In view of the extended nationwide lockdown, the Indian Army is planning to run two special military trains to meet the operational requirements of the northern and eastern borders.
The move is aimed at bringing back thousands of Army personnel who were on leave and stuck in absence of availability of public transport like railways and domestic flights after the announcement of the nationwide lockdown to combat coronavirus pandemic.
According to sources, the first train will run on April 17 on the Bengaluru-Belgaum-Secunderabad-Ambala-Jammu route. The second train will operate on April 18 on the Bengaluru-Belgaum-Secunderabad-Gopalpur-Howrah-NJP-Guwahati route.
Army sources maintained that this will assist in operational preparedness of active formations deployed on the borders. Besides, military trains will also enable decongestion of Category A and B training test centres at Bengaluru, Belgaum, Secunderabad and Gopalpur.
"Only personnel due to rejoin units deployed in northern and eastern borders and have undergone mandatory quarantine period/found medically fit will be accommodated," the Army said in its order.
Army sources maintained, that on a given day, approximately 20-25 per cent of its total personnel (total strength is 13 lakh) are on leave. And to maintain the required numbers, persons on leave must join back to allow the work cycle to be in motion.
Army headquarters maintained that further coordination with Ministry of Railways is in progress for planning additional trains in coming weeks.
Besides, the Army has issued fresh directives to its formations in view of the extended lockdown.
It says that in view of the extension of lockdown from April 15 to May 3, all military establishments, cantonments, formation headquarters and units will observe strict “no movement” policy till April 19.
Only personnel connected with provision of essential services will be allowed to move in this time period, the Army headquarters said in its directive.
"This will not hinder any operational tasks of the formations or units, which will be conducted with the requisite strength," Army headquarters informed all formations.
Anticipating some relaxation in lockdown rules on April 20, the Army headquarters has also come out with instructions until April 19.
The Army says that within the headquarters, only the military operations, military intelligence, operational logistics and strategic movement branches will function, to carry out operational and COVID-19-related tasks. However, duration of stay and strength within these branches are to be at bare minimum.
It added that remaining branches will work from home and any specific task can be handled on a case-to-case basis. These orders will remain valid until April 19.
And within the command HQ, only manpower, logistics and operations branch will function with skeletal staff, barring Northern and Eastern Commands, where the intelligence branch will also function.
And from April 19 to May 3, the Army has set rules that offices in Army HQ, command HQ and formation HQ may start functioning at 50 per cent strength.
But the Directorate General, Medical Services (Army), will continue functioning at full strength to provide a robust response to COVID-19.
"All medical establishments and hospitals will continue functioning at full strength," an Army official said.
The Army has stated that all training activities and temporary duties will remain suspended until May 3.
Directions on actions to be taken post May 3 will be issued on receipt of fresh orders from the government.
Its headquarters made it clear that all social, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural and religious gatherings are to be suspended. No religious congregations and regimental or ceremonial functions will be permitted.
The Army further stated that its offices falling in ‘hotspots or containment zones’ will observe strict “no movement” police till they are denotified. However, exceptions to be given will depend on the local military authority.