Mohammed Naushad Khan , Journalist , Delhi
Policemen are on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19 pandemic including healthcare workers.Enforcing law and order during national lockdown and pandemic was certainly a different kind of experience for the police force. It was not an easy task to implement the guidelines of the lockdown keeping in mind the nature of the pandemic and the mental equilibrium of the people which they were in.
For police forces, it was a challenge to implement guidelines of lockdown without resorting to harsh action. There were instances of highhandedness in enforcing lockdown while handling the migrant crisis. Vegetable vendors were also maltreated. We have seen both the highhandedness and the humane face of the police force during the lockdown when they themselves were distributing food packets and escorting people in need. But have we bothered for them how we have expressed sympathy, concern and gratitude to healthcare workers?
The policemen who are on the frontline are always at risk. They too like the healthcare workers are
serving the people by putting their lives in danger. In Maharashtra alone, 60 personnel have died due to
COVID-19. Out of the 60 personnel, 38 were from the Mumbai Police force alone. Till date, nearly 4,900
police personnel have been infected with Covid-19 in the state. In other states also police officers have
died and are infected. The number is growing. In Delhi, eleven Delhi Police personnel have died due to
COVID-19. Around 2,000 police personnel were infected out of which 1,300 personnel have recovered.
According to Ajay Choudhary, a senior IPS officer who has served as Joint Commissioner, Delhi Police,“Policing has never been an easy job anywhere in the world. Covid-19 has posed new challenges for the
police in terms of crime control, contact tracing, management of containment zones, disposal of the dead due to Corona, regulation of the stranded migrant workers. After the doctors and the hospital staff, the police remain the most vulnerable group to get infected. Whereas the medical fraternity has some institutional support and awareness, the police have no such protection. There are no masks, PPE kits, sanitisers available in the police stations. The complainants who visit the police stations cannot be checked. Being a critical service the operations cannot be halted. Interrogations and the custody of the accused cannot be handled by maintaining social distance. For any meaningful checking of documents,
violations of traffic rule one has to come in contact with both the symptomatic and asymptomatic persons.”
“In this scenario, the police department will have to adopt innovative methods of policing. All possible
technological interventions must be adopted without caring for investments. The police personnel should be incentivized by offering additional emoluments, risk coverage, proper medical facilities in case of emergencies to maintain their morale. The police have always shown resilience in meeting any challenge.
It has won accolades from the cross-sections of the society during COVID19. However, the need for
technological up-gradation becomes most important to minimize the public interface. All the services like passport verification, registration of small crimes, counselling in matrimonial disputes, briefings should be done online till the crisis exists,” said the IPS officer.
M W Ansari IPS, former Director-General of Police (DGP), Chhattisgarh said, “To work under the pandemic has been challenging for functional forces like traffic police, Inspectors and those maintaining law and order, beat constables and all those who are doing their duty on the road or working for VIPs protection. The headquarters of CRPF, jawans of CISF, BSF and ITBF are also affected by the pandemic and had to be contained and quarantined. In Central Paramilitary Force there is approximately 10 lakh force and some of those who were doing fieldwork are also affected. Keeping all these in minds the challenges before the police force is more or less equal as compared to health workers. So far police have performed very well.”
“To my mind, the decision of lockdown was taken in haste and without proper homework. Even we when
doing such things used to give warnings. Three to four days before the lockdown was required with the
message that if anyone wants to go they can go before the lockdown gets implemented. All public
transport including railways was required to make their services free for them. This would have certainly
helped the police force and other stakeholders to manage the migrant crisis more effectively. Given the
kind of infrastructure we have, we all including police and army personnel should try to protect
themselves. In the coming months, challenges will increase and the situation may become very difficult.
Police force especially who are working on the fields will have to remain more cautious in the coming
days,” added the former DGP of Chhattisgarh
Brajmohan Saraswat, former DG of Uttar Pradesh police while speaking on the role and performance of police force said, “For policemen, to put all the PPE safety kits in this extreme summer is a very difficult task.
The role of the police was satisfactory overall but there were also cases of highhandedness. For police
forces, maintaining law and order during the lockdown and the pandemic was a different kind of
experience as compared to normal situation. At the initial stage, policemen were not getting the required
number of masks but now it is easily available. As far as the role of the police force is concerned they
have performed well. There are black sheep’s and corrupt people everywhere who use to turn every
situation to make money and they are available in every organization and department.”
“From here onwards, the police force and the healthcare workers will have to remain prepared for the
challenges we may face in the coming months. The role of the police may not be as much as compared
to healthcare workers. We can see the role of police in containment zones, to make sure that people are
following the safety guidelines strictly and law and order is maintained to ensure that healthcare workers can do their job freely and fearlessly. The role of the police was greater during lockdown but from here onwards the role of healthcare workers will increase manifold. Police forces have become trained and they have also received training and they know how to do their duty. In the coming months the demand for healthcare workers and isolation wards likely to increase manifold which is a big challenge,” the former DGP of UP said.