Maharashtra has sought the help and support of the Army to ensure free movement of essential goods across the State, and also in providing medical infrastructure. Senior officials said while the Army has not been summoned yet, the government is in touch with the Southern Command headquarters, Pune, for any assistance during the 21-day period.
Topping the State’s help list is assistance with medical infrastructure, said officials. “We have written to them and are in touch with them [Army] on various issues, most importantly for safe transport of essential commodities in sensitive areas, and construction of emergency infrastructure,” said a senior official from the Chief Minister’s Office.
Government officials have held meetings with the Army and identified three locations in Mumbai to set up emergency isolation wards. “We are prepared to tackle any emergency. If the number of positive patients goes up we can start isolation wards immediately at Bombay Exhibition Centre, Goregaon; another ground at Worli; and the Convention Centre at Bandra Kurla Complex. We have extra 500 beds in JJ Hospital, GT hospital and St George hospital,” said Cabinet Minister and Mumbai’s Guardian Minister Aslam Sheikh.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar confirmed the State has written to the Army but it is limited to asking for only medical help. The Government has not yet summoned the forces. However if the situation persists, and further assistance is needed the government will not hesitate to summon the Army, he said.
Earlier, the DCM had appealed to the people and the State police to show restraint during the 21-day nationwide lockdown. He said if clashes between people and the police do not stop, the government may be forced to call in the Army. “I appeal to all, please don't force us to call the military to take charge,” he had said.