NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday asked the top commanders of the army, air force and navy to assist in the revival of the economy after the lockdown is lifted by making purchases from micro, small and medium enterprises, even as he underlined the need to avoid wastage of financial resources due to the economic burden imposed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Singh also asked the commanders to ensure operational preparedness while they are battling the COVID-19 outbreak, so that an adversary does not exploit the current situation. Stressing on the requirement of jointness of the armed forces, the minister also asked them to identify and prioritise tasks that could be accomplished quickly.

These matters were discussed during a review of the operational preparedness and measures to fight COVID-19 with all the commanders through a video conference. Officers from the army’s Northern Command, Eastern Command, Southern Command, South-Western Command, Central Command; the navy’s Southern Naval Command, Western Naval Command, Eastern Naval Command; and the air force’s Western Air Command, Central Air Command, South-Western Air Command, Southern Air Command; and the triservices Andaman & Nicobar Command were part of the conference. The Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, chiefs of the three defence services and Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar also participated in the conference.

“Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the operational preparedness as well as measures to fight COVID-19 with all the Commanders-in-Chief through a video conference,” the defence ministry said.

“Stressing on the requirement of jointness of the armed forces, the Defence Minister asked the Commanders-in-Chief to identify and prioritise tasks that could be accomplished quickly and assist in revival of the economy after the lockdown is lifted,” the ministry added.

Officials said measures to assist in reviving the economy would be making purchases from MSMEs as far as possible. Several MSMEs face closure within the next few months due to the impact of COVID-19, unless the government takes some urgent steps. The lockdown has badly affected the private industry. All defence PSUs have agreed to expedite payments to MSMEs.

The commanders also appreciated the recent devolution of emergency financial powers by the defence ministry, which has ensured the timely procurement of necessary medical supplies, aimed at bolstering the health infrastructure of the hospitals.

Meanwhile, Singh also “expected the forces to ensure their operational preparedness, while they are battling COVID 19 and the adversary should not be allowed to exploit the current situation”, the ministry said.

The commanders have also expressed readiness to pitch in to maintain essential services locally if requested by the civilian administration. They informed Singh of the measures put in place by them to prevent virus infection among the forces and assistance extended to the local civilian administration. These include issuing standard operating procedures on COVID-19, modifications in protocols according to the advisories issued by the Health Ministry and taking care of the ex-servicemen and their families. The armed forces have also provided basic training to additional manpower to deal with the epidemic.

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