Civil Defence forms the innermost shield to guard the home and hearth of citizens in times of war and distress..
Mr Ashith Mohan Prasad, IPS, Director General of Police, Commandant Home Guards, Director Civil Defence, Director General Fire & Emergency Services and SDRF, Karnataka, shares with Synergia Foundation the role being played by his intrepid citizen warriors.
PROTECTING THE HEARTLAND
One of the least understood dimensions of the security apparatus of the state is "civil defence." The National Disaster Management Authority defines civil defence as any measures, not amounting to actual combat, for affording protection to any person, property, place or thing in India or any part of the territory thereof against any hostile attack, whether from air, land, sea or other places, or for depriving any such attack of the whole or part of its effect, whether such measures are taken before, during, at or after the time of such attack, or any measure taken for the purpose of disaster management, before, during, at, or after any disaster.
Till external aggression of the magnitude of the Chinese attack struck India, in 1962, Civil Defence in India was confined to inculcating a consciousness for civil protection measures in major towns and cities. This changed drastically after the war; its scope was vastly enhanced under the Civil Defence (CD) Act 1968.
The changing nature of threats to human security has, in many ways redefined the meaning of civil defence. The emerging challenges come in the shape of natural or manmade disasters causing large scale misery and destruction. In the ultimate analysis, it is the affected community that has to take on the role of the first responder; there is a need to ensure adequate awareness and preparedness of the community to respond to any disaster situation. Experience has shown that if the citizenry is prepared, it can play a vital role in mitigating the damage and human loss. Civil Defence is a community based voluntary organisation which not only spreads public awareness and helps in building capacities; its volunteers are in the forefront in rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts.
DEFENDING AGAINST COVID 19
Most states and Union Territories in India have deployed civil defence personnel to help deal with the problems the public faced during the lockdown. In Karnataka, the Civil Defence Corps was one of the first departments to initiate proactive measures to supplement the efforts of various departments in creating awareness and to stop the spread COVID-19 by deploying 3600 Civil Defence personnel on various duties.
The Labour Department of the Govt. of Karnataka also started a Hunger Helpline 155214 and entrusted the responsibility of distributing food to migrant labourers to the Civil Defence personnel, the team headed by Officer Commanding (Head Qtrs & Operations) Dr P.R.S.Chetan. From 30th March to 31st May, they have distributed nearly 12 million food packets. Various awareness programs & social distancing markings in the community were also organised by the Civil Defence. They have helped the public out on all aspects of the situation: in providing food, ensuring healthcare, caring for the needy, and dealing with digital threats like fake news.
On the food front, the Civil Defense worked together with the BBMP and other government departments in distributing ration kits as well. Close to a 100 Hunger Warriors on bikes were employed to travel across Bangalore to deliver 10,000 food packets to the needy every day. They took on the responsibility of distributing 2 lakh food packets every day through the Labour Hunger Helpline to migrant labourers across Bangalore & parts of rural districts.
The Civil Defense was involved in the distribution of 5000 hygiene kits, masks and 500 PPEs, along with providing free cotton masks. They were involved with helping the Health Department and Police in watching quarantined patients. The distribution of 1.5 lakh sanitary napkins, calcium tablets, and other maternal health supplements to women, and attended distress calls from women folk of migrant families for medical help, shelter and food were also undertaken.
Once the lockdown was slowly lifted, they assisted the Government in registering migrants in Seva Sindhu and facilitating their travel by the 100 special Shramik trains. The Civil Defence teams worked in Chikabanavara, Cantonment, Malur, and Bangalore City Railway stations. They helped distribute food and water to migrants leaving Bangalore by train and bus. The teams have also now been deployed at the Airport to ensure quarantine procedures of air passengers on a daily basis.
An increase in volunteers, who were citizens from various walks of life, also helped tackled the lockdown in an effective way. The control centre also employed full-time staffs that were dedicated to tackle fake news and offer clarifications on a variety of social media platforms and the Telegram group. 100 Civil Defence personnel worked at the CM’s war room on Covid-19, with the social media control room answering over 25,000 social media queries every day.
Civil Defence wardens are working day and night as true ‘CORONA WARRIORS” since 20th March to mitigate the sufferings of people in this tough time of lockdown caused due to Covid-19. Civil Defence, The Citizens Army is at the forefront of the war against Covid-19.
Author; Ashith Mohan Prasad, IPS