Centre analyses police response during lockdown, says they showcased humane side

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The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has analysed the response of Indian police during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly during the 68-day lockdown, saying the personnel showcased their humane side and went beyond the call of duty.

The ministry, however, has failed to mention anything about police excesses on the migrant labourers, who walked hundreds of kilometres from urban centres to their villages.

In a special compendium titled The Indian Police Response to Covid-19 Crisis, published last week, MHA’s think-tank Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) has stated that police forces in states/Union territories, as well as central paramilitary forces, not only ensured a strict lockdown and meticulously tracked Covid-19 patients, but also played a key role in the distribution of goods and supply of essential services to migrant labourers and donated plasma for patients.

In the report, BPRD said that when the lockdown, announced from March 25, and its multiple extensions impacted the livelihood of unskilled migrant workers, and lakhs of workers walking home posed a serious threat to themselves as well as others in their hometowns, police counselled them about exercising restraint and provided them with food, shelter medicines, footwear and arranged transport for their return. They were all thermally screens and tested for Covid-19.

It added that police officers went beyond the call of duty and even performed last rites of Covid-19 patients. “Some police officers even transported pregnant ladies to hospitals in police vans. WhatsApp groups were formed to communicate with expecting mothers and providing them assistance in case of discomfort during the pandemic. In some instances, police personnel even purchased birthday cakes and celebrated birthdays at the house of kids/senior citizens etc.,” the document states.

The police forces, the compendium states, extensively used state-of-the-art technology, including drones, to identify vulnerable access points across porous borders, containment zones and to enforce lockdowns.

“CCTV systems were used at important and sensitive locations for keeping a close watch at quarantine centres and violation of laid down procedures including social distancing norms. Geo-mapping coupled with Geo-tagging corresponding to the area of interest was used by law enforcement agencies for effective tracking of those in quarantine and for zeroing in on location of their contacts,” BPRD analysis stated. It cited the example of Bengaluru, wherein the whole city was geo-mapped for grocery, vegetable, medical outlets, community kitchen, donors, NGOs, etc.

The police across the country also extensively used social media like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter to disseminate government orders/guidelines as well as to dispel fake news and rumours. “Digital media platforms comprising websites, blogs, portals and customised mobile apps targeting specific segment of population were launched as well,” the document states.

Almost all police departments across the country also used public awareness programmes to educate people about social distancing and the use of masks and sanitiser, according to BPRD.

To publish the document, BPRD took into account comments from all states and paramilitary forces detailing the various schemes and ways they devised to deal with the situation.

It added that around 400 police personnel across the country had lost their lives due to Covid-19 while 76,000 were infected with the virus till August. Maharashtra topped the list with 12,760 cases so far.

Prakash Singh, a retired IPS officer, said, “I agree with the BPRD analysis because police definitely did an excellent job during the lockdown, particularly while dealing with the migrant crisis. Even PM Narendra Modi has acknowledged their contribution. Police were on the frontline during the lockdown.”

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