35 ARMED FORCES MEN LOST COVID BATTLE, NEARLY 20,000 INFECTED

by Editorial

With Covid-19 tally having crossed the 50 – lakh mark in the country, the government on Wednesday disclosed the latest figures of coronavirus infections in the armed forces. Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply that there have been 19,839 cases of coronavirus in the armed forces while a total of 35 fatalities have been recorded so far.

He informed Parliament that the Indian Army has recorded the maximum 16,758 coronavirus cases and 32 deaths among the armed forces. The Indian Air Force, on the other hand, has confirmed 1,716 Covid-19 cases among its personnel along with three deaths. The Navy, meanwhile, has reported 1,365 confirmed cases of infection. There has been no death of any personnel in the Navy due to coronavirus.

“All deaths while in service have been awarded terminal benefits,” the minister said. Shripad Naik gave these details in a written reply to Anumula Revanth Reddy in the Lok Sabha.

DEFENCE CAPITAL PROCUREMENT

In reply to another question by Col. Rajyavardhan Rathore in Lok Sabha, MoS for Defence Shripad Naik shared detailed information on defence capital procurement. The minister said that during last financial year (2019-20), 38 contracts have been signed with Indian vendors and 32 contracts have been signed with Foreign vendors. During the current Financial Year 2020-21 (upto July, 2020), 10 contracts have been signed with Indian vendors and 6 contracts have been signed with Foreign vendors for capital procurement of defence equipment for the Armed Forces. Out of the total of 48 capital acquisition contracts signed with Indian vendors from April 2019 to July 2020, 18 contracts have been signed with DPSUs/PSUs/OFB/DRDO/ ISRO and 30 contracts have been signed with Indian Private vendors. All efforts are made to optimally use budgeted funds for meeting committed liabilities relating to already concluded capital acquisition contracts and for new schemes contracted during the year. The details of expenditure incurred under Capital Acquisition (Modernisation) of Armed Forces, under Defence Service Estimates (DSE), for the last five years is as under:

YearExpenditure (Rs in crore)
2015-1662,235.54
2016-1769,280.16
2017-1872,732.20
2018-1975,892.85
2019-2091,128.74

While evaluating competitive bids for Defence contracts between DPSUs and Private Sector entities, no advantage is given to DPSUs. The competitive bids are evaluated based on the RFP terms and conditions.

NEW INITIATIVE IN DEFENCE SECTOR

In a written reply to various questions of Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo and Dr. Jayanta Kumar Roy in Lok Sabha, Shripad Naik gave details of a new initiative in the defence sector including the induction of Rafale aircraft. He said that the first batch of five Rafale aircraft has been inducted and operationalised at Air Force Station Ambala. Induction ceremony was conducted on 10th September, 2020. Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers are being considered for, and granted Permanent Commission (PC) in all branches of the IAF based on cadre vacancies, willingness, suitability, medical fitness and merit as per policies in vogue. As on 1st September, 2020, 372 women SSC officers (excluding Medical/ Dental branches) have been granted Permanent Commission. Since 03.12.2008, Indian Navy has been considering and granting Permanent Commission to women officers (at par with male officers) in certain Branches/Cadres/ specialisation viz. Education, Law, Naval Constructor and Naval Armament Inspectorate based on inter-se merit, suitability and vacancies. Short Service Commission officers (both men and women) are also being considered for Permanent Commission in certain more Cadres/ Branches/Specialisation as per Hon’ble Supreme Court judgement dated 17.03.2020. The Government sanction letters for grant of Permanent Commission to women officers in the Army have been issued on 25.02.2019 and 19.07.2020. Indian Naval Ships Jalashwa, Airavat, Shardul and Magar were deployed as part of Operation Samudra Setu to evacuate the stranded Indian Nationals from Iran, Maldives and Sri Lanka during COVID-19 crisis. A Total of 3992 Indian Nationals were evacuated safely to India as part of Operation Samudra Setu.

The following steps have been taken by the Government to tackle the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the defence sector: Hospital Infrastructure development to tackle COVID: Beginning in the month of March, 2020 procurement of essential equipment to tackle COVID-19 cases in AFMS hospitals was undertaken. Supply orders for ventilators, oxygen concentrators, hand thermal guns, multipara monitors, PPE, Face masks, sanitizers, disinfectants etc, were placed for all AFMS hospitals. Emergency procurement powers of the DGAFMS were sanctioned by the Raksha Mantri for procurement of additional equipment like RT-PCR machines and test kits. As on day, there are 27 functional laboratories in the AFMS carrying out molecular testing for COVID using RT-PCR, TrueNat, CBNAAT and GenExpert techniques. Rapid Antigen Tests are available in the periphery for early diagnosis, isolation and contact tracing of cases. In line with latest treatment trends at a national and global level, drugs like Favipiravir and Remdesivir have been made available in AFMS Hospitals. Plasma Therapy is also available in two hospitals of AFMS.

Quarantine facilities: Station quarantine facilities have been set up in all military stations where troops are quarantined after returning from leave for 14 days. Any person developing symptoms during quarantine is immediately tested and isolated, if found positive.

Teams for Contact Tracing: Teams comprising medical and paramedical staff have been trained in tracing high risk contacts of confirmed cases for instituting quarantine measures. Asymptomatic high risk contacts are tested between day 7-10 of exposure.

COVID CARE CENTRES (CCC): These have been set up to augment hospitals where a large number of COVID patients are being admitted. Asymptomatic and mild cases are admitted in these CCCs to decongest the hospitals.

Interaction with Armed Forces Medical Services of Friendly Countries: Knowledge exchange and best practices for COVID control being followed by USA, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Sri Lanka have been adopted by the AFMS to optimise patient care.

Liaison with MoHFW and ICMR. The DGAFMS has maintained continuous liaison to ensure that guidelines and policies issued by the apex bodies are implemented to optimise patient care. Multiple guidelines pertaining to control and management of COVID have been issued by the DGAFMS to ensure conformity of care across the three services.

ILLEGAL OCCUPATION OF LAND IN the CANTONMENT REGION

During the year 2018, 2019 and in 2020 (upto 31.08.2020), 7.586 acres of defence land inside cantonment under the management of Defence Estate Organization have been detected as encroached by the residents. Out of above, defence land measuring 4.11 acres have got freed from encroachment during the same period. The illegal occupation of defence land may cause difficulties in Municipal administration viz. Providing water supply, sanitation and other municipal facilities.

The following steps have been taken to address the problem of encroachment: Respective user Services who manage defence land are responsible for its protection, removal of encroachments and planning for its land use.  Strengthening of defence land management by way of computerisation and digitisation of land records, Survey, demarcation and verification of defence lands and land Audit. Regular inspection of sites under respective jurisdiction is conducted by the CEO/DEO/Station Commander as the case may be. Issue of detailed instructions by the Government emphasising the need for ensuring vigilance, detection and prevention of new encroachments. Court cases are being pursued to evict encroachers. Close liaison is being maintained with revenue and civil police authorities to detect attempts to encroach upon the defence land by encroachers. Regular patrolling is being carried out to safeguard the lands from encroachers and unauthorised construction. Removal of encroachments on defence land under the provisions of Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 as well as under the Cantonment Act, 2006. This information was given by MoS Shripad Naik in a written reply to Rajendra Agrawal in Lok Sabha.

MODERNISATION OF ARMED FORCES

The details of Budget Estimates (BE), Revised Estimates (RE) and Actual Expenditure (Actuals) on the modernization(Capital Acquisition) of Armed Forces, under Defence Services Estimates (DSE), for the last five years and the current year are as under: (Rs in crore)

In May 2001, the Defence Industry sector, which was hitherto reserved for the public sector, was opened up to 100% for Indian private sector participation, with Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) up to 26% both subject to licensing. Further, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry has notified revised FDI policy under which FDI is allowed under automatic route upto 49% and beyond 49% through Government route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or for other reasons to be recorded. During the last three financial years (2017- 18 to 2019-20) and current year (upto July, 2020), 183 capital contracts have been signed with Indian vendors and foreign vendors for procurement of defence equipment for the Armed Forces. Under the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ campaign of Governmen of India, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has prepared a list of 101 items for which there would be an embargo on the import beyond the timeline indicated against them. This would offer a great opportunity to the Indian defence industry to manufacture these items using their own design and development capabilities to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces in the coming years. This list includes some high technology weapon systems like artillery guns, assault rifles, corvettes, sonar systems, transport aircrafts, light combat helicopters (LCHs), radars and many other items to fulfil the needs of our Defence Services. Since the launch of ‘Make in India’ in September 2014, several measures have been taken by the Government to promote indigenous design, development and manufacture of defence & aerospace equipment in the country under ‘Make in India’ by harnessing the capabilities of the public and private sector. Government has notified the Strategic Partnership (SP) Model which envisages establishment of long term Strategic Partnership with Indian entities through a transparent and comparative process, wherein they would tie up with global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to seek technology transfers to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chain. Government is taking measures for modernization of the Armed Forces, through procurement of new equipment and upgrading of existing equipment so as to ensure that the Armed Forces are equipped to meet the entire spectrum of security challenges. The modernization projects are progressed as per the approved Capital Acquisition Plans and in terms of the extant Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). This information was given by MoS Shripad Naik in a written reply to Dhairyasheel Sambhajirao Mane and others in Lok Sabha.

ILLEGAL TRANSFER OF DEFENCE LAND

In cases of attempts of illegal transfer based on the nature and circumstances of the case, FIRs/criminal cases have been filed against the sellers/purchasers, Courts have been approached to set aside such transactions. Competent Revenue authorities have also been approached for not effecting mutation of such transactions. Such transactions are not recognised and no mutation in defence land records is affected.

To prevent such incidents in future, the following steps are taken: The defence land across the country has been surveyed by Defence Estates Officers and Chief Executive Officers so as to clearly demarcate defence land to enable Services/users to physically protect it. Matter has been taken up with the State Government vigorously at all levels to mutate remaining defence land in the revenue records. Suggestions have been made by the Ministry to the Department of Land Resources for amending the Registration Act so as to make it mandatory for the Sub-Registrar to obtain ‘NOC’ from defence authorities prior to effecting registration of land located in Cantonments/Military Stations. Wherever such incidence is reported, immediate legal action is taken to protect the interest of the Government. Computerisation of defence Land records contained in General Land Registers (GLRs) and Military Land Registers (MLRs) with the use of Raksha Bhoomi Software. Strengthening of defence land management by way of digitisation of land records, survey, demarcation and verification of defence lands and land Audit.

The computerization of defence land records under the project ‘Raksha Bhoomi’ was undertaken by the Directorate General of Defence Estates in association with National Informatics Centre. Defence Land Records contained in General Land Registers (GLRs) and Military land Registers (MLRs) were entered in the Raksha Bhoomi Software and made operational after verification and authentication of database in July, 2011. Directorate General of Defence Estates (DGDE) has informed that 05 cases have come to notice, in the last three years (i.e. from 01.09.2017 to 31.08.2020). Total area involved is 36.30 acres. In two cases pertaining to Haryana (Narnaund Hisar, Distt. Hisar, area 29.99 acres) and one pertaining to Punjab (Muktsar, area 6.05 acres) the respective state governments are claiming the defence land. In all these cases the matter has been challenged by the DEO concerned and is presently subjudice in the court of the respective Divisional Commissioners. In the two cases of Union Territory of J&K (Badamibagh Cantt., area 0.26 acres) the illegal transfer of defence land by private persons through sale deeds have been challenged by way of filing suit in the District Court by DEO concerned. Another instance has been noticed where an attempt was made to illegally transfer defence land (11.10 acres) in Bengaluru to Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation. Based on the FIR lodged in the case, the said transfer has been stayed. This information was given by MoS Shripad Naik in a written reply to Ravi Kishan and others in Lok Sabha.

Year BudgetEstimatesRevised EstimatesExpenditure (Actuals)
2015-1677,406.6965,400.0062,235.54
2016-1769,898.5162,619.3669,280.16
2017-1869,473.4168,965.2472,732.20
2018-1974,115.9973,836.4375,892.85
2019-2080,959.0889,836.1691,128.74*
2020-2190,047.8031747.06#

*Figure is provisional pending finalisation of Appropriation Accounts.

# Figure is up to 31 July 2020.

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