In a quaint little village with tall poplars swinging gently in the summer bloom against the bare lofty mountains, 1962 war veteran Tsering Tashi giggles with exuberance over the thought that Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited his village just a week ago.
“I did not know that he, the Prime Minister of India, was right here in my village, talking to soldiers. Got to know after he left,” Tashi laughs.
Tashi quickly adds, “His visit to Nimo was really required. It has boosted the morale of our soldiers. He could not have gone to the forward posts but it was very good that he gave a speech here. It uplifted the spirits of the soldiers. I think the Army is happy too.”
The Prime Minister’s visit to Nimo, after India lost 20 soldiers, including a Colonel on June 15 during a violent clash with Chinese troops, has a deep significance for the 80-year-old Tashi.
Even 58 years after India’s defeat in the 1962 war with China, the regret and grief has not faded from the Havildar’s voice as he recalls how India lost the war and territory to the Chinese.
Describing the then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai’s approach to India, prior to the 1962 war, “Muh mein Ram Ram, bhagal mein chhuri” (stabbing someone in the back), Tashi drifts into the memory lane when he had joined the Army in 1959 as a young soldier.
“The war began at night around 1 a.m. (October 20, 1962). Both India and China used to have military posts near DBO (Daulat Beg Oldi), one of the world’s highest airstrip at an altitude of over 16,600 feet.
“We used to patrol on foot; the Chinese on horses. Our vehicles could not reach our posts but theirs did. They had outnumbered us. We were very few.
“There were only two units of Army at the time — one was at Chushul and the other at DBO. So we airlifted our soldiers of Jat regiment from Pathankot, direct to the DBO airstrip,” Tashi recalls.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had assaulted Indian military posts in Chip Chap valley, Galwan valley and Pangong lake and other numerous small posts. The Chip Chap river flows to the south of Daulat Beg Oldi from east to west.
In October, winter is in full swing in Ladakh, and extremely harsh at high altitude areas like DBO. The temperature dips to freezing point.
“Our troops got no time to acclimatize but they chose to fight. Their hands froze; they lost their limbs. So we had to retreat,” the war veteran says with a lump in his throat. He repeatedly mentions how the soldiers died in the cold.
As his wrinkles droop at the memory of that night, he remembers that the Army lost another 20 to 30 men at the nearby post. “They (People’s Liberation Army) took some of our soldiers prisoners of war too. One of them, however, escaped; don’t know how he came back,” he says.
Around 2 a.m., Tashi went from DBO in a Shaktiman truck to bring more soldiers for support.
“I got 30 to 40 soldiers. But our vehicle got stuck in the snow in a frozen stream. Perhaps, our lives got saved because our vehicle got stuck. Once, we were able to move, it was already morning. Since we could see because of the morning light, our commandant was able to move us up the ridge a little bit. I was the guide. But by that time we got there, the PLA troops had occupied our side. So we had to withdraw,” the ex-serviceman says.
Tashi remembers the martyrdom of Major Shaitan Singh, of the Kumaon Regiment, who had been instrumental in holding on to the Rezang La Ridge, which was important to prevent the airstrip from falling into the Chinese hands.
The 1962 war veteran, who retired from the Ladakh Scouts regiment of the Indian Army in 1975, however, brightens up at the mention of the 1971 war with Pakistan. “That is when we were able to regain Turtuk, Dhothang, Tyakshi and Chalunka of Chorbat valley,” he says with a certain smugness.
By that time, he adds smilingly, “We had got new arms and weapons, the strength of our units had been hugely increased. We took their top strategic posts; both Pakistani Army and civilians had to flee.”
China, Tashi believes, cannot defeat India now.
“India is very strong. During our time, India was like dust on the ground but now its touching the skies. Now whatever our soldiers ask for, it is immediately fulfilled on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.”
M.K. Stalin announces two-week lockdown starting May 10
A day after he and his council of Ministers were sworn in, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on Saturday announced total lockdown in Tamil Nadu between May 10-24 to prevent spread of coronavirus, while exempting essential services.
He also said with the impending two week lockdown from Monday onwards all shops and establishments are allowed to function from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
In a statement issued here Stalin said the two week lockdown is announced to intensify actions to prevent the spread of coronavirus and due to unavoidable reasons.
Stalin said the lockdown will kick in from 4 a.m. on May 8 to 4 a.m. on May 24.
According to Stalin liquor shops will also be closed.
The banned and permissible activities during the lockdown are:
-International flights are banned other than which are permitted by the Union Home Ministry.
-E-registion on https://eregister.tnega.org must for people coming to Tamil Nadu from other Indian states and overseas.
-Train and flight passengers will be allowed to move on production of tickets.
-Only standalone shops selling groceries, vegetables, meat and fish will be allowed to function till 12 noon without air conditioning.
-Other than above shops, all other shops are to be closed.
-Dunzo like delivery organisations can deliver vegetabls/provisions/grocery/meat/fish only till 12 noon.
-Big format stores (over 3,000 sq.ft) and shopping malls are to be closed.
-State owned liquor shops to be closed.
-Only takeaways permitted at hotels and restaurants and not dine-in. Hotels and lodges to serve food to their guests staying for commercial and medical purposes in their rooms. Otherwise hotels and lodges to remain closed.
-Tea shops to be closed at 12 noon.
-Ban on cultural/political/educational functions in indoor auditoriums and outdoors.
-Only 20 persons allowed at funerals.
-Not more than 50 persons allowed in weddings.
-Closure of barber shops, beauty parlours, spas, saloon.
-Closure of recreation clubs, movie theatres, liquor bars, auditoriums, meeting halls, amusement parks and other places where there will be large gatherings of people.
-Ban on retail sales of fruits and vegetables at Koyambedu Market in Chennai. Similarly ban on retail sales of fruits and vegetables in wholesale markets in other places in the state.
-State government departments other than Secretariat, Fire Service, Police, Revenue, Disaster Management, Medical, Prisons, Electricity, Water Supply, Treasury, Local Bodies, Social Welfare, Womens Welfare- will remain closed.
-These above restrictions are applicable for central government departments as well.
-Other than exempted industries all others, information technology (IT) and information technology enabled services (ITES) units will remain closed. Work-from-home is permitted.
-Closure of places of worship for the public, but daily poojas permitted by the temple staff.
-Ban on all tourists to Nilgris, Kodaikanal, Yercaud and other places.
-People are not allowed to go to the beach across the state.
-Parks, museums, archaeological sites closed to the public.
-Schools, Universities, Colleges and summer camps are banned.
-Sports training academies are to be closed.
-Intra-district and inter-district government/private bus, taxi, autorickshaw service banned except for those travelling to attend weddings, job interviews and to hospitals with proper proof.
-No permission to operate for food and grocery/provisions/vegetable delivery companies like Zomato, Swiggy.
-Essential services like the delivery of milk, newspaper, courier service, hospitals, medical diagnostic labs, ambulance and hearse services are allowed.
-Vehicles carrying goods, oil, agricultural produce, oxygen trucks are allowed.
-Shops selling cattle feed, pesticides and fertilisers are allowed to function between 6 a.m and 12 noon.
-On the days during total lockdown (Sundays) hotels, restaurants can be open between 6-10 a.m., 12 noon to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Food delivery companies like Swiggy and Zomato can function only during this period.
-Amma canteens will function as usual.
-Pavement shops selling vegetables and flowers can function till 12 noon.
-Ration shops to function between 8 a.m. and 12 noon.
-On going construction activities will be permitted.
-Organisations serving old/handicapped people can move around with identity proof.
-Media activities are permitted.
-Continuous process industries and industries manufacturing essential items are allowed to function.
-Banking, postal services, data centres maintenance are allowed.
-Warehouse operations to load and unload goods allowed.
-Petrol, diesel vending outlets can function.
-Banks, insurance companies, ATM transport services are allowed with 50 per cent employees.
Delhi gears up for mass vax, Arvind Kejriwal says 3 cr vaccines needed
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday said that the state administration has geared up for mass vaccination across the capital and it would need around 80,000 to 85,000 vaccine doses per day.
Addressing a press conference, the chief minister said, around 300 centres have been set up for vaccination in the city with an aim to complete vaccination drive in the next three months, if Delhi gets adequate supplies from the Centre.
“At present, around 100 vaccination centres are operational in Delhi and around 200 more centres will come up in the next few days. Delhi would need around 3 crore vaccines in next three months to cater to more than 2 crore population of the national capital,” Kejriwal said.
Delhi has so far received around 40 lakh vaccines and it would need around 2.60 crore more in the next three months. “As of today around 1 lakh people are getting jabs per day in Delhi. We can increase this number up to 3 lakh per day. We have increased our vaccination sites and many more to be set up soon,” the chief minister said.
The Centre has already been alerted that India will witness the third wave of Covid and therefore the Delhi Government wants to vaccinate all its citizens within next three months. “We will request the Centre to provide adequate vaccines to Delhi. Delhi government wants to vaccinate all eligible people before the next wave of pandemic,” Kejriwal added.
Harsh Vardhan assures Mamata of all help to fight Covid
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday assured West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of all help to fight Covid in the state.
In a letter to Banerjee, who has just taken over for her third stint in power, he said that since the very onset of the pandemic, the Centre has been supporting each and every state across the country not just financially, but also through requisite diagnostics, therapeutics, medical devices, vaccines and other essential material and services.
Earlier, Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue instructions for immediate allocation of at least 550 metric tonnes of medical oxygen to the state.
Posting his four-page letter to Banerjee, Harsh Vardhan tweeted: “Diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines, oxygen,or augmenting health infra. Rest assured Mamata Didi, whatever West Bengal needs, Narendra ModiJi’s Government stands resolute to provide, in order to help it effectively fight Covid 19 pandemic.”
Referring to her letter to the Prime Minister, he said: “First of all, I would like to point out the high test positivity rates in many districts of the state, which is over 40 per cent in some districts. As you have been the Health Minister yourself, you will appreciate that this means that testing needs to be significantly ramped up. We wish the state of West Bengal is ahead of the curve when it comes to tracking infection, by testing more.”
On the need to augment the health infrastructure in the state, he suggested that West Bengal may look at various innovations being done across the country to increase availability of beds and healthcare facilities.
Listing the Centre’s support, he wrote that as on date, West Bengal has already been provided a total of 1,18,83,340 vaccine doses and further 2,00,000 doses are in the pipeline for immediate supply.
“Government of India has so far provided West Bengal with 18.38 lakh N95 masks, 4.84 lakh PPE kits, 1,245 ventilators and 43.5 lakh Hydroxychloroquine tablets for management of Covid-19 pandemic,” he noted.
On Centre’s help to meet the state’s oxygen requirement, he wrote: “As many as five Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants have been sanctioned for West Bengal, out of which two have already been installed and made functional. Similarly, 849 D-Type and 1,504 B-Type oxygen cylinders have been allocated to West Bengal. Out of this, 700 will be delivered on or before May 21. This entire support has been provided free of cost.”
“In view of the recent surge in Covid cases across the country, demand for drugs like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab has increased substantially. As many as 94,400 vials of Remdesivir have, accordingly, been allocated to West Bengal for the period April 21, 2021 to May 9, 2021. On the Tocilizumab front, the Central government is making all efforts for equitable availability across the country, based on the active case load in each state.”
The Health Minister said that apart from the delivery of these essential medical devices and drugs, West Bengal has been supported with a financial grant of Rs 295.28 crore under the Covid-19 package.
On oxygen, he said: “West Bengal has been allocated 308 MT of oxygen to meet the demand from April 25 onwards. In this regard, we had allocated the maximum possible amount to West Bengal at the time of the issue of the aforesaid order.”
He said that the Indian Council of Medical Research has facilitated setting up 74 Covid testing labs in the government sector and 54 labs in the private sector.
“I assure you that the Centre is committed to taking all required steps to help the states in their fight against Covid-19 and shall continue to hand-hold them during this challenging time of the pandemic by providing requisite resources,” he said.
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