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Catholic leaders urge India to deploy military to help with pandemic


Police officers try to control the crowd, most without masks, during Lathmar Holi celebrations in Barsana, India, March 23, 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic. (CNS photo/Adnan Abidi, Reuters)


By Catholic News Service


        NEW DELHI (CNS) - As COVID-19 continues to claim thousands of lives daily in India, some Catholic leaders have called on the federal government to deploy the military to deal with the crisis before it worsens.

        "The second wave of COVID-19 is surely a national calamity, and the entire nation is struggling as thousands are dying and hundreds of thousands are getting infected daily," said Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of Ranchi, former secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India.

        "The federal government should consider deploying military personnel to assist the civil administration to effectively deal with this alarming situation of people living in fear," he told April 27.

        "Whenever the country faced national calamities such as a flood, drought, earthquake, cyclone or any such crisis, the Indian military played a crucial role to restore normalcy," said Bishop Mascarenhas. "It is high time that the government deployed the army and other wings of the defense forces with their huge resources and trained manpower to tide over this calamity that has already crippled the economy and taken a huge toll on its population."

        Since mid-April, India has been reporting more than 300,000 new COVID-19 cases and 2,000 deaths daily. Several states and cities have resorted to lockdowns and night curfews and  other restrictions on socio-religious gatherings to break the chain of the pandemic's spread.

        On April 27, India reported 323,144 new cases and 2,771 deaths. The stretched health care system in the country of 1.3 billion people has been reporting a lack of hospital beds, medical oxygen, vaccines and antiviral medicines as thousands seek medical care.

        Divine Word Father Babu Joseph, former spokesman for the Indian bishops' conference, also said military should be deployed.

        "Certainly, our defense personnel played very important roles in calamities and rendered superb services," Father Joseph said. The advantage of deploying military personnel is that they are disciplined and trained to deal with such situations, he added.

        "Now we face a health emergency, and at a time like this their service would be more useful and effective," Father Joseph told

        Father Varghese Vallikkatt, former deputy secretary-general of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council, also supported the suggestion.

        "It is sickening to see people dying without oxygen and hospital beds even in places like New Delhi, the national capital, and other big cities such as Mumbai," Father Vallikkatt said. "Many have lost hope of returning to their homes from cities where they work. Their heartbreaking stories make me helpless.

        "I strongly believe that at this hour of the crisis taking the service of our military personnel will be an added advantage to overcome this critical situation."

        The priest also wrote a post on Facebook urging the federal government to consider the suggestion to deploy the army.

        Father Vallikkatt said the "real problem of oxygen supply is not its shortage, but distribution. If our defense personnel are deployed, they will airlift oxygen from available sources and fill the shortage," he said.

        "What is more important is our lives. The sooner, the better," he added.

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