Homeland Security

COVID-19 Apocalypse: The Military Response
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 23 Mar , 2020

At this juncture three months after the outbreak of Chinese Virus commonly known as COVID-19, over 3,00,000 people have been infected, and more than 13,000 killed across the world. India today stands at the cusp of stage 2 and 3 of this Pandemic. While observing Janta Curfew or the people’s curfew at the call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi India prepares itself.

India has reported 325 confirmed cases and 7 deaths so far, but the tally continues to rise. Early signs of stage 3 have started to manifest as people without travel history have reported infected. Community spread is inevitable. As per the worst-case scenario, the analysts predict that India would have almost 500 to 800 million infected population by the turn of July 2020. Out of which 2 percent, that is 10-16 million would have died, mostly the elderly.

India with over 1.37 billion population accounts for nearly 18 percent of the total mankind on this planet. The population over the age of 65 and above is roughly 5.3 percent of this pool thus accounting to 72,610,000 high risk persons in India.

When the developed world is trying hard grappling with the situation. Countries like Italy, Germany and the UK are finding their health services infrastructure over stressed. Italy is the worst affected, it is reporting 700 deaths per day and the count is rising.

These nations have over 9 percent share of their GDP spent on health services. For example, Italy spends 8.94 percent of her GDP which accounts to all most 2,739 USD per capita. In the year 2000 Italy’s health services were declared world’s second best only after France. Needless to say, it still ranks amongst the best.

On the other hand, India spends little short of 2.5 percent of her GDP accounting to 85 USD per capita. It ranks 184th out of 191 in terms of GDP% spend on health care. All this without taking into account the deep-rooted systemic corruption making the whole scenario even grimmer.

Though Iran and China lead the tally, but real figures could be misleading and off the mark hugely. The transparency and truthfulness are a real suspect in these countries. The Chinese claim of containment and victory over the Corona virus needs to be taken very cautiously.

The COVID-19 apocalypse is staring at the face. We are sitting over a live volcano that is bound to erupt. India and the neighboring countries are likely to be worst affected. Poverty, social insecurity, weak health care system, overpopulated old civilizational towns and cities, all make an ideal ground for the impending Human-Corona armageddon.

So far India has managed this crisis well through the Stage 1 and 2, but real challenge lies with Stage 3 and 4. Near total lockdown has put the economy out of gear with long term implication. The impact however is yet to be ascertained. But for the daily wage earner, Corona Virus has already spelled the dooms day. No work means starvation. Government will have to find ways to tackle this issue urgently before it turns into nightmarish breakdown of law and order.

So, what would be the challenges in forceable immediate future? Foremost and essential would be enforcing the lockdown which means population control. Secondly, establishing and maintaining mega quarantine facilities which will be dictated by the demography and geography. Thirdly, the smooth running of essential services and fourthly, it would be in ensuring Law and Order and governance.

In all these challenges at hand, the Indian Armed forces would play a very significant role in days ahead. Indian army is already tackling the situation from the day one. It has established quarantine facilities at Manesar and Jaisalmer. These were sufficient during Stage 1 and 2 but would fall too short for days ahead. By now the Indian Armed Forces should have been out, establishing quarantine camps in various states and around large population centers. It already appears late.

Though all the training activities have been put on hold in the armed forces. It would be prudent to recall all personnel from leave and courses. And call up the reservists, seeing the huge manpower intensive task that lay ahead.  Indian Armed forces have a reported strength of 1.4 million active personnel and 2.1 million reservists. In addition, there are 1.3 million paramilitary personnel thus making it one of the largest military forces in the world. This is a massive pool of disciplined human resource the government holds. It is for the government to take a call on the scale and size of this most likely Aid to Civil Authorities. Something so unprecedented by all measures that India has ever seen. It is going to be this Stage 4 when the last bastion would be heavily relied upon.

Stage 4 will be the worst stage of the infection where it takes the form of an epidemic. Massive numbers would be infected, there would prevail panic and distress in the society. Stricter long duration lockdowns would have to be ruthlessly enforced. Starvation and rioting for food could the worst in such a scenario. Abstinence from duty amongst government employees would be acute. Maintenance of essential services and Law and Order would be a herculean task. It is then, that the First Responders would descend upon as the Final Responders. Just no choice left.

Thus, it is the time to plan ahead, stock and mobilize recourses. Prepositioning in anticipation for the worst case is what the Armed Forces must be doing right now. However, most importantly, the Armed Forces need to self-quarantine and stay absolutely fit to respond at the need of the hour.

With Stage 4 predictions of 50 to 80 million deaths and up to 800 million infected, Armed forces personnel would be carrying out duties ranging from cremation of the dead when families would keep away for the fear of infection, to running the power plants and railways, to guarding of institutions, important installations and storage facilities like the FCI godowns,  to distribution of food supplies, to managing mega quarantine facilities and the crowd control.

As the janta Curfew draws to a close, the government of India has ordered suspension of all passenger trains from March 22 up till March 31.

India races into Stage three.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Danvir Singh

Associate Editor, Indian Defence Review, former Commanding Officer, 9 Sikh LI and author of  book "Kashmir's Death Trap: Tales of Perfidy and Valour".

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5 thoughts on “COVID-19 Apocalypse: The Military Response

  1. Avery alarming situation has been portrayed which may not be so. However , quarantine facility may be foreseen and prepared. It is a fact that immune system of Indians is much more robust than what is being presumed. So far people who are from the rich class have been affected mostly returning from abroad and passing it on. Measures implemented are effective and the spread will be definitely controlled. Hopefully vaccine which is in the advanced stage of development will be of help.
    Therefore, i feel we should be prepared but not paint such a gory picture. In a couple of weeks things will start improving.

  2. Aptly brought out. It’s high time Govt realises that the needful is done at the earliest before eruption of the volcano. Stringent measures have to enforced. Mere announcement of lockdown with insufficient uniformed personal to ensure its implementation THE INDIAN WAY is going to push the Nation to critical level resulting in a graveyard like situation

  3. Excellent article and the author has sounded the warning bells in good time. Now is the time for the govt to take a call else it’ll be too late.Army though is considered as the last bastion, in this particular case it will have to be employed at this stage itself else the situation might get out of hand and the pattern of infections might be irreversible.Time for Soft and half hearted measures is already past. In a democracy this is easier said than done for fear of a backlash as also the resultant economic implications. However this bitter pill will have to be swallowed. Lets hope for the best

  4. Excellent Sir. A real eye opener on the current situation and proactive measures to be taken by the Armed Forces. The role of pvt sector will also be key in tackling this mayhem,as mentioned in the write up with a spend of 0.25 percent of GDP on health services Govt should now rope in all the health infrastructure facilities available in the country for effective detection and quarantine.

    Information communication and education of our population is also key as at present in most cases people are running out of quarantine.

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