The crucial expertise of CAPFs

The multifarious experience of security forces has helped greatly in combating COVID-19

November 06, 2020 01:00 am | Updated 01:35 am IST

Central Armed Police Force hold a flag march. File

Central Armed Police Force hold a flag march. File

When disaster strikes our country in any manner, be it natural or man-made, the government summons the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) to carry out the task of overcoming the disaster, by not only carrying out rescue and relief operations, but also mitigating the pains and problems arising out of the disaster. Even before the country got to know about the oncoming hydra of COVID-19, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) had already set up its 600-bed quarantine centre in Chawla on the outskirts of New Delhi.

Out of the 324 Indian passengers in the first batch that arrived in New Delhi from China’s Wuhan on February 1, 2020, 103 were quarantined at the ITBP Centre, while the rest were confined to an Army facility in Manesar.

That the confidence reposed in the ITBP was not misplaced is evident from the fact that the Director-General of ITBP was given just two days to establish the 600-bed quarantine, and it was ready within the given time. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had roped in specialists from the Safdarjung Hospital to coordinate with ITBP officials. Doctors and paramedical personnel of other CAPFs were also roped in.

Another 10,000-bed quarantine centre was established in Chhatarpur in New Delhi by the ITBP, where over 10,000 patients have been treated till now, according to ITBP spokesperson Vivek Pandey. This is the largest quarantine centre in the world, he added.

Relief measures

The expertise acquired by ITBP personnel and the Standard Operating Procedure prepared by the ITBP came handy for the States and other police forces in establishing their own quarantine centres and COVID-19 hospitals. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had directed the CAPFs to establish 5,400-bedded quarantine centres with 75 isolation wards, spread over 37 centres across the country. CAPFs comprise the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Sashastra Seema Bal, Assam Rifles and the ITBP. A sum of ₹10 crore was sanctioned for the CRPF by the MHA to carry out relief work for those displaced in the aftermath of the lockdown.

Though the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been actively involved in combating the spread of COVID-19, its services have not been adequately mentioned in the media. Mandated to carry out rescue and relief operations in disaster-affected areas, the NDRF has been rendering yeoman’s service not only in carrying out rescue and relief operations, but also in training the State Disaster Response Forces personnel in all States. Immigration officials entrusted with conducting COVID-19 tests of the passengers arriving in New Delhi were trained by the NDRF. Along with its parent body, the National Disaster Management Authority, of which the Prime Minister is the Chairman, the NDRF has trained over 30,000 personnel in disaster management across the country.

Far-off corners

With 12 battalions of the NDRF— each comprising 1,149 personnel — spread across the country, its experts have the core competency to tackle biological disasters like COVID-19. There is, however, a need to augment the strength of trained personnel. Since NDRF personnel are wholly drawn from the CAPFs, there is a good reserve of trained personnel who go back to their parent force after their stint with this specialised force is over. Such personnel can be deployed at quarantines centres after short-term courses. A proposal mooted by NITI Aayog last year, to conduct a bridge course for dentists to render them eligible for the MBBS degree, could be revived, and such doctors could be on stand-by to help in such emergency crises.

It is these CAPF personnel who give a semblance of existence of government administration even in the remotest corners of the country. Their versatile experience can be utilised to the nation’s advantage.

M.P. Nathanael retired as Inspector-General of Police, CRPF

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