Coronavirus in India: How cops are fighting Covid-19 surge in ranks

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South-West DCP Devender Arya has been in self-quarantine after a junior cop he met recently tested positive for the coronavirus. Arya has been living in a small room in his backyard to avoid being in contact with his two children and wife Vijayanta Arya, posted as DCP in North-West Delhi.

Constable Ram Nivas has not been to his house in South Delhi’s Palam for a while. He reaches out to his wife and two children through video calls and WhatsApp messages, once a day.

Posted at Rajender Nagar police station, Nivas has confined himself to the barracks. “I have a seven-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. I meet more than 150 unknown people every day and I can be a potential carrier,” he said. I don’t want my kids or wife to get infected because of me, so I have decided to not to go home and stay here in the barracks,” he added.

The nearly 90,000-strong police force in Delhi is fighting perhaps its toughest battle.

WHY VULNERABLE

Cops remain vulnerably exposed to rising Covid-19 infections and here’s why. They are guarding containment zones, enforcing the lockdown and some 20,000 home quarantines, besides handling thousands of migrants hitting roads in their attempts to go home.

Cops are also carrying out high-risk evacuations in coronavirus clusters like Nizamuddin Markaz. About 5,000 cops are deployed in and around Delhi’s 71 containment zones at any given point in time. Duties change rotationally. So far, eight cops have tested positive and 75 others, including DCP Arya, are in quarantine.

Many cops have been infected and this is a big challenge for us to stop the spread of the virus among our own people.

– SN SHRIVASTAVA, DELHI POLICE COMMISSIONER (TO INDIA TODAY TV)

VIRUS FEARS

On Thursday, routine work at Chandni Mahal police station was hampered as it had to be sealed after two constables posted there tested positive. Also, at least 26 other police personnel, including the SHO, were quarantined.

Now most cops are working with maximum precautions. All personnel have been provided with masks, hand gloves and sanitisers. Also, meals are provided to them by the Delhi Police.

5,000 personnel guard 71 high-risk zones, others enforce lockdown, 20,000 home quarantines, handle movement of migrants.

But fears remain. “From visiting Ganga Ram Hospital to distributing food packets and visiting senior citizens, I am tasked to do everything. After 16-17 hours of duty, when I come back to sleep, I am always afraid that I could have been infected,” said Constable Banwari Lal (32), who is posted at a police station in Central Delhi.

HOSPITAL RISKS

Those posted in hospitals are at a greater risk. On Friday, a 44-year-old Head Constable tested positive for the coronavirus. He was posted at Bara Hindu Rao Hospital in North Delhi. He lives in Khajuri area and his family members have been asked to be in quarantine.

An Assistant Sub-Inspector, his wife and their son are admitted at LNJP Hospital. As a precautionary measure, G, H and I blocks of the police colony in Model Town have been sealed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“When we have an alternate place to stay, we should adopt it rather than risking lives of our loved ones,” said Manohar Vajpayee (42), a Head Constable posted at a police station in South Delhi.

THE CONTAINMENT

The Delhi Police has set up a 10-bed isolation centre at Dwarka South police station for its personnel who show symptoms of the disease and have no permanent residence in the city. At this facility, each cop is provided with a basic hygiene kit.

Earlier, Delhi Police Commissioner SN Srivastava said in an internal communication that a part of the force should remain in quarantine for ten days on rotation.

“Many cops have been infected and this is a big challenge for us to stop the spread of the virus among our own people,” Srivastava told India Today TV. The top cop also praised his officers for taking measures and ensuring the welfare of the people in Delhi.

“If one cop gets infected, the entire police station has to be sealed and the staff has to be quarantined. There is a need to make plans in a way that the staff must work in isolated batches,” another senior official said.

With the help of Good Samaritan Inspector Satish Rana, the SHO of Govindpuri police station and his team have developed an indigenous sanitiser tunnel for staff and public visiting the police complex.

“Officers who are returning after duty in the area, as well as other visiting the police station, are required to pass through this tunnel, carrying 5 per cent of Sodium Hypochlorite solution, before entering the building so that they get disinfected and chances of carrying the virus are reduced to a large extent,” said RP Meena, Deputy Commissioner of Police (South-East).

A Covid sanitisation cell with five teams – Parliament Street, Chanakyapuri, Connaught Place, Barakhamba and District Line – has been set up. Each team is provided with a hand-held machine made by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and liquid of sodium hypochlorite as a disinfectant.

All police stations falling under New Delhi district and buildings, including police colonies, and police vehicles after every change of shift are sanitised.

“The teams make sure that no corner of the buildings and pickets are left. Even the chairs provided at the pickets for the staff are also sanitised. Barracks of every police station are sanitised twice. A report in this regard is also taken from all police stations,” said Eish Singhal, Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi).

“We are taking care of those who are risking their lives for all”, said, Atul Kumar Thakur, DCP (South).

Police Commissioner Shrivastava has approved a grant of Rs 1 lakh for any cop who tests positive for the coronavirus while discharging his or her duty.

On Saturday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also announced Rs 1 crore for the families of government employees, including cops, who die in the line of duty while combating the Covid pandemic.

“There are many employees other than doctors and nurses. Policemen are on field throughout. We have decided to bring them into the ambit of the scheme as well,” Kejriwal said.

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About the author: Sohom Das
Founder of Tuccho.

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