COIMBATORE: Despite assurance from the top, that people stepping out for genuine reasons will not be penalised, two HIV positive persons on their way to Coimbatore Medical College Hospital to collect life-supporting drugs were penalised for “violating” the lockdown.
Even recently, minister SP Velumani had asked the cops not to pull up HIV patients stepping out to get medicines or treatment. However, a fine of Rs 2,500 was levied on one of them at Race Course Road, and Rs 1,000 on the second one at Athupalam.
One of the victims, a 45-year-old woman from Thadagam, said that on April 2, she had come to CMCH on an autorickshaw to collect Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) medicines. She had asked the driver to wait for her return from the ART centre. Meanwhile, police personnel attached to Race Course station seized the vehicle and levied a fine of Rs 2,500 on the driver even though the woman showed them an ART. The driver held the woman responsible for being fined.
The woman claimed that she called up her daughter for the money and the girl, in turn, had to borrow from her neighbours. For nearly five hours, the woman and the auto driver had to wait at CMCH until the girl brought the fine amount.
In another case on April 21, a 47-year-old woman and her 17-year-old daughter from Madukkarai, both HIV positive, were stopped by the Podanur police at Athupalam despite them saying that they were going for treatment. The police also levied a fine of Rs 1,000. In both the incidents, the victims said they were not given a receipt.
President of Coimbatore district HIV infected persons’ welfare association R Meenakshi said, “The woman in the first case is a widow and daily wage labourer. The fine amount is a big sum for them during the lockdown. The woman in the second case is running her family through cattle rearing. Both of them are already struggling owing to their condition. The fine is a huge blow to them.”
These are not isolated incidents and many other patients are also being penalised by the police, as subordinate personnel on the roads do not understand the norms described by the government, Meenakshi said.
“They are not even ready to listen to the patients,” she added.
When Express contacted B Sundaresan, Nodal Officer for district AIDS prevention and control unit, he accepted that the HIV patients were fined by the city police.
“Based on the information, we checked with the police and came to know that the patients were fined. We have reported it to our higher-ups. Efforts are being made to retrieve the fine amount.” Despite repeated attempts, Police Commissioner Sumit Sharan was not available for comment.