Rajnath asks military officials to monitor progress of initiatives taken to help fight pandemic

NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday asked top military and Defence Ministry officials to closely monitor the progress of various initiatives they have embarked upon to support the civilian administration in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

India is struggling with the second wave of coronavirus infection as hospitals in several states are reeling under a shortage of oxygen and beds.

Singh held a meeting with the officials on Saturday through video conferencing to review their efforts in supporting the civilian administration in its combat against the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, a statement by the Defence Ministry noted.

Singh was briefed by the officials that approximately 600 additional doctors are being mobilised through special measures such as calling to duty those who had retired in the last few years, it said.

“The Indian Navy has deployed 200 battlefield nursing assistants to assist in various hospitals. The National Cadet Corps has deployed 300 cadets and staff at various locations in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Haryana,” the statement added.

He was briefed that the Indian Army has made available more than 720 beds for civilians in various states.

“The Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister) directed the Army to share the details with local administration at state and district levels. General Bipin Rawat suggested that local military commands have to be actively engaged in assisting the civil administration,” the statement noted.

Rawat, the Chief of Defence Staff, along with Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh, Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, Army Chief General M M Naravane, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Chairman G Satheesh Reddy and other officials attended the meeting through video conferencing.

Singh was informed at Saturday’s meeting that the 500-bed hospital being set up by the Defence Research Defence Organisation in Lucknow will start functioning in the next two to three days, the statement noted.

“Another hospital is also being set up in Varanasi which is scheduled to be completed by May 5,” it said.

The DRDO chairman said the first four of 380 oxygen pressure swing adsorption (PSA) plants, which are being manufactured with the assistance of the PM CARES fund, will be deployed in hospitals in Delhi by the next week, it noted.

Singh reiterated that the armed forces should provide all necessary assistance to the civilian administration and asked the top military officials as well as the officials of the Defence Ministry “to closely monitor the progress of various initiatives”.

India’s daily coronavirus tally crossed the grim milestone of four lakh, while the death toll rose to 2,11,853 with 3,523 fresh fatalities, according to data updated by the Union Health Ministry on Saturday.

The infection tally rose to 1,91,64,969 with 4,01,993 new cases, while the active cases crossed the 32-lakh mark.