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From battling on borders to standing guard in mandis, ex-soldiers step up in fight against Covid-19

The two battle-hardened former soldiers are part of the 3195 Guardians of Governance (GoGs) assisting the Mandi Board in its procurement task amid curfew and lockdown due to Covid-19.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh | Updated: April 24, 2020 10:18:19 pm
Veterans of GoG deployed at a Mandi in Punjab to oversee implementation of COVID-19 measures. (Express Photo)

Sepoy Gurpreet Singh has braved long duty hours on icy heights of Ladakh, been in the thick of counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and been deployed in the desert bordering Pakistan. Now, after retirement, the doughty former Sikh Regiment jawan teams up with another former soldier and is on duty up to 10 hours a day, overseeing the procurement of wheat harvest in a mandi in Ferozepur district.

Gurpreet Singh and his fellow former Infantryman, Naik Rajwinder Singh of Punjab Regiment, perform their post-retirement Covid-19 deployment following the ‘buddy’ system of the Army as they would do in any military operation. The two members of the Guardians of Governance Scheme of Punjab government team up with two policemen and ensure that the wheat procurement in the Mandi is as per the COVID-19 precautions.

The two battle-hardened former soldiers are part of the 3195 Guardians of Governance (GoGs) assisting the Mandi Board in its procurement task amid curfew and lockdown due to Covid-19.

“I begin my duty at around 8 in the morning along with my buddy and two cops. We are often deployed for up to 10 hours at a stretch till about 6 in the evening,” says Gurpreet Singh. The Sikh Regiment veteran says he feels that he and his fellow GoGs have an onerous responsibility on their shoulders in these trying times which is no less than fighting a war.

“It is very important to stop this tide of coronavirus and we often have to strive hard to make villagers who come to the mandi to understand the importance of social distancing and hygiene. But we are happy that the villagers and farmers comply happily with our instructions because of the innate faith they have in a ‘fauji’,” says Harpreet

According to Brigadier HV Singh (retd), associated with the GoG project ever since Covid-19 broke out the GoGs have been performing a variety of tasks.

“The veterans have been performing tasks related to dealing with the pandemic be it ensuring social distancing at banks and other public places, managing curfew and lockdown as per the requirements of the district administrations,” said Brig Singh.

According to a government spokesperson, the veterans have been deployed in 1683 mandis across the state and oversee the ongoing procurement operations besides maintaining health protocol including social distancing amongst all the stakeholders to keep the spread of coronavirus under check.

Apart from these, GoGs have also been mandated to regulate the safe movement of traffic in sync with staff of the market committees and Mandi Board to avoid crowd and congestion there.

Government officials say the veterans deployment has gone a long way in ensuring seamless procurement of farmers produce and safety of all concerned in these trying circumstances.

The GoGs report to the state headquarter in Chandigarh through their organizational set-up comprising tehsil and district heads, which in turn are sharing their reports with the authorities of Mandi Board.

Lauding the efforts of GoGs, Vishavjeet Khanna, Additional Chief Secretary Development, said these ex-servicemen had served the country with utmost devotion and sincerity throughout their active service.

“Now without caring their advanced age, have once again accepted the challenge to extend a helping hand to facilitate the state government in implementation of its preparedness plans for staggered movement of wheat due to Covid-19 restrictions,” he said.

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