KOCHI: July 26 | Gauri Nanda, 18, from Chadayamangalam, Kollam, protested against the police for taking action against an elderly man who violated Covid norms while standing in the queue in front of a bank. She was booked for obstructing the official from discharging duty.
July 28 | Mary, an old woman from Parippally, was at the receiving end when a police team came to the spot where she was selling fish, snatched a vessel of fish and dumped it in a wasteland citing violation.
July 28 | Narayanan V, 46, a farmer from Parakkal in Kasaragod, was fined Rs 2,000 by the police for coming out of his house and cutting grass for his cow in a vacant field.
The above incidents, to name but a few, of police high-handedness in the name of enforcing Covid restrictions, have led to massive public outcry in the state. The officers are criticised for their rudeness, saying they often forget that the people get to the streets for their livelihood during the pandemic, which is a health issue and not a law-and-order one.
The official Facebook page of the Kerala Police is flooded with messages condemning its officers for “imposing fines and destroying the livelihood of people who are struggling to eke out a living amid the pandemic.”
“Why is the government allowing the police to have a free run in the name of Covid protocol? The government is denying a person’s right to life and work by imposing unnecessary restrictions,” said former Kerala High Court justice B Kemal Pasha.
“The police cannot be allowed to behave rudely to the people, who are struggling because of the pandemic. The police are handling the situation as if it’s a law-and-order issue,” said former Kerala High Court justice B Kemal Pasha. “Whether it’s destroying the fish of a woman or imposing a fine on a person for cutting grass for his cow, the police have behaved in an inhuman manner. That should be checked,” he said.
Human rights activist and Jananeethi secretary George Pulikuthiyil said the LDF government was making common people’s lives more miserable amid the pandemic.“The police do not penalise people who crowd in front of various beverages outlets, but they booked those who stood in a queue in front of a bank in Kollam. They also harassed a girl who questioned it. It seems the police are ruling the state and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who handles the home portfolio, has given them a free hand to target the common man on the roads,” he said.
Admitting that there have been certain shortcomings, ADGP (Law and Order) Vijay Sakhare said an inquiry has been ordered into the incidents that evoked public outcry.“Strict directive has been issued to police personnel to not harass people. Officers should act judiciously in each situation. It’s imperative to control crowding in public spaces, but that doesn’t mean they can fine all people on the roads,” he said.
Apart from memes ridiculing police high-handedness, people are also quoting a statement of Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Palanivel Thiagarajan on their FB pages to criticise the Kerala government and police behaviour during the pandemic time.
“Palanivel, who requested people to cooperate with the government to contain the Covid spread, told a journalist during a press conference that those who come out to the streets are not criminals. They are on the streets to eke out a living and the government does not intend to use the police to act against them. Police will be used only in unavoidable circumstances. Covid is not a law-and-order problem, but a health issue,” said an FB post.