The major calamities that have struck the Indian sub-continent during the last decade, have underscored the need to adopt a multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach to disaster management. Within the ambit of this approach, the Armed Forces constitute a significant and potent entity available with the Central Government, for disaster response and relief. As part of the Armed Forces, the Army, by virtue of its organisational strength, motivation, discipline and operational preparedness, has always risen to the occasion, earning the appreciation of the environment for it’s singular contribution.
The following attributes make the Army a potent instrument for disaster relief :-
(a) It is suitably poised for rapid response and for mobilising self-contained, composite task forces to any part of the country, even overseas, in conjunction with the Navy and Air Force.
(b) It is structured, organised and managed to provide support for a full range of public relief services.
Role and Employment of the Army in Disaster Management
Over the years, the scope of Army's role in disaster management has enlarged gradually. It is invariably the first responder in disaster situations. The Disaster Management Act of 2005 has ensured that the Army's role in disaster response remain focused on critical issues, with optimal utilisation of dedicated resources.
The versatile capabilities of the Army to respond to any form of disaster situation can be best exemplified by the assistance provided during the Tsunami Disaster as well as relief operations conducted in the aftermath of the Kashmir Earthquake :-
(a) Tsunami Disaster
(i) Response- The speed, with which the Indian Army was able to deploy its columns in the first 6 to 9 hours, followed by a systematic build up over long distances, in conjunction with the Navy and Air Force, is perhaps proof of the credibility of our humanitarian response machinery.
(ii) Mobilisation- The operation involved mobilisation of over 8300 troops, suitably grouped into composite task forces, for rescue and relief operations, not only in the Southern peninsular regions of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala, but also overseas in Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Sri Lanka.
(iii) Relief- As many as 27,986 persons were rescued / evacuated under extremely hostile conditions. 60 relief camps were established, 41,080 patients were treated in mobile field hospitals / camps, over 990 dead bodies were recovered, debris cleared and essential rations, food packets, medicines, clothing, blankets and kerosene oil provided to the traumatised populace.
(iv) Rehabilitation- The columns were, thereafter, involved in rehabilitation and reconstruction operations for a sustained period of 6-9 months. All possible tasks like restoration and manning of essential services, restoration of surface communications to include launching of bailey bridges and operation of ferries, erection of temporary dwelling units and toilets, enforcement of hygiene and sanitation measures to prevent an epidemic outbreak, trauma and psychological counseling, as also informative classes on employment and recruitment opportunities for youth were undertaken by our troops in the most commendable manner.
(b) Kashmir Earthquake : Operation IMDAD
(i) The Indian Army, despite the loss of 45 of its own personnel, with severe injuries to another 283 and significant damage to its infrastructure, willingly assumed the role of the primary agency for rescue and relief effort. Our rescue teams were the first to reach the isolated, inaccessible areas.
(ii) 52 columns, comprising 2600 troops, along with 39 medical teams, 31 tons of medicine and specialised mountaineering equipment, were mobilised for rescue and relief.
(iii) 40 relief camps were established, 1200 people rescued, 6000 civil patients treated, 150 tonnes of rations and 18,000 food packets were distributed.
(iv) In keeping with its inspirational desire to provide and oversee infrastructural renovation, the Army has adopted three villages.
Outbreak of Disease in Kerala
Consequent to the outbreak of Dengue and Chikenguniea (Diseases) in Kerala in June 2007 and requisitioning by the State Government, Medical and Health Teams with requisite fogging and spray equipment were deployed. Extensive fogging and spray of anti larval pesticides was carried out at Amburi, Patnamthitta, Kollam and Thalachira.
A Research Team comprising of an Entomologist, Virologist and Epidemiologist was also deployed for investigation and advice. One Medical Specialist (Neuro Physician) ex Military Hospital Southern Command, Pune, also visited the affected areas.
Fire at Burrabazar in Kolkata
Consequent to the outbreak of fire in the Burrabazar Area of Kolkata on 12 January 2008, fire spread to nearby buildings rapidly. Nandram Market, a thirteen store market complex in Burrabazar was also engulfed by fire. Civil fire tenders were pressed into service. Government of West Bengal requisitioned for additional fire tenders from Army on 12 January 2008. Accordingly, three fire tenders along with fire crew were employed for fire fighting.
Disaster Relief Initiative - Bangladesh
In the aftermath of the cyclone (SIDR) in Bangladesh on 15 November 2007, a large quantity (costing approximately 3.6 Crores) of disaster relief stores, to include Tents, Blankets, Milk Powder, MREs, Water Purifying Straw and Medicines were dispatched in four IL sorties between 20 to 30 November 2007.
The International Dimension Recent instances of rendition of aid further underline the international dimension of the Indian Army’s response and relief capacity :-
(a) Katrina Disaster- In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, approximately 25 tonnes of disaster relief supplies (3,000 blankets, 150 tarpaulins, bed sheets, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap cakes, soap cases and hand towels), were dispatched in an IL- 76 sortie to USA on 09 September 05.
(b) Philippines Mudslide- In the aftermath of extensive mudslides in Leyte (East Philippines) on 17 February 06, approximately 30 tonnes of disaster relief supplies, including medicines were dispatched in an IL-76 sortie to Philippines on 22 February 06.
(c) Indonesia Earthquake- In the aftermath of the extensive earthquake in Jakarta ( Indonesia ) on 27 May 2006 , approximately 86 tonnes of disaster relief supplies, including medicines were dispatched in two IL-76 sorties and INS TABAR to Indonesia in May / June 2006.
(d) Lebanon- Similarly, during the recent crisis in Lebanon, 3200 blankets and 225 tents were dispatched to Lebanon on 18 Aug 2006.