THE COVID WARRIORS
At the culmination of World War-II, when the nations of the world came together to form UNO in 1945, one of the first things that they discussed was the establishment of an organisation to protect and promote the health of the world’s people, resulting in the constitution of WHO. This organisation found itself stretched to its seams by the first quarter of 2020.
Mankind had never ever imagined a world of ‘social distancing’ as it approached the end of 2019. During that period, a variant of Corona that originated from a Lab in Wuhan (China), experimenting with Bats, soon engulfed the countries of the world and started gulping people in geometric progression. By the end of Feb China, Italy, Spain & USA followed by other nations, were on their knees as the medical fraternity was struggling to deal with this new Pandemic that struck the lungs of people and was highly contagious. The new unknown Virus (a derivative of SARS) was designated COVID-19, that called for special precautionary measures to deal with and arrest its spread. The virus that spreads between people during close contact, via microdroplets produced by coughing, sneezing, or talking. People also become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. WHO was trying desperately to propagate measures to arrest its spread and declared it a Public Health Emergency of international concern on 30 Jan 2020. All international flights across the world were ceased and borders sealed, including harbours and ports. The nations of the world were late in enforcing lockdown measures to save humanity. Even as the scientists were struggling to device an antidote/vaccine, the enormity of the Pandemic can be estimated by the fact that by end Apr itself, the COVID-19 positive cases globally were 3.2 million with 2Lakh deaths and rising. By end August the Global positive cases had shot upto 25.6 million (6.8m Active, 17.9m recovered) with 8.5 Lakh deaths. Slow and graded unlocking was resorted to revive the economy that was getting deflated worldwide.
The first case of the COVID-19 in India was reported on 30 January 2020. As of 30 April, we had confirmed a total of 31,000 Corona positive cases, 7000 recoveries and 1000 deaths in the country. In end-May India’s figures shot to 1.9 L positive cases with 5000 deaths. These figures were much lower than most countries struggling to control the epidemic, thanks to the able leadership of our PM for enforcing early lockdown measures. On 16 Mar, the union government declared a countrywide lock-down of schools and colleges. Govt Offices were directed to operate on reduced strength. On 17 Mar, The GOI issued an advisory urging to all Indian states to implement Social Distancing measures as a preventive strategy. On 22 March 2020, India observed a 14-hour voluntary public curfew at the instance of the Prime Minister. The government followed it up with lockdowns in 75 districts where COVID cases had occurred as well as all major cities. Further, on 24 March, the prime minister ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, affecting the entire 1.3 billion population of India. All markets, malls, shops were closed, except for essential services. On 14 April, the prime minister extended the ongoing nationwide lockdown till 3 May. From time to time MHA issued Advisories to the citizens through state govt on restrictions imposed on dealing with the epidemic.
The Doctors, Health care workers, the police, paramilitary and civil defence toiled round the clock in battle mode during this emergency. All Ministries had been informed of the containment plan. The Ministry of textile had been assigned the task of making sure the availability of protective and medical materials. The Department of Pharmaceuticals was tasked with making sure of the availability of essential medicines. Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution had been asked to ensure availability of essentials. The Ministry of Electronics, Information and Technology launched a smartphone application called Aarogya Setu to help in "contact tracing and containing the spread" of COVID-19 pandemic in the nation. The World Bank lauded the early deployment of such technology to combat the pandemic.
The CDS, Gen Bipin Rawat addressed the press on 01 May and paid his tributes to the Doctors, Health Workers and Corona Warriors. The Armed Forces on Sunday, 03 May in Solidarity conveyed their appreciation to all the Corona Warriors by the display of Formation flying of Fighters and Transport aircraft from Srinagar to Trivanthapuram and Gauhati to Kuchch besides showering of Petals by Helos on the Hospitals treating Corona patients. The Army carried out band displays at various locations in the country and Indian Naval Ships at anchorage carried out illumination and firing of Vary’s pistols at the dusk time at all Naval harbours. (Video below)
India enhanced the production of PPEs, testing kits, medicines and Ventilators many folds but due to various factors, raced ahead in the COVID numbers. By end August we had 36 L cases, 28 L recovered, 7.8 L active and 65,000 deaths.
INDIAN NAVY’s RESPONSE
The Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh in his address on a teleconference to Naval personnel on 09 Apr said that the Navy is ready to assist the civilian administration to deal with the Coronavirus epidemic. "Our medical teams have set up Corona Centres, isolation wards, quarantine facilities and requisitioned medical supplies and manufactured equipment in a very short time. Our ships and aircraft are in standby and we are ready to extend support not only to our country also countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR)," The Navy Chief listed out many of the tasks that the naval officers have carried out in the last few weeks. He said that the Navy has delivered free food rations to the poor, sent essential medical supplies to areas like Andaman and North East. He said that the senior leadership in the Navy is also in contact with veterans to take stock of their health and well being. He lauded the monetary contribution of the naval personnel to the PM CARES Fund, meant to fight this national emergency. "We have to take care of ourselves and our families. We have to make sure that we remain 'caregivers' and not become 'care seekers'. We also have to make sure that our assets like ships and submarines are free of infection," the Navy Chief said. He also asked his officers to maintain "physical distance" instead of "social distance" saying that in the Navy, the staff is socially very close.
An in-house designed and manufactured ‘Portable Multi-feed Oxygen Manifolds’ by Naval Dockyard Visakhapatnam (ND(V)) were handed over to the Collector Visakhapatnam by Admiral Superintendent ND(V) in presence of Command Medical Officer Eastern Naval Command and Principal Andhra Medical College. The set up uses an industrial 6-way radial header to enable one jumbo size Oxygen Bottle to concurrently supply Oxygen to six patients. Five such sets were handed over to the Collector.
MULTIFEED O2 MANIFOLD
A microcontroller-based portable non-contact thermometer has been developed by Naval Dockyard (Mumbai). This innovative tool has enabled screening body temperature of approx. 20,000 personnel on a daily basis at the entry gates of the Dockyard, thus assisting in preventing the spread of COVID-19 into the Dockyard and the Western Fleet. The low-cost design in the form of a Temperature Gun has an IR based temperature sensor with an accuracy of 0.02 deg. The temperature Gun has been manufactured in-house at a cost of less than Rs. 1000/-
The Officers and Sailors of NAY(K), SNC designed and fabricated an “Air Evacuation Pod” for the safe evacuation of a critical COVID-19 patient from Ships, remote areas or Islands.
AIR EVACUATION POD
In mid-May Institute of Naval Medicine (INM) Mumbai designed and developed low cost Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that was highly appreciated by medical fraternity as its made of a special fabric with high ‘breathability’ as against other imported PPEs not suitable for hot and humid weather conditions. It was tested and validated by ICMR.
Low Cost PPE by Indian Navy
OPERATION SAMUDRA SETU
While the Lockdown was in force, the Navy Foundation of Mumbai Chapter with over 1200 members was on a high, sending out important Govt Advisories and instructions on Whatsapp to all its members. The President NFMC living in Kharghar, Secy in Borivali and Treasurer in Colaba, the NFMC functioned wonderfully providing regular updates to its veteran members. A video conference meeting of the Committee members of NFMC was held on 31 Mar under the Chairmanship of Cdr Vijay Vadhera, President NFMC. This was followed up with regular VCons twice a week on Monday and Thursday.
The Chairman discussed the scenario of Lockdown in our nation due to COVID-19. Govt /ECHS letters continued to be promulgated regularly to Naval Veterans via the medium of Whatsapp broadcast by NFMC. He stressed on spreading positive news to all concerned in these difficult times when there is so much of fear-mongering being conveyed on social media. He expressed his view of donation to National Relief fund on behalf of NFMC. The issue was thrown open and brainstorming was done and the majority of Committee members were of the opinion to make the contribution to the CM's Relief Fund for COVID-19 as we belong to the Mumbai Chapter. It was decided to invite for contributions in the NFMC Fund. Later a meeting would be fixed up with State Govt Officials and President NFMC would present a cheque to the CM on a suitable date and time. CinC was informed of this initiative and he conveyed his pleasure on this benevolent initiative of NFMC.
NFMC MANAGING COMMITTEE
Two members of our foundation stood out for exceptional contribution during COVID. LtCdr Rajeshwari Kori (DyControler of Civil Defence) and her team, were issued a COVID-19 ID card to assist the society for any emergency. Cdr Angsuman Ojha founder of IESECCI, a non profitable organisation that assists the retired Armed forces personnel to join the Corporate World and deals in their Welfare, permormed a commendable job during the present crisis. Mustering up a team of experts as ‘COVID Yodhas’ to fight the pandemic.
NFMC took the initiative of procuring and distributing Face shields to all the Veterans and spouses including Veer Naris in mid May. Cdr George Duke assisted in its procurement. In addition Naval Dockyard fabricted 2000 cloth masks for Veterans and delivered them to the Area CMs for further distribution to Veterans. The Committee members of NFMC formed the Area wise Whatsapp groups: Cdr Abhishek Kankan (Thane), Cdr GC Rai (Kharghar), Cdr Kanan Ramdas (Powai), Capt Rakesh Agrawala (Central mumbai), Cdr Guddu Sharma (South Mumbai), Cdr Kamal and Cdr Raj Dutta (Bandra-Vasai Western Suburbs). These cluster groups were invaluable in disseminating localised info to the Veterans of these areas in emergent times as these. The groups were instrumental in the distribution of the Face Shields and masks to all Veterans and Veer Naris, a noble gesture that has been well appreciated by senior Naval Officers in Command and NHQ. Dr Gazala Azam Sheikh, a Homeopath agreed to supply complimentry ‘Arsenicum Album 30’ which had been approved by AYUSH as immunity booster. This Medicine along with Face shields and Face masks was distributed to all Veterans, a step that drew appreciation of the fraternity.
A Face Shield and Mask
distributed to Veterans
An informative Webinar on Zoom was conducted by Dr LtCdr Farokh Tarapore on ‘Building Positive Health through Immunity’ at on Mon 11 May. The presentation was well attended by over 260 viewers, including some NFMC Veterans as it had been promulgated on NFMC broadcast.
As the lockdowns were being extended over most parts of our country and Mumbai, it was contemplated to hold our NFMC AGM on VCon, that was originally planned for 24th May in Hamla for which all arrangements had been tied up and the Managing Committee had visited Hamla and met the CO Cmde RK Singh. For the VCon there were apprehensions on the security aspects on Zoom, so a safe App ‘MS Team’ was firmed up and concurrence obtained from DESA. A weekly VCon was programmed by Cdr Vadhera for all Veterans on important topics by inhouse speakers as a precursor to the VCon AGM on 09 Aug. He spoke on the Role of Navy foundation in an interview with Cdr Ritesh Menon, LtCdr Farokh spoke on immunity Boosing measures, Cdr Girish Konkar talk on stress Management was enlightening, Surg Cdr Shabeena Tawar, SHO Asvini spoke to the Veterans on the current Pandemic and precautions to be taken. The interest that her talk generated was evident by the queries generated during the Question hour. Cdr VK Jaitly forcefully spoke on his SWOT analysis of India Post Covid-19. The purpose of these VCons was twofold. One to make the Veterans getting use to the VCons besides keeping them occupied and educating them on the topics of current interests.
Virtual AGM of the Navy Foundation Mumbai Chapter was held at 1100 hrs on Sunday 09 Aug on ‘MS Team’ Video Conference App. Along with the Management Committee a large quorum of 173 members including our former CNS Adm Vijai Singh Shekhawat, PVSM, AVSM, VrC, former Patron VAdm Girish Luthra, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, former COM VAdm IC Rao, PVSM, AVSM and founder Secy & President of NFMC Capt Raj Mohindra attended the VCon meeting. In addition Cmde Pankaj Sharma,PDESA, Cmde Sandeep Chakravarti, Dir RC ECHS, Cmde Simon Xavier, Cd Welfare Offr and Secy RGC(W), Capt Kanchan Mukherjee, SSO(Welfare) and Capt Sunil Anand, CRSO attended. The AGM started with paying of tributes to 27 members of NFMC who had departed for heavenly abode since the last AGM. The President NFMC after his opening address welcomed 93 new members to our fold. The Balance Sheet of FE-2018-19 was passed by the General Body as also the previous minutes and the New Working Rules 2020. The agenda points were discussed with expert comments by PDESA, Dir RC ECHS and Secy RGC(W). The Virtual AGM was a huge success as was evidently reflected in the appreciative comments that the Managing Committee received from the members.
In order to achieve synergy amongst the various Navy Foundation Chapters Cdr Vadhera formed a What's App group involving the Management Committee members of the chapters, who have been meeting online every Sunday to discuss informally matters of mutual interest during the period of lockdown. It is a great initiative that is instrumental in keeping the foundations buoyant, by sharing ideas that are welfare-oriented for the Veterans.
VETERAN COVID WARRIORS
Commander Angsuman Ojha(Retd)(03988-N)(NFMC L-676) An enterprising Naval Officer Cdr Angsuman Ojha after retiring in 2014 as R.O. INS Angre joined High Court Mumbai and AFT as an Advocate. It's heartening to know that he set up an NGO IESECCI for the welfare of the families of Ex-Defence employees. In his own words the essence of all activities of this organisation is to match the considerable experience, expertise and work ethics of our retired service personnel to the requirements of the Public/ Private industry. The organisation bridges the gap between ex-Defence personnel and business for an enriching mutual role.
Cdr Ojha has been performing exceptionally as a leader of his COVID Warrior team during the current pandemic. He is an admirable Disaster Management specialist, having acquired the First-Hand experience of Tsunami relief Operations in Andaman & Nicobar. On Govt of Maharashtra’s Call, he was the first few to jump into the Band Wagon of COVID Warriors. His initiative in the Telemedicine field and India’s First Video Conferencing App ‘EFAUJI ADDA’ is praiseworthy. (A blog on Cdr Ojha’s initiative on IESECCI below)
Even as we are still battling with the Pandemic, preparations are afoot by the Team NFMC for the Veterans Week celebrations scheduled in Jan 2021 as follows
-- Sunday 03 Jan 2021: T-12 Cricket Match between CinC XI and President NFMC XI
-- Wednesday 06 Jan 2021: Sailing Race on J12 boats CinC Team Vs NFMC Team
-- Sunday 10 Jan 2021: Veterans Day Parade at Marine Drive
-- Thursday 14 Jan2021: Wreath Laying at Colaba War memorial followed by 17th Soman Memorial Lecture at Asvini Auditorium followed by PLD and Lunch. Guest Speaker: VAdm Pradeep Chauhan, AVSM & Bar, VSM (01610-H) (Retd), who is also our member NFMC (L- 648)
Rajeshwari Kori :
Cdr Angsuman Ojha :