By Sujit Chakraborty
Agartala, May 10 (IANS) The experts from National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) would study the huge coronavirus infection among the Border Security Force (BSF) troopers and their family members as the positive cases already climbed to 132, top officials said.
In all 121 BSF men of two battalions – 138th and 86th — and 10 family members — five children and five women – and a BSF civilian mess worker were infected by the virus in eight days in northern Tripura’s Dhalai district.
Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Sanjay Kumar Rakesh said that a high level team from NCDC would soon visit Tripura to study the high rate of coronavirus infection among the BSF jawans and their kins.
Responding to the state government’s requests, the NCDC experts would study the cause of COVID-19 infection among the central paramilitary force in Tripura,” Rakesh told IANS. He said that during a discussion (through video conferencing) with Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan on Saturday, the issue was discussed and requests for additional COVID-19 testing laboratory in Tripura.
“Besides additional COVID-19 testing laboratory, we have sought additional ventilators and testing kits. The minister was very positive towards our needs and problems,” the Additional Chief Secretary said. The Health Minister held several hours long discussion through video conference with the ministers and top officials of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim and reviewed the status of COVID-19 in the northeastern states along with the measures being taken for its containment and management.
Top BSF officials including Tripura Frontier Inspector General (IG) Soloman Yash Kumar Minz and health officials are working closely to detect the primary infection source among the BSF personnel and their family members.
While talking to IANS, BSF’s Tripura Frontier Deputy Inspector General (DIG) C.L. Belwa said : “Senior officials in association with the health officials of Tripura are working round-the-clock to prevent further spread of the disease and to identify the primary and secondary sources of infection. We are yet to find out the primary sources of the infection of the dreaded virus.”
The BSF authorities are also making ready their own hospital at the Tripura frontier headquarters at Shalbagan near here to treat infected BSF personnel. Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who holds the Health and Home portfolios, has directed the Tripura Frontier IG to submit a report of an inquiry over the outbreak of novel coronavirus in 138th and 86th BSF Battalions, both headquarters are stationed in same complex in Ambassa (Dhalai district headquarters), 82 kms north of state capital Agartala.
Of northeast India’s 117 districts, only Dhalai district headquarters Ambassa was earlier declared as a Red Zone by the Union Health Ministry.
Of 132 active and positive cases, detected in the past eight consecutive days, included 121 BSF men of the two battalions (138th and 8th) and 10 family members — five children and five women – and a BSF civilian mess worker.
Local media, border people and experts observed that the BSF’s closeness with the border people, infiltration across the border, dwellings of people just along both sides of the border could be the possible source of the infection among the paramilitary troopers.
“Unlike western frontiers, the BSF men are always very close to the bordering Indians in the eastern frontiers. This closeness helped the force to make the border secure by force multiplier strategy,” former Tripura Frontier DIG Samir Kumar Mitra told IANS over phone from Kolkata.
“BSF authority must undertake a massive conscious campaign both among the BSF personnel and border people,” Mitra suggested.
Tripura surrounded by Bangladesh on almost four sides and shares 856 km border with the neighbouring country where the COVID-19 outbreak turned into an alarming situation as the total number of confirmed corona positive cases crossed 13,800 and the death toll has increased to 220 with the virus spreading to 62 of the country’s 64 districts including the capital city Dhaka.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])