Wing Commander Praful Bakshi
As the threat of Corona epidemic is approaching its peak, and the disaster management machinery groaning under its pressure, one is appalled to witness a vast multitude of the labor force from outside Delhi, now attempting to vacate the city for their villages at all cost. Was it an inept mishandling by the state machinery or deliberate misinformation regarding the departing buses which led this vast multitude of now homeless and jobless labour mass to violate all the precautions against the spread of deadly Corona? This desperate multitude of Humanity is seeking a way out of Delhi putting practically not only the entire capital but also the destination and villages under grave threat of the current spread of the virus.
As one can observe the entire management system of Delhi has been put out of gear with hungry families roaming aimlessly from pillar to post trying to get some transport system to allow them to leave Delhi.
One could not have imagined in the wildest of dreams that a day such as this will arrive for people within their own land in a peaceful Democratic Nation.
Of course, there is nothing wrong in someone wanting to return to his native village in normal times, but the entire mass of workers attempting to create an exodus of the present sort when the entire Air Rail or Road transportation system practically out of service would undoubtedly create an unprecedented state of emergency which is quite evident now.
However we also must realize that for a nation like India with such a mass of the population and equally large state machinery, a situation such as this is though not common has happened earlier on many occasions for different reasons in the last eight decades.
Hence in the present case, the state machinery should have had a plan in order if proper Civil Defence and safety procedures had been worked out with SOPs and rule books on the subject.
We would cover this in two parts. First – draw out the immediate action now with the mass of Humanity clamoring to vacate Delhi. The second would try to cover as to what preparation in readiness and procedures should be established so as to handle a similar situation successfully in future.
Immediate Action. In the normal circumstances, the state machinery should have been in a place to accommodate this mass of people in proper makeshift arrangement /camps with all the civic and medicinal facilities like field hospitals /isolation areas etc. However, in the absence of such a system, the CIMIC (Civil-Military Cooperation) procedures by the state should have been in place, well-exercised with SOPs written decades back. The CIMIC operations would have directly involved the Military assisted by paramilitary units to spring into action helped by the Home ministry. The people affected could have been distributed as required to proper camps / acquired buildings like schools and stadiums with all the requirements until the crisis was over. Anyway if that too is not available the only option left would be to escort the people involved, back to their native cities. However, the only catch to this entire process is that this entire lot of humanity could have a large number of Corona infected people amongst them who would carry the virus to so many other places, which incidentally is happening due to a large number of people going back home under their own arrangements with the deadly virus. Therefore the entire lot has to be quarantined for the required period and the infected ones sorted out from the rest.
Hence if an entire lot of workers have to be quarantined then suitable accommodation like large buildings. Public buildings, stadiums, schools, and community hall will have to be commissioned on to this job of boarding and lodging the mass. In the absence of such accommodation, the Army and the paramilitary units can be brought in to create large tented camp areas with all the field accommodation including kitchen and toilet arrangement along with the medical and isolation facilities. This team of forces can be supported by the experts from the Red Cross and St Johns Ambulance team, operating from within the camp area. This whole process has to be a part of the Civil Defence operations which should have come into play when the whole process or the emergency operations started. (This process is a part of internal security doctrine which should have been written, giving out the necessary policies and SOPs of the processes involved)
Post Quarantine: After the initial period of quarantine if the epidemic still continues and the labors have nowhere to work or live and still want to go home, then there may no choice but to transport them to their respective districts/ state capitals by Road or Rail –preferably by rail – a better and efficient option.
So what should the process of transporting the people back to their home districts be? Right in the beginning when it becomes evident that this sort of emergency which directly involves an aspect of National Security and calls for services to be involved to create Camps or provide transportation or escorts to the citizens then the first step by the Centre should be
Call an immediate meeting of CDS, Chairman Railway board and a senior sect from Home Ministry.
CDS should ask Army to form a joint ops Room in the form of NEEOC National Emergency Evacuation ops Centre, manned by personnel with appropriate seniority from Services, Railways and Min of Home.
The Home ministry must ascertain the total number of people involved in the crisis and requirement of transportation along with the total number of destinations involved like Kanpur Allahabad, Patna, Gorakhpur Ranchi and so on where the entire mass wants to head for. This would help the Army to calculate the number of units needed to help build the camps in the first place and thereafter be available to escort the lot to the places earmarked. The railways must accordingly make trains available. The destinations must be contacted to make necessary provision involving, receiving the people, camping them with all arrangements, and after screening them escorting the lot to different districts. The infected ones duly quarantined.
Army: Army must provide the required amount of Units to escort the laboring mass to their destination. The units must have the necessary medical units to cater to the requirement from the medical angle. Also if any camp is required at the destination then the closest Military /air force station be called in to take charge along with local administration and Medical Department
Railways: Railways must as per the home ministry figures calculate and provide the required number of trains which would transfer the people with the Army escorts to the destinations. The stations on the way must be informed and one main station along the way also be asked to prepare for any eventuality.
Home ministry: Home ministry along with the involved destination state will ensure that proper camp to receive the transferred people appropriately camped be made ready along with quarantine facility if called for. Here the local police and Paramilitary units can be put into action in aid of army and the admin. Most importantly paramilitary forces like BSF and ITBP are made ready if required to assist the army in any way.
Air Force: Air force too should be in the picture with at least one unit of Medium lift helicopters and medical evacuation capable helicopters to be ready with emergency medical teams.
All the above-mentioned organizations must be kept in direct contact of the NEEOC National Emergency evacuation operation Centre at Delhi
However if for any reason trains cannot be provided then the Army and the Air Force can undertake the task jointly with military and Air Force stations playing their required role. This would require large convoy movement by the army in their vehicles or acquired vehicles from the civil.
Similarly, this entire process can be put into use for all the other major cities like Mumbai Chennai Kolkata and so on.
As one can observe this situation has arisen because the emergency was allowed to develop. Emergencies like epidemics Floods, Earthquakes can strike any time. These have to be tackled with the help of proper policies, SOPs and Procedures. The National security doctrine should have mentioned such situations and the procedure to be subsequently followed.
This present case should have been handled by the Civil Defence with all the procedures and SOPs in place and proper periodic exercises and drills conducted from time to time with all agencies mentioned along with the Red Cross and St Johns Ambulance.
The well-formed policies and SOPs and Procedures well-practiced in conducted drills would prove the old adage that every crisis is a good teacher and anyone who applies his mind or works whole heatedly with his min and soul in his work is bound to succeed
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Wing Commander Praful Bakshi passed out as a Gentleman cadet from the National Defense Academy (NDA) Khadakwasla before being Commissioned in the Indian Air Force and proved his mettle as fighter pilot from 1968 onward. He participatedin western sector during the 1971. Even subsequently Wg. Cdr. Bakshi has made a name for himself as an ace pilot in the flying branch of IndianAir Force.
In course of his service the Wg. Cdr. has been a part of various flying sorties and missions as a meritorious fighter pilot in the flying branch of IAF. One of the most experienced Combat aircraft pilots in the IAF squadrons Wg. Cdr. Bakshi has flown about 8-9 types different of aircraft and held various responsibilities as an Aircraft accident investigator.
One of the prime roles he played was – two tenures as the Official spokesperson of the Indian Air Force at the Ministry of Defense (MoD) which earned him lot of both name and fame as an efficient and effective PR & Media Relationship professional. In course of his tenure in the MoD Wg. Cdr. Bakshi also conducted various press parties to different parts of the country as well as during the Sri Lanka, Maldives, North East and Siachin Operations.
Wing Commander Praful Bakshi is today an official defence analyst and expert on National Security Issues in the electronic and print media besides being the Military Commentator at the Republic Day and Independence Day events. He is also a Member of IDSA, USI and India International Center and world Wild life fund and President of the Asian union (an NGO propagating the idea of creating Union of Asian countries for co prosperity and joint security)