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TIME TO UNITE IN FIGHT AGAINST COVID DELTA AND PERNICIOUS FORCES

The Centre and state governments need to bury their differences and combine well to fight the Delta variant menace. 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.

Lt Gen Dushyant Singh (retd.)

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“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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Defence

‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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Defence

SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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Defence

IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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Defence

ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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Defence

BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit

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The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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Defence

IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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