AGARTALA/AIZAWL/SHILLONG: After malaria, COVID-19 has become the new enemy for Border Security Force (BSF) troopers guarding the international frontiers in Northeast India.
According to official records, since last year, only two BSF men died in north-eastern States due to malaria against a large number killed for the past many years until 2018.
The BSF troopers, who are deployed on the over 1,880-km-long border with Bangladesh in the region, spanning the states of Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya, are now bearing the brunt of COVID-19 with over 1,000 personnel infected so far.
A senior BSF official, however, said that a majority of the infected personnel have already resumed duties following their recovery.
As per the official, the BSF jawans and some officials are getting infected as they come to the region from various states in north and south India.
"The BSF men, after completion of their leave period or when they are transferred, have to move by train or by air for their destinations. During transit or in their hazardous duties along the borders, the jawans come in contact with the dreaded virus," said the BSF official, who did not want to be identified.
The highest number of BSF personnel (360) tested positive for COVID-19 in Tripura followed by 350 in Mizoram and 300 in Meghalaya. Many family members, including children, of the BSF personnel were also infected.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga even made a plea to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure suspension of Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF) movement into the state till August 31.
Zoramthanga, in his letter to Modi, expressed serious concern over rising COVID-19 cases among the security personnel. "Around 70 per cent of 501 Covid-19 cases in Mizoram are from the military and paramilitary forces," he said.
An official of Mizoram government said that infection of COVID-19 among the CPMF was discussed at a meeting on Monday attended by the top officials including Chief Secretary Lalnunmawia Chuaung and Director General of Police SBK Singh.
According to the Health officials of Mizoram and Meghalaya, besides the BSF men, a large number of personnel belonging to Assam Rifles and the National Disaster Response Force were also testing positive for coronavirus.
Some Indian Army personnel have also tested positive in Nagaland and other north-eastern States.
Following the request of the Tripura government, a three-member central team, led by G.K. Medhi, Professor and Head of the Department of Community Medicine of the Shillong-based North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health & Medical Sciences, submitted their report after a 11-day visit to study the source and other aspects of the coronavirus infection among BSF troopers in Tripura.
BSF's former Deputy Inspector General, Tripura Frontier, Samir Kumar Mitra told IANS on phone from Kolkata that authorities must undertake a massive campaign to make both BSF men and border residents aware of prevention of coronavirus.
"The BSF troopers, while patrolling, must use hand sanitisers, face masks and other protective gear as they come in close contact with infiltrators from across the borders and Indian villagers staying on international borders," he said. (IANS)