“India will grow at 11 to 11.5%.” This was the prediction by most of the global rating agencies in February / March 2021 such as the IMF. From a negative growth to bounce back to a possibility of such a phenomenal level appears to have not gone well with the Oriental Power to our East and the West. Even the farmer’s agitation, which was mostly motivated by vested interest in the country and abroad, was receiving constructive attention of the government and gradually losing steam. Things were looking bright for the country both economically and medically. And lo behold come 21 April, a Tsunami in the form of the second wave caused by a Covid-19 variant christened by WHO as ‘delta’ struck India. Before the government and the people could even fathom what had happened, Indian Health Infrastructure was overwhelmed and there was a general cry of mismanagement by the public and certain sections of our polity against the government.
Lack of foresight, advanced preparedness for the expected second wave, export of vaccines at the cost of the people of India were some of the scathing criticisms against the government. Black marketing of oxygen cylinders, critical medicines and lack of oxygenated beds were some of the other issues raised by political entities, personalities, and the public in general. The government’s decision to hold Kumbh festivities and the elections in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, and Kerala became a target for causing the second wave. However, observing political correctness no one spoke about the Ramazan prayers and Eid gatherings. The total cases jumped from 12 lakh to 28 lakh, an increase of 133%. The deaths jumped in the same period from 1.6 lakh to 3.2 lakhs an increase of 100%.
The picture has started changing rapidly. From 10 May to date, the active number of cases has started dropping from an all-time high of 37 lakhs to 20 lakh and still maintaining a downward trend. The new cases have reduced to approximately 1.5 lakh from a high of over 4 lakh cases per day. Death per million is one of the lowest in the world. How has this turnaround happened?
DID THE GOVERNMENT REALLY FALTER?
When a tsunami hits land, it destroys everything in its path and the second wave was a tsunami. While at no stage I wish to cover the loss of valuable lives by jugglery of data, it is important to understand why India was being singled out? Europe and the USA which boast of the best of health infrastructure were also overwhelmed by the second wave with their health infrastructure bursting at the seams. Let me give some comparison to substantiate this fact.
At the peak of second wave, Europe saw deaths ranging from 35000 to 39500 per day. The combined population of Europe is 740 million.Their health infrastructure can be gauged by the number of nurses per 1000 persons which is 8.7 as of 2018 figures. And compare this with figures of India with a population almost double that of Europe. India never saw per day death of more than 4500. The deaths per day at its peak was 4529 between 15 April to 29 May 2021.
Also if we examine the relative availability of nurses in India it stands at 1.7 nurses per 1000 persons. This is much below the WHO standard of 3 per 1000. Yet India is slowly but steadily getting things under control. Now one may ask as to why not the government prepared in the intervening period between the first and the second wave to enhance medical staff and related infrastructure. To the splitting hair types, the ensuing data would be of some help. Government of India had constituted 11 Empowered Groups on 29 March 2020 on different aspects of Covid-19 management in the country. Some of the important issues covered are medical emergency planning, availability of hospitals, isolation and quarantine facility, testing, ensuring availability of essential medical equipment, augmenting human resource and capacity building. From a situation of a single laboratory equipped to undertake testing for Covid in January, by the end of December 2020, 2288 laboratories (as of 30 December 2020) were conducting Covid testing. Laboratories have been established in difficult terrains like Ladakh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland as well as other North-Eastern states, Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. While there were no indigenous manufacturers of laboratory diagnostics or testing machines for Covid, today India has an indigenous production capacity of more than 10 lakh kits/day. As of 29 December 2020, a total of 15,378 Covid treatment facilities with 12,67,127 dedicated isolation beds were created. Also, a total of 2,70,710 oxygen supported isolation beds and 81,113 ICU beds (including 40,627 ventilator beds) were created. In addition, a total of 12,669 quarantine centres with 5,91,496 beds have been created. No doubt this was not adequate but from a zero to reach these levels in a record time in India is not a mean achievement. As I keep saying it was not a wave but a Tsunami.
WHY THE HULLABALOO?
One of the obvious reasons for an anti-India tirade has been its recovery after the first wave despite facing so many impediments internally and externally. Sample some facts; prior to the second wave the economy of India was projected to grow at 11%, India was emerging as an undisputed leader in the Pharma sector with control of over 60% of the market, its vaccine production was cheaper and better than others especially the Chinese and India had given a resounding reply to China in Eastern Ladakh conveying in no uncertain terms that India was not a pushover. Efforts to bring down India have always been made by external and internal players. The narrative was set by inimical elements to create a situation of mismanagement by the Indian Government by highlighting its decision to conduct elections and Kumbh Mela during a Pandemic. There is some merit in this criticism and GoI should have scaled down Kumbh Mela and Election Commission should have issued strict guidelines for the conduct of election rallies. But were these event the only cause for such a massive surge, is questionable. In this background, the second wave was like a boon to the detractors of the Modi government. I am not defending Narendra Modi or his government but certain facts need to be carefully considered before we blame anyone. In my opinion, the Government of India and the Prime Minister have taken the best foot forward despite the severe constraints faced by them.
The first big criticism has been mismanagement in handling the second wave. However, this may not be entirely true. Thanks to some emergent actions like reaching out to various nations for help, starting of oxygen trains to badly affected states, instituting curbs on black marketing of medicines and oxygen cylinders, ramping up of medical infrastructure by utilising the services of the DRDO and the Armed Forces and decentralising micromanagement to the states, the rate of new cases in the country is gradually falling. Similarly,
in Lucknow, while hospitals remain overburdened, new hospital admissions are gradually coming down. For example, the KGMC is running a 988-bed Covid facility, the largest in the state, which successfully treated over 5,000 patients, conducted more than 18 lakh tests at its labs and administered 40,000 vaccine doses.
As on 30 May, over 600 Covid positive patients and more than 200 black fungus infection cases are under treatment here.
Similarly, in another hospital in Lucknow, there were 165 ICU beds created for Covid patients during the peak of the second wave to accommodate the surge in serious cases but as of 30 May, there were only 20 beds occupied. It speaks volumes of our doctors, caregivers and nurses and the action taken by the state government on a war footing. It is not to say that the arrangements were faultless but in the given situation and constraints they were quite satisfactory.
The second criticism of the government was about according permission to hold Kumbh Mela and elections. No doubt it was avoidable but was it the real spreader as is being claimed.
The graph of Covid below tells a different story and I leave it at that for the readers to make sense of it. Where is the maximum impact? It is in the southern states and where was Kumbh in Uttarakhand. The impact of elections seems to have a correlation but the story is different for West Bengal where the number of rallies was held in large numbers and the crowd was also uncontrolled. The point I am getting at is that there is more than what meets the eye. Hope India was not a victim of biowarfare timed suitably to promote the foreign producers of vaccines and promote the sale of other drugs related to Covid management such as Remdesivir. Investigations on the Covid being biowarfare are already on and the circumstantial evidence points too strongly towards China. While the jury is still not out about Covid being biowarfare, but it may soon be. And I guess China is deeply involved in it.
INDIA GREY ZONED THROUGH INFORMATION WAR?
One has to just glean through the propaganda war waged by the West and the East alike to bring down the image of India and in particular Modi. Take a sampling of the headlines of international newspapers. Top 11 Foreign newspapers / e-platforms went wild on Narendra Modi‘s Handling of Covid crisis. Some samplings:
1) Asia Times: ‘India’s Covid crisis is mostly Modi’s fault’
2) The Guardian: ‘View on Modi’s mistakes: a pandemic that is out of control’
3) Haaretz Daily: ‘How Modi led India into a Covid catastrophe’
4) The Financial Times: ‘Narendra Modi and the perils of Covid hubris’
5) The Washington Post: Modi’s pandemic choice: ‘Protect his image or protect India. He chose himself’
6) CNN: ‘Covid-19 exposed populist leaders like Modi and Trump’
7) Truthout: ‘Indian hospitals overwhelmed as Covid cases soar in Modi-made disaster’
8) Le Monde (French): ‘Covid-19 : l’Inde de Narendra Modi ébranlée’
9) The Australian: ‘Modi leads India into viral apocalypse’
10) The Time USA: ‘This is hell. Prime Minister Modi’s failure to lead is deepening India‘s Covid-19 crisis’
11) DW (Germany): ‘India‘s Covid-19 policy was a disaster waiting to happen’
China was not to be left behind. A social media account affiliated with CCP Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission posted this on Weibo. Caption: “When China sets things on fire vs when India does it.” Coming from a Government Source speaks of the Chinese intent. Indian Government has responded with maturity on this issue and has maintained silence.
Likewise, there are elements promoting personal agendas with the least disregard to national and public interest. For example, due to a slight delay in administering the vaccine in May 2021 and in the garb of surge due to the second wave, China was offering to dump its low-quality vaccines to India. It is a well-known fact that the Sinopharm, the Chinese vaccine is only 50 to 60 % effective. It may also be recalled that Seychelles saw a dangerous jump in infections after making Sinopharm Vaccine as the mainstay of its inoculation drive. Prudence demands not to jump into the fire and play with danger. What is even more surprising is that there are internal lobbies that are promoting the import of the Chinese Vaccine. Where is the need to resort to importing a low-quality vaccine from a sworn adversary when Investec, in a research note, has analysed the vaccine ecosystem and argued that in another three months we will have a two to three times increase in supply through a combination of enhanced domestic production, imports and newer vaccines coming in (Sputnik, Novavax, Biological-E, Cadila, Covaxin Inhaler, and Johnson & Johnson single-shot probably at around $5 per dose)? Hence by October 2021, India can vaccinate 75% of its 18 plus population. We must guard against all forms of warfare by the Chinese and their lobbyists in the country.
UNITE TO FIGHT PERNICIOUS FORCES AND COVID
The Central government along with state governments needs to bury their differences and combine well to fight the delta variant menace. The establishment of DRDO hospitals, ramping of medical staff and caregivers, construction of oxygen plants, running of oxygen trains, grant of funds, care of orphaned children, and affected people from the weaker sections of the society are some measures that the Centre and some of the state governments are taking. These efforts need to be ramped up. Preparations ought to be made in advance to meet the challenges of the third wave which is likely to affect the children. Rather than engaging the Armed Forces who have their task cut out to meet the challenges from our adversary, it may be a good idea to raise Medical TA Units which can be mobilised at short notice to deal with medical disasters of such nature. At the same time, we need to fight the sinister designs of our enemies who do not want to see a prosperous and progressive India. China continues to amass troops along our borders and their effort to wage a grey zone war against the country will only increase with time. Further, internal actors who are abetting such forces are only making India weaker. Indiscretion by internal elements may look attractive to some sections of the country in the short term but it will only come to haunt them in the future. It is time for all of us to unite and fight against the dual threats of ‘Chinese Virus’ and pernicious threats.
Lt Gen Dushyant Singh (retd) has served in varied terrains and theatre of operations, in India and in the UN as Military Observer. He has commanded an Infantry Battalion, Brigade and a Division in Jammu and Kashmir. He was Command of Corps Chief of Staff Eastern Command and Commandant Army War College. He is currently Professor Emeritus Defence Studies at Gu-jarat Raksha Shakti University. Twitter handle: @dushy40098.
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1971 WAR: NORTHERN COMMAND PAYS HOMAGE TO SWARNIM VIJAY MASHAAL
To commemorate the decisive and historic victory of Indian Armed Forces over Pakistan Army in December 1971 and to pay homage to the Swarnim Vijay Mashaal (Victory Flame), a solemn Wreath Laying Ceremony was held at ‘Dhruva Shaheed Smarak’ at Headquarters Northern Command in the Udhampur Military Station. Lt Gen YK Joshi, Army Commander, Northern Command laid the wreath to honour the Swarnim Vijay Mashaal lit in remembrance of the valiant soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service of our nation. The event was attended by Veterans, NCC Cadets and senior Army officers of Udhampur Military Station.
The Swarnim Vijay Mashaal had arrived at Udhampur on 13 Jun 2021 from Nagrota & was received with full ceremonial honours. The Victory Flame was then escorted to the local unit quarter guard. After the customary ‘Last mile run’ the Victory Flame was handed over to the Station Commander, Udhampur Military Garrison who placed the Victory Flame at Dhruva War Memorial. Wreath laying was thereafter carried out by JCOs / OR and Veterans followed by Wreath Laying by the Army Commander, Northern Command. On culmination of the Wreath Laying Ceremony the Swarnim Vijay Mashaal was further handed over to Counter Insurgency Force (Delta) where it will be taken to various units to commemorate the unforgettable victory of 1971.
The year 2021 has been named as “Swarnim Vijay Varsh”, by the government of India and the Nation started the celebrations of the 50 years of Indo-Pak War which had resulted in the largest military surrender after World War-II. The inaugural event was held at the National War Memorial (NWM) in New Delhi on 16 Dec 2020 where Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff and Tri-Services Chiefs laid wreath and paid homage to the fallen soldiers. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi lit the ‘Swarnim Vijay Mashaal’ from the eternal flame of NWM on the occasion. Four Victory Mashaals (flames) lit from the Eternal Flame of NWM were then carried to various parts of the country including to villages of Param Vir Chakra and Maha Vir Chakra Awardees of 1971 War. Soil from the villages of these Awardees and from areas where major battles were fought in 1971 are being brought to the NWM.
NORTHERN COMMAND’S ASSISTANCE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID PANDEMIC
Station Commander, Udhampur Military Station handed over a large number of Oxygen concentrators, PPE kits, masks, steam inhalers and other Covid related material to Mrs Indu Kanwal Chib, District Commissioner, Udhampur, on behalf of Northern Command as part of proactive assistance to civil administration. Since the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, Northern Command has been pro-actively providing all possible assistance to the civil administration and citizens in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh in their fight against the pandemic. As India deals with the second wave of COVID pandemic, there has been an ever increasing demand of COVID related items to save valuable human life.
Keeping in view the present situation, Northern Command has taken concrete steps towards establishing Special Covid Care Centers, sensitizing the Awam on precautions, provisioning dedicated COVID care to Ex-servicemen and Veer Naris and collaborating with the civil administration on a host of other measures. The aim of today’s initiative was to augment the resources of the local administration with regard to COVID care of the poor and needy. This noble gesture will boost the efforts of the civil administration towards adopting the preventive measures in the area thereby restricting the infection load to the minimum. Northern Command always strives to support the people in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh in protecting their lives and responding to humanitarian causes directly or through the civil administration in a centralised as well as decentralized manner.
90 SOLDIERS JOIN LADAKH SCOUTS REGIMENT
An Attestation Parade was held at The LADAKH SCOUTS Regimental Centre, Leh to mark the entry of 90 well trained recruits into the LADAKH SCOUTS Regiment as Young Soldiers. The impressive ceremony, conducted in consonance with the highest traditions of the Indian Army, was reviewed by Major General Akash Kaushik, Chief Of Staff, Fire and Fury Corps.
The Young Soldiers, hailing from all regions of Ladakh, took the oath to serve the Nation. The Reviewing Officer congratulated them for the impressive parade and urged them to devote their life in service to the nation as proud soldiers of the Indian Army. He also complimented the parents of the Young Soldiers on having motivated their wards to join the Indian Army and exhorted the young Soldiers to continue to strive hard in pursuit of excellence and uphold the name of battle tested ‘LADAKH SCOUTS’ and their military traditions. The young Riflemen were awarded medals for their outstanding performance during training. It was indeed a proud moment for the recruits who hail from far flung areas to join the LADAKH SCOUTS Regiment as young soldiers.
BIG DAY: BORN TO BATTLE COURSE CELEBRATES GOLDEN JUBILEE
Fifty years ago, 349 gentlemen cadets, 307 from the 47th Regular and 42 from 31st Technical Course of the 47th Regular and 31st Technical Course passed out of the portals of the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, to be commissioned as Second Lieutenants in various branches of the Indian Army. That was a momentous period in the history of India. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had declared independence of the Eastern wing of Pakistan. The Pakistani army had declared war on its own citizens and let loose a reign of terror, loot, rape, and murder. Refugees poured into India in millions, and it was clear that, willy-nilly, India was going to be drawn into the conflict. The question was no longer if, but when.
Within 6 months of commissioning, before most could undergo even the basic Young Officers Course, in the ultimate call of duty, they were inducted into battle to participate in the 1971 war against Pakistan. The Course was baptized by fire in the truest sense of the term and for this reason the 47th Regular and 31st Technical Course has been dubbed as the “Born to Battle” course. Officers of the course lived up to the expectations of their alma mater and did the country proud. Five officers were martyred during the operations.
The ‘Born to Battle’ course has the unique distinction of being the only course to have been awarded the highest awards for gallantry both in war and peace, the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) and the Ashok Chakra (AC) to 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal and Col NJC Nair respectively. A brief description of the actions of the two gallant officers is given. 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal, PVC. On commissioning, 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal joined his Regiment, 17 Poona Horse in the midst of the Indo-Pak War. On 16 Dec 1971, in the process of establishing a bridge head, he came across heavy anti-tank fire. However, he not only destroyed the interfering Pakistani position, but in the tank battle that followed, he personally destroyed four enemy tanks. He embraced death by denying the enemy their intended breakthrough. For this act of exceptional bravery going well beyond the call of duty, he was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest war-time gallantry award, the PVC.
Col NJC Nair AC, KC. Col NJC Nair, KC was commanding the 16 Maratha LI which had been deployed for mobile counter insurgency operations in Northern and Central Nagaland. On 20 Dec 1993, while leading the advance party on the Mokokchung-Mariani Road, he and his men were ambushed by insurgents. A JCO and 13 Jawans were killed in the firing and Nair was seriously injured. However, caring little for his personal safety, he crawled across the road and killed an insurgent. Shaken by such raw courage, the insurgents’ broke ranks and fled. Nair later succumbed to his injuries. For this act of exceptional bravery going well beyond the call of duty, he was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest peace-time gallantry award, the Ashok Chakra.
In addition, officers have also been awarded 3 Shaurya Chakras and 4 Sena Medals for gallantry apart from a host of other decorations. Throughout service, the Course performed consistently well with 77 officers attaining flag rank, with 10 in the three-star category. Apart from distinguishing themselves in the battlefield and in the senior ranks, officers of Born to Battle course have also excelled in the field of sports, mountaineering, sailing, entrepreneurship, and aviation. Of special mention are Capts PS Bedi and NS Grewal in sailing, Capt Jai Bahuguna who lost his life while attempting to climb Mount Everest, Capt Gopinath and Col Samuel who pioneered affordable helicopter and aviation services in India.
A wreath laying ceremony was conducted on Sunday to pay homage to the memory of the seven departed comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of fire. Over the years, the Course has also lost a number of brothers to other causes, some as recently as during the current pandemic. To honour their memory, Lieutenant General Deepak Raj (Retd) will be laying a wreath on behalf of the entire Course and the families.
MOD APPROVES RS 498.8 CRORE BUDGETARY SUPPORT FOR DEFENCE INNOVATION THROUGH IDEX-DIO
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has approved the budgetary support of Rs 498.8 crore to Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) – Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) for the next five years. The budgetary support will provide a big boost to the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as iDEX–DIO has the primary objective of self-reliance and indigenisation in defence & aerospace sector of the country. The creation of the iDEX framework and establishment of the DIO by the Department of Defence Production (DDP) is aimed at creating an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in defence and aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes & academia and provide them grants/funding and other support to carry out R&D development which has good potential for future adoption for Indian defence and aerospace needs.
The scheme, with budgetary support of Rs 498.8 crore for the next five years, is aimed at providing financial support to nearly 300 start-ups/MSMEs/individual innovators and 20 partner incubators under the DIO framework. It will support increased awareness in the Indian innovation ecosystem about defence needs and, conversely, in the Indian Defence establishment about the potential of the Indian innovation eco-system to deliver innovative solutions to meet their needs. The DIO, with its team, will enable the creation of channels for innovators to engage and interact with the Indian Defence production industry. The long-term effect to be realised by the group is the establishment of a culture, where enlisting the effort of innovators by the Indian military is commonplace and frequent. The scheme aims to facilitate rapid development of new, indigenised and innovative technologies for the Indian defence and aerospace sector to meet their needs in shorter timelines; create a culture of engagement with innovative start-ups to encourage co-creation for defence and aerospace; empower a culture of technology co-creation and co-innovation within the defence and aerospace sector and boost innovation among the start-ups and encourage them to be a part of the ecosystem.
The DDP will release funds to DIO for setting up and managing the iDEX network in the form of Partner Incubators (PIs); communicating with innovators/start-ups/technology centres of MSMEs through the PIs including the PIs of Department of Science and Technology regarding defence and aerospace needs; organising various challenges/hackathons to shortlist potential technologies and entities and evaluating technologies and products developed by innovators/start-ups in terms of their utility and impact on the defence and aerospace setup. The other activities include enabling and funding pilots using innovation funds dedicated to the purpose; interfacing with the Armed Forces top brass about key innovative technologies and encouraging their adoption into the defence establishment with suitable assistance; facilitating scale-up, indigenisation and integration in manufacturing facilities for successfully piloted technologies and organising outreach activities all across the country.
PASSING OUT PARADE OF TES-37 COURSE HELD AT COLLEGE OF MILITARY ENGINEERING
The passing out parade of the cadets of the Technical Entry Scheme—37 Course at the Cadets Training Wing, College of Military Engineering (CME) at Pune—was held on Saturday. The parade was reviewed by Lt Gen PP Malhotra, Commandant CME. Thirty-three Gentlemen Cadets of the Course, including three gentlemen cadets from Bhutan and two from Sri Lanka, were commissioned as officers.
Though parents of the passing out course could not attend the ceremony owing to COVID related restrictions, the parade was streamed live on YouTube. Lt Gen PP Malhotra, presented several awards to Gentlemen Cadets for excellence in training. The parade conducted with traditional military regalia, was commanded by Wing Cadet Captain Abhishek Chauhan. The coveted General Officer Commanding in Chief Army Training Command Gold Medal for standing first in overall performance in three years at CTW was awarded to Wing Cadet Adjutant Sahil Kumar. The Silver and Bronze Medal was awarded to Gentlemen Cadet Sonam Tshering from the Royal Bhutan Army and Wing Cadet Quarter Master Prince Kumar Singh respectively. Cadets of the Wing also had the distinction of being awarded the Commandant Officers Training Academy Silver medal to Wing Cadet Captain Abhishek Singh Chauhan and the Bronze Medal to Wing Cadet Adjutant Sahil Kumar for their meritorious performance in the combined four years of training, including one year at the Officers Training Academy, Gaya. Echo Platoon was awarded the General Officer Commanding in Chief’s Banner for performing exceedingly well in the Inter Platoon Competitions and emerging as the Champion Platoon.
Addressing the parade, the General Officer congratulated the Gentlemen Cadets for their superlative performance in the training period at the wing and their immaculate parade. Lt General PP Malhotra, highlighted that the cadets were at the cusp of a new beginning as young military leaders, and on their broad shoulders lay the future of our gallant Army. He urged the future officers to make their nation and the Alma Mater proud by rendering selfless and honourable service. He also stressed on imbibing strong moral values and ethics. The passing out parade was followed by a Commissioning and an oath taking ceremony for the newly commissioned officers.
College of Military Engineering has emerged as the finest technical institutions in the Indian Army. Recent forays of the College into Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Engineering Materials have been lauded by all. The college has entered into MoU with academic and industrial majors to absorb best engineering practices and infuse a culture of innovation in the Indian Army. Several projects from the College have been displayed and awarded in forums such as the iDEX4Fauji and the Army Day Parade, this year.
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