The nation is facing a critical challenge due to the unprecedented second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The extraordinary surge of the pandemic has put tremendous pressure on the country’s health infrastructure and capacity. Both the public and private sectors are stretched to meet the medical requirements in these challenging circumstances and help from every quarter is a virtual lifeline.
Against this backdrop, the Indian Navy has launched an initiative — Operation Samudra Setu II.
“As a part of the ongoing national effort to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, the Indian Navy has launched Operation Samudra Setu II to bring in by sea the much-needed oxygen and associated medical supplies from friendly foreign countries,” said the Deputy Chief Admiral of Indian Navy, M.S. Pawar
In the current operation, Indian Navy ships have been deployed across the vast expanses of the Indian Ocean Region to meet the country’s critical oxygen requirements under challenging circumstances.
Pawar said that as many as nine warships have been diverted to various ports in the region extending from Kuwait in the west to Singapore in the east to bring in the much-needed oxygen and associated medical supplies.
On an action-packed Wednesday, Indian Navy ship Talwar arrived at Mangalore port in Karnataka, carrying 54-tonne liquid medical oxygen (LMO) from Bahrain.
Concurrently, INS Airavat carrying eight cryogenic containers with a capacity of 20tonne each, 3,650 oxygen cylinders, 10,000 Rapid Antigen Test kits and other vital medical supplies departed Singapore for India on Wednesday morning.
Similarly, INS Kolkata, having picked up 54 MT LMO departed Kuwait on Wednesday afternoon. Earlier, the ship had picked up oxygen cylinders and medical supplies from Qatar.
Three more naval ships reached Qatar and Kuwait on Wednesday, to bring oxygen from the Gulf countries.
“We are coordinating the movement of our ships round-the-clock so that maximum critical materials can be picked up from multiple ports and be made available in India as soon as possible,” commented a senior Navy officer at the Naval Headquarters.
Given their carrying capacity, long-range endurance, agility and versatility, naval ships have been able to undertake this mission in support of the nation’s fight against Covid-19.
Moreover, the distance from the Gulf countries to the Indian ports on the western seaboard allows the arrival of oxygen containers and critical medical supplies in 3-4 days.
It has been learnt that as of now, nine naval ships are on the task for Operation Samudra Setu II with more naval ships likely to ferry supplies of LMO in the ensuing days and weeks.
In other forms of assistance, naval establishments across the country are contributing to the local administrations in their efforts to fight the pandemic.
The sailors’ training establishment, INS Chilka in Odisha, has set up a 150-bed isolation centre.
“Additional beds with oxygen support have also been made available for the civilians at the naval hospital,” added a senior officer of the Eastern naval Command.
Likewise, the Western Naval Command has committed some capacity in its hospitals in Mumbai, Goa and Karwar to aid the local civil administrations.
In Mumbai, facilities have been set up inside the naval premises to provide basic amenities to the migrant labourers so that they are not displaced again.
Not only will this move preclude the trauma of mass dislocation among the migrant labourers, but it will also stem the spread of infections.
Amid this storm, it would be easy to miss the people in the islands of Lakshadweep & Minicoy (L&M Islands) and Andaman and Nicobar Islands (A&N). However, the Navy has kept a close watch over these islands.
Recently, a Covid positive 49-year-old man from Lakshadweep was ferried by a helicopter to the Naval Air Station in Kochi and was admitted to the naval hospital there.
Further, the Southern Naval Command in Kochi has earmarked a specific number of beds and contingency supplies for Lakshadweep & Minicoy Islands and has been closely monitoring the situation on-ground.
The Navy has also provided oxygen supplies by ships to various islands and placed a roving medical team to provide care for the population in L&M Islands.
A senior government official said, “We have to be careful, as it would be difficult to control the situation if the virus rapidly spreads across the islands.”
The Indian Navy has been closely associated in India’s fight against Covid-19 since last year.
In May-June 2020, it had initiated the largest repatriation mission, ‘Operation Samudra Setu’, wherein naval ships Jalashwa, Shardul, Airavat and Magar had traversed 23,175 km over 58 days and evacuated close to 4,000 stranded Indian citizens from Maldives, Sri Lanka and Iran.
The success of that finely-coordinated mission reflected the commitment and professionalism of the Navy.
“With another deadlier, more formidable challenge in the form of the second wave looking at the country in the eye, one can be sanguine that the nation’s armed forces working in tandem with the civilian administration will help the country overcome this pandemic,” the officer added.
(Sumit Kumar Singh can be reached at [email protected])