Some months ago I wrote my thoughts on the response to Corona Virus, it was titled ‘The Sirens Must Wail’
Having suffered the last one year under the gloomy cloud of Lock Downs, increased cases of Covid -19, TV channels and news media full of grim pictures and narratives got me thinking. How would the Army have responded to such a threat? Could we expect more professionalism from the NDMA?
A Set System Called ‘Appreciation’
Although a bit rusted, let me attempt to list out the sequencing in this analysis as practiced in the Army and taught in most of our schools of instruction.
It goes something like this:-
Spell out your aim: In this case if we keep a single objective it would read ’to ensure the safety and well being of all citizens in the face of the pandemic ’.
Terms of reference:-
- To be done earliest but not later than three months.
- All health, hospital, industrial and logistical( including transportation) as well as Law & Order machinery are available and placed under command NDMA.
What does it involve? It involves the following:-
- Spreading Awareness amongst every community.
- Issue guidelines for all( to be prepared by NDMA in consultation with ICMR/WHO .
- Set up help lines, Text Messaging etc and activate Civil Defense Measures.
- Preventing inflow from other countries/travelers.
- Preparing for containing the spread through Isolation, Containment Zones and other such options).
- Declare a state of emergency. Prohibit all public gatherings of any kind.
- Incorporate RWAs , Religious Institutes, NGOs & Volunteers to work hand in glove with Govt/Administration.
- Prepare a check list of age group of citizens at various cities/Localities.
- Create mobile Testing Teams to visit each locality.
- Set up testing facilities at all ports, airports, hospitals and clinics both Government and Private.
- Bringing back Indians Stranded abroad.
- Preparing the logistic supply chain for providing essentials at homes.
- Catering for holding on to the labor at industry and farming sector or for their safe transportation home.
- Carry out an Audit of all Industries capable of producing Ambulances, Ventilators, Oxygen and preventive medicines.
- Gearing up R& D and Industry for production of Sanitizers, Masks, PPE, Oxygen, Ventilators, Vaccines.
- Carry out an audit for supply , transportation of Oxygen across the country. Railways, Road Transport, Airlines, Shipping, Inland Water Transport.
- Carry out an audit of Hospitals, Beds and other Health support Systems in each city. Create Teams of Experts at Center and States for this purpose and Advisories.
- Issue instructions to increase capacities in hospitals.
- Ensure adequate supply of medical needs with an emphasis on Ventilators & Oxygen.
- Create a mechanism for daily monitoring/Updates to reach the ICMR/Health Ministry & Every Citizen.
- Tie up with friendly foreign nations to assist in the above as and when required.
How far can I plan now? I can plan on the urgently required physical measures to be incorporated immediately in order of priority:-
- Issuing warnings . Including possibility of lock downs in a given time frame.
- Spreading awareness.
- Collection of data
- Bringing in stranded Indians
- Roping in RWAs and others
- Identifying zones/areas to create camps
- Set up advisory committees
- Other actions as deemed necessary, in keeping with the National Directive as and when issued.
At the level of Army:-
- Carry out an audit of dependent load on each Military Hospital/Facility.
- Incorporate ECHS Poly Clinic Load .
- Place demand of Vaccines based on calculated load.
- Mobilize Field ambulances/ADS/RAPs where required.
- Use contact data with various Institutes/Clubs/RSBs /ECHS Poly Clinics to reach out to Veterans and Families/Dependents .
- Plan to strengthen the response by calling in Volunteers on Reserve panels from the AFMS to re-enforce both Civilian facilities as well as Military.
- Set up Command and Control Centers and monitoring centers .
- Establish Quarantine Centers for those returning from Leave/Temporary Duty/Courses and others.
- Enemy Forces; in this case it would be the traits and characteristics as well as behavior pattern of the virus.
- Own Forces would include the means available to combat the spread of virus/infection.
- Additional Bids would be the requirement for augmenting available resources from Center/States.
- Time plan for each action to be completed.
- Whether to enforce curfew or not?
- If curfew is to be enforced, the time frame, resources to enforce it, method of communication . Resources to meet the daily needs and emergency medical requirement. Positioning of Mobile Medical Teams at various sectors of the town/city.
Course of Action:-
- What is the enemy( Virus) likely to do? When, where and in what manner will it manifest to spread or mutate? Time frame? Reaction to Vaccines?
- Based on the worst case scenario, what is the best course of action available in the immediate( fortnight), midterm( three months) and long term (beyond three months).
This is a mere random exercise aimed at demonstrating a possible step wise analysis of the threat/situation to arrive at a workable plan in order to ensure timely action and achieve the objective of preventing the spread of the virus, reducing deaths and rising to the occasion for the safety and well being of citizens.
So far as the Armed Forces are concerned, the sentiments expressed by many Veterans that ‘they have been dumped’ by the Armed Forces and the CDS are perhaps justified to a large extent. While it may be said that this is a national emergency and the Armed Forces therefore ‘Must’ respond in support of the Civil Administration and Citizens, they needs to be consciously take into account their very own Veterans to ensure they are given their dues both as Citizens( some as Senior Citizens) and as those who gave their youth to the very organization they depend upon in such times.
To me it appears that the NDMA along with other elements including the Political Dispensation and Armed Forces could have done better. Merely as an example of the poverty in thought and action; it does not take one year to arrive at shortages of vaccine or oxygen! Given our industrial bases we should have had adequate supply by now if not been surplus in both these. Yes there are always challenges in such situations, however, challenges are meant to be overcome and not to be used as excuses or a means to justify short comings and poor responses. Beyond this, I leave it to the readers to make their own judgement.