consideration and building up capacity, not just to deal with the current crisis, but also preparing for vulnerable areas and any next wave,” a source told ThePrint.

The source said the armed forces have identified certain states and regions which need more help than others, based on existing capacities and growing cases.

Sources said that all Commands of the Army, Navy and the Air Force are active and providing the civil administration with infrastructure, including field hospitals, wherever needed, for which they are utilising their war time contingencies.

In the Northern Command for example, the army and the government have jointly activated Covid facilities, anticipating the continuance of the pandemic.

This includes a 250-bed facility in Srinagar, a 200-bed facility in Damana, near Jammu, and 20 beds each at Uri and Baramulla.

Also read: Why the world needs to help Modi govt figure out the risk from Covid variant B.1.617

Using war time contingencies in calibrated manner

Such has been the demand for support that the Army is also utilising its war time contingencies in a calibrated manner to aid the civil administration across the country, after carrying out risk assessment. The war time contingencies include the setting up of field hospitals.

The sources added that the forces are procuring essential items, especially oxygen concentrators that can be deployed quickly in rural areas or tough-terrain regions.
Sources said that even foreign equipment, as needed, is being sourced through domestic vendors.

The financial powers extended to the formation commanders to establish and operate quarantine facilities/hospitals and undertake procurement and repair of equipment and stores, besides provisioning of various services and works required to support the ongoing efforts against the pandemic, have been helpful, sources added.

Under these powers, Vice Chiefs of Armed Forces including Chief Of Integrated Defence Staff to The Chairman Chiefs Of Staff Committee (CISC) and General Officer Commanding-in-Chiefs (GOC-in-Cs) and equivalents of all three services, have been given full financial powers, whereas Corps Commanders/Area Commanders have been delegated powers to spend up to Rs 50 lakh per case, and Division Commanders/Sub Area Commanders and equivalents have been delegated powers to spend up to Rs 20 lakh per case.

Sources said that local commanders have got in touch with respective state governments to understand what can be done to increase the civil capacity to deal with Covid.

ThPrint had reported on 20 April that the armed forces could now be deployed in the war against Covid and a decision has been made to open up military hospitals for civilians wherever possible and also come in aid of the civil health system.

The IAF has been transporting empty oxygen tankers across India, besides flying them in from abroad. As yet, the IAF has completed 98 international sorties, totalling 480 hours, to bring in 95 oxygen containers, with a total capacity of 793.1 MT, and 204.5 tonnes of other medical equipment.

Within India, the IAF has flown 634 sorties, totalling 939 hours and moved 403 oxygen containers of 793.1 MT, and 204.5 tonnes of other medical equipment.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Think-tank run by ex-IAF pilot turns Covid resource pool, fields SOS calls, tracks hospitals


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