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Hundreds of sorties, 336 tonnes of supplies, IAF is now govt’s transport service in lockdown




Indian Air Force AN-32 | ANI Photo
Indian Air Force AN-32 | ANI Photo

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New Delhi: As the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has deployed its transport fleet to aid the efforts, emerging as the essential transport service for the government.

Sources in the IAF told ThePrint that the force’s transport aircraft have in the last month flown over hundreds of sorties ferrying over 336 tonnes of medicine, ration and other essential supplies to various parts of the country.

The work is being carried out through transport aircraft such as the C-17, C 130, AN 32 and the Dornier. The IAF’s primary transport chopper, the MI-17 V5s, have also been put into action and have been transporting swab samples for testing.

The sources told ThePrint that nearly 70 sorties have been flown to carry 300 tonnes of essential supplies just in the northern sector — covering Leh, Ladakh and Srinagar — since 25 March. 

The sorties in the northern sector also include routine air maintenance missions.  

“All other non essential movements have been stopped for now,” a senior IAF officer told ThePrint, referring to the regular movement of men and material carried out by the transport fleet on a daily basis.

Also read: ‘For just a bloody cannon’: How a MiG-21 nearly took down a PAF Sabre on debut for IAF in 1965

Carrying material across the length and breadth of the country

The IAF had earlier said that it has earmarked aircraft at nodal points to airlift medical supplies and equipment at short notice to proactively support operations against Covid-19. 

According to the IAF, its transport aircraft have airlifted essential medical supplies and commodities from nodal points to various states such as Maharashtra, Kerala, Telangana, Nagaland and the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.

The service had deployed aircraft to fly in medical supplies and doctors to Leh and fly out blood samples for Covid-19 testing to Chandigarh and Delhi.

By 1 April, the IAF had airlifted nearly 25 tonnes of essential medical supplies from Delhi, Surat and Chandigarh to Manipur, Nagaland and the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. 

The medical supplies included personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitisers, surgical gloves, thermal scanners apart from medical personnel. 

Earlier this month, the IAF had airlifted essential medical supplies and commodities from nodal points to Manipur, Nagaland and Gangtok in the North Eastern region.

On 6 April, an AN-32 aircraft airlifted personnel and 3.5 tonnes of ICMR medical equipment from Chennai to Bhubaneshwar for setting up testing labs and facilities in Odisha.

The IAF had also airlifted essential medical supplies and commodities from nodal points to Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Mohanbari in the North Eastern region; Prayagraj, Gorakhpur, Bareilly and Agra in the Central region.

The force recently flew dedicated sorties for the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) and airlifted around nine tonnes of raw material from various nodal points for producing personal protective equipment at DRDO production facilities. 

“It also airlifted N95/99 Masks manufactured by DRDO. IAF is ensuring that all necessary precautions as specified by the Govt of India to prevent the spread of the contagion, are put in place while undertaking these tasks,” an IAF statement had mentioned.

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Essentials to other countries

The IAF has also helped New Delhi send essential supplies to foreign countries and has flown back Indians stuck in other nations. 

The IAF had airlifted critical medical supplies to Male, Maldives, as ‘Operation Sanjeevani’ on 2 April after the island nation faced shortage of essential medical supplies.  

On 26 February, the force flew medical supplies to China and evacuated 112 passengers from Hubei province in China. Among these, 76 were Indian citizens.  

Last month, an IAF C-17 Globemaster aircraft evacuated 58 Indians from Iran and also carried 529 samples for investigation. 

According to an IAF statement, the service is providing medical care to Indian citizens evacuated from Iran and Malaysia at air bases at Hindon and Tambaram respectively.  

The service has set up nine quarantine facilities of 200-300 personnel capacity each, at nodal IAF bases across the country. COVID-19 testing laboratory at Command Hospital Air Force, Bengaluru is operational for testing. 

The service has also started a 24×7 crisis management cell at Air Headquarters and various Command Headquarters. 

Also read: How India’s young IAS officers ensured a smooth lockdown in every corner of the country


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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