Church leaders ask India to deploy military in Covid-19 crisis

Church leaders ask India to deploy military in Covid-19 crisis

Bishop Mascarenhas says the military has the resources and manpower to ease the ‘national calamity’

Saji Thomas Saji Thomas Published: April 27, 2021 10:25 AM GMT
Church leaders ask India to deploy military in Covid-19 crisis
Patients breathe with the help of oxygen masks inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 ward in New Delhi on April 27. (Photo: Money Sharma/AFP)

As Covid-19 continues to claim thousands of lives daily in India, Catholic leaders have called on the federal government to deploy the military to deal with the crisis before it worsens.

“The second wave of Covid-19 is surely a national calamity and the entire nation is struggling as thousands are dying and hundreds of thousands are getting infected daily,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, former secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).

“The federal government should consider deploying military personnel to assist the civil administration to effectively deal with this alarming situation of people living in fear,” he told UCA News on April 27.

Since mid-April, India has been reporting more than 300,000 new Covid-19 cases and 2,000 deaths daily.

Several states and cities have resorted to lockdowns and night curfews and several other restrictions on socio-religious gatherings to break the chain of the pandemic’s spread.

On April 27, India reported 323,144 new cases and 2,771 deaths, proving the government’s efforts were inadequate to contain the virus.

The stretched healthcare system in the country of 1.3 billion people has been reporting a lack of hospital beds, medical oxygen, vaccines and anti-viral medicines as thousands seek medical care.

“Whenever, the country faced national calamities such as a flood, drought, earthquake, cyclone or any such crisis, the Indian military played a crucial role to restore normalcy,” said Bishop Mascarenhas, auxiliary bishop of Ranchi Archdiocese based in the capital of Jharkhand state in eastern India.

“It is high time that the government deployed the army and other wings of the defense forces with their huge resources and trained manpower to tide over this calamity that has already crippled the economy and taken a huge toll on its population.”

Divine Word Father Babu Joseph, former spokesperson of the Indian bishops’ conference, agreed with Bishop Mascarenhas.

“Certainly, our defense personnel played very important roles in calamities and rendered superb services,” he said.

He said the advantage of deploying military personnel is that they are disciplined and well trained to deal with such situations.

“Now we face a health emergency and at a time like this their service would be more useful and effective”, Father Joseph told UCA News on April 26.

Father Varghese Vallikkatt, former deputy secretary-general of Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, also supported the suggestion.

“It is sickening to see people dying without oxygen and hospital beds even in places like New Delhi, the national capital, and other big cities such as Mumbai,” Father Vallikkatt said.

“Many have lost hope of returning to their homes from cities where they work. Their heartbreaking stories make me helpless.

“I strongly believe that at this hour of the crisis taking the service of our military personnel will be an added advantage to overcome this critical situation.”

The priest also wrote a post on Facebook urging the federal government to consider the suggestion to deploy the army.

Father Vallikkatt said the “real problem of oxygen supply is not its shortage but distribution. If our defense personnel are deployed, they will airlift oxygen from available sources and fill the shortage,” he said.

“What is more important is our lives. The sooner, the better,” he added.

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