It was a tough year for corona warriors in khaki

 In December 2019, they were busy monitoring the mounting anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) protests by thousands of students.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

BENGALURU: In December 2019, they were busy monitoring the mounting anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) protests by thousands of students. The police were under severe criticism for being heavy handed to silence the voice of dissent.And then, suddenly from March onwards, their roles changed -- from lathi-wielding cops to going beyond the call of duty. From implementing the lockdown and ensuring seamless supply of essential services, primarily food to people who would have otherwise starved in the pandemic-lockdown, to contact tracing of primary and secondary contacts to spreading the caution on Covid-19 and maintaining law and order.

The duty roster had changed for the constables and they were being assigned duties on phones and WhatsApp at short notices.In May came the responsibility of managing the migrant workers, who would gather at public places in thousands wanting to go home by train, bus or by walk. The police had to control the crowd, assuage their fears and ensure that they would be sent back home safely. Those were difficult days because back home the cops faced their anxious families who were scared that the khaki would bring the virus home. There were children and elderly, who depended on that one income.

It was doubly difficult for women cops, who were accused of being insensitive towards their children and families. The call of duty became tougher for the younger lot too at the peak of the pandemic. They couldn’t immediately go home after their Covid duty and had to be quarantined. The police top brass with government support set up exclusive testing and quarantine centres for their workforce. Senior officers went around the police colonies to assure the families that they were being taken care of.

Along with  the Covid duties, they had to carry out the core functions. New standard operating procedures (SOPs) were issued. The police stations put up tents for the visitors and complainants to maintain social distance. Executing an arrest was also a risk for the cops because of the fear of contracting the virus. Soon after arrest the accused started being tested for Covid-19. The prisons were instructed to set up quarantine centres for the new inmates and were allowed inside the prison only after a negative report.

In the wake of the pandemic, the Supreme Court in March had directed the states and Union Territories to decongest the prisons to contain the spread of the virus. The pathos was around those prisoners, who had turned down their release offers. Prisons were a source of food and shelter from a ravaging pandemic. Freedom could wait.

By November, 11 per cent of the over 80,000 police personnel in Karnataka had tested positive and 87 had lost their lives. The State government kept its word and paid an ex-gratia amount of Rs 30 lakh to each of those, who had made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. The new virus strain will only put the cops under more strain.

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The New Indian Express