August 2001 News

Army gives Drass a fresh lease of life

12 August 2001
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

DRASS: Drass town is located in the lap of strategic peaks such as Tololing and Tiger Hill It suffered extensive damage during the Kargil war due to Pakistani shelling, which forced many people to migrate But now the scene is completely different The market is humming with business and the people do not exhibit any sign of fear or worry . Everyone talks about ''Operation Sadbhavna'', which has changed their lives. A hospital run by the Army field ambulance, a vocational centre for women and a school are part of the novel project conceptualised by the General Officer Commanding 14 Corps, Lt. Gen. Arjun Ray. The town witnessed heavy shelling on the night of July 25, the eve of Kirti Divas, but residents remained in their homes and did not move. ''The Army assured us that nothing was going to happen,'' Mohammad Sadiq, a Drass resident, said. Though the town is always under the threat of shelling, the residents now believe that the incidents of 1999 will not be repeated. Drass sports a new look with after the construction of the Government Hospital, shops and other buildings which were damaged during the war. The market is crowded with people from the nearby villages, who mix freely with the soldiers. Col. Romesh Ghai of the 8 Sikh, which suffered a lot of causalities during the war, said that the programme launched by the Army had changed the lifestyle of the people. ''We make sure that the people feel secure. We had fought the war on the heights and now we are successfully dealing with the war of minds and hearts.'' Over 260 girls from the nearby areas had applied for admission to the Vocational Centre. ''We had no choice but to go in for screening as we had only limited space,'' an officer said. The Centre has a knitting centre, a computer lab and a carpet weaving unit. The Field Ambulance Hospital carries out anything from X-rays to major operations free of cost. In fact, the posting of lady doctors has helped attract women to the hospitals. A young doctor, Capt. Gurinder, said, ''I am very happy but the awareness level of the people is low. We first concentrate on their personal hygiene.'' In Kargil also, people flock to an Army hospital even though a Government district hospital is functional there. Capt. H.C. Mangla, who works in the Army Hospital, said that more than 20,000 patients had been treated there since October 2000 and some 2,000 surgeries conducted. ''The ailments are routine and if necessary, we refer them to our brigade hospital.'' Haji Ibrahim from Pushkin, who had come to the Army Hospital for treatment, said, ''It is of great help to us as we get everything free.'' The Goodwill school is located a few kilometers away and is run on the pattern of other Army schools. Col. G.A. Newton, who is in charge of the school, said, ''The school comes with a message from the Army - We care for the people.''


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