NEW DELHI: The army has arranged special military trains to take back its personnel stuck at some of its training institutions to their formations along the northern and eastern borders with Pakistan and China, and relieve those troops who have been operationally “overstretched” there.

Several army personnel, who were undergoing courses at training institutions in Bangalore, Belgaum, Secunderabad and Gopalpur, could not move out of these establishments due to the lockdown, officials said on the condition of anonymity. This increased the workload of troops deployed in operational areas along the Pakistan and China borders and reduced their rest time. There is always a need for additional troops in such areas for relieving those on active duty, carrying out tasks such as patrols and ambushes.

Now, to meet the operational requirements along these borders, two military special trains have been planned from Bangalore-Belgaum-Secunderabad-Ambala-Jammu on Friday and Bangalore – Belgaum- Secunderabad – Gopalpur – Howrah – New Jalpaiguri- Guwahati on Saturday. The trains will ensure that army personnel at the training institutes can be taken back to their units along the two borders. These personnel have already completed their courses, completed the quarantine period and tested negative for coronavirus. The army is coordinating with the Railways Ministry to arrange for additional trains in the coming weeks.

All training activities and temporary duties will remain suspended until May 3, the date when the extended lockdown ends, according to fresh army instructions. Due to the extension from April 15 to May 3, all military establishments, cantonments, formation headquarters and units will observe strict “no movement” until April 19. Only personnel providing essential services will be allowed to move during this period. The army has said that this move will not hinder any operational tasks. The Centre has allowed the partial resumption of economic activity from April 20.

Until April 19, only the Military Operations, Military Intelligence, Operational Logistics and Strategic Movement branches will function at the Army Headquarters in Delhi, to carry out operational and COVID-19 related tasks. However, the duration of stay and strength within these branches will be at bare minimum. At the various command headquarters, only manpower, logistics and operations branches will function with skeletal staff, barring Northern and Eastern commands, where additionally the intelligence branch will also function.

However, from April 19 to May 3, offices at the Army Headquarters and the command and formation headquarters may start functioning at 50 percent strength. Until the end of the lockdown, the Directorate General Medical Services (Army) will continue functioning at full strength to beef up the country’s response to coronavirus. All medical establishments will also function at their full strength. Offices falling in ‘hotspots or containment zones’ will observe strict “no movement” until May 3, until they are denotified. Exceptions will be given depending on the local military authority.

Meanwhile, on the special trains an official said, “To meet the operational requirements of the northern and eastern borders, two military special trains are planned to be run…This will enable decongestion of category A and B training establishments at Bangalore, Belgaum, Secunderabad and Gopalpur and assist in operational preparedness of active formations deployed in the borders.”

All passenger trains have been suspended since the lockdown came into effect from March 25.

“Only personnel due to rejoin units deployed in northern and eastern borders and have undergone mandatory quarantine period and found medically fit will be accommodated,” the official said.

“There is a lot of pressure in operational areas and this will help in relieving troops there.

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