Military Might for Disaster Management
The armed forces play a momentous role in saving lives, minimising damage to property, and maintaining stability of industrial production in the aftermath of natural calamities and national emergencies. Discipline and effectiveness are the two most vital components for disaster management and relief response -- both of which are instilled within the forces, thus rendering them crucial in post-disaster operations.
The 21st century India has witnessed many unforeseen disasters and each of these has seen the active involvement of the armed forces in relief operations.
2001 Bhuj Earthquake in Gujarat
The 52nd Republic Day on 26th January 2001 reminds India of one of the worst earthquakes that hit the western part of the country. Leaving nearly a million families homeless, many believed that it would take years for Gujarat to recover from the mass-scale destruction. However, the collective efforts of the armed forces and civilians played a major role in returning the region to normal. Thousands of army personnel located in and around Bhuj were mobilised for relief operations. Numerous helicopters were pressed into service for delivering tents, paramedical aid, and food supplies in the earthquake-affected areas.
Another catastrophe struck massive parts of Southern Asia along the Bay of Bengal and southeastern part of the Indian Ocean during the new year of 2004. With a death toll of around two millions, this multi-national disaster affected countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Myanmar. However, India responded to this tragedy with remarkable commendation and emergency military assistance within the first 24 hours. Necessary relief and rescue operations were mounted and the army supported the civil administration wherever necessary. With several naval helicopters, army troops, and naval ships, the military provided invaluable support to the affected people in Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Indonesia.
2004 Bihar Kosi River Flood
Millions of people lost their homes when the Kosi River burst through the banks of Nepal and spilled over the vast plains of northern India. One of the major steps in the massive relief effort was to position all three branches of India’s military — Army, Navy, and Air Force. Thousands of security personnel were deployed in the states for rescue operations.
2005 Earthquake in Kashmir
The 2005 Kashmir Earthquake, also termed as the South Asian Earthquake or the Great Pakistan Earthquake majorly affected Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the North West Frontier Province. With a scale of 7.6 on the Richter, it resulted in severe destruction and colossal damage. Heavy equipment was needed to clear the roads and rescue survivors buried under the earthquake wreckage. With no power, food, or water, there was also the danger of disease eruption. Food, medicine supplies, tents, and blankets were supplied by the emergency military services deployed there in the face of insurmountable hurdles posed by low temperatures and high altitudes.
2010 Cloudburst in Leh
In 2010, the Ladakh floods caused colossal destruction in the northernmost Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. After the Leh cloudburst, overnight rains caused substantial flash floods, damaging several towns and villages. Many foreign tourists lost their lives and thousands were reported missing. Indian army soldiers launched a massive rescue operation. The army and paramilitary personnel erected relief camps, while providing food and medical aid to locals.
2008 Mumbai Attacks
The 2008 Mumbai attacks (26/11) took place in November when 10 members of Islamic military organization Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out a series of shooting and bombing attacks across the city. It lasted for four days starting on Wednesday 26, 2008, killing and wounding several civilians. Among the dead were 28 foreign nationals from 10 countries. Operation Black Tornado was launched to free the hostages held by the terrorists in buildings under siege. At least 164 victims (including 15 policemen and two NSG commandos) and nine attackers were killed in the attacks
2013 Uttarakhand Floods
The Uttarakhand floods were caused by unseasonal rains, cloud bursts, and climate change. It claimed many lives and affected uncountable civilians. Operation Surya Hope was launched as an immediate operation by the Indian Army to respond to the mass-scale destruction caused by this disaster. The response team stationed infantry battalions and Army Service Corps to aid in logistics and supply support, provide medical facilities and added reinforcements. With the deployment of special forces, specialised mountain troops, paratroopers, and army aviation, this is the largest humanitarian mission by the Indian Army in several decades.
Whenever calamity strikes, Indian armed forces are summoned to handle the situation. In spite of adverse conditions, they are always ready to move to any kind disaster-affected area. To date, the military continues to be amongst the first responders in a catastrophe even before civilian resources are deployed.
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