The Central Reserve Police Force has constituted a committee of its senior officers to find better ways of ensuring physical distancing in barracks and toilets used by jawans to check the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in its camps, officials said on Saturday.
They said the recent spread of the infection to about 140 personnel living in the 31st battalion of the country’s largest paramilitary in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar and a few other such instances have led to the decision of finding innovative ways to combat the new challenge of keeping the force “combat ready amid the enhanced level of physical distance between troops.”
Almost all personnel living in the 31st battalion have recovered now and as per the latest data, only about 170 personnel, out of over 400, are under treatment for COVID-19 in the CRPF.
Officials said the committee is headed by an Additional Director General posted in the CRPF headquarters and all the zonal commanders have been asked to send in their ideas and inputs on better management of barracks and common toilets space after talking to the actual users — jawans and junior-rank officials — and sanitary experts.
“The committee has been created on the directions of CRPF Director General A P Maheshwari and he has sought a time-bound report so that better ways can be found to ensure social distancing and personal hygiene in barracks and toilets used by jawans,” a senior officer told PTI.
He said the committee will also find ways to better sanitise these two areas in the camp so that jawans who have to live in shared spaces do not contract COVID-19 infection.
These measures will go a long way in ensuring the overall health of our troops and their personal hygiene even when coronavirus goes away from our lives, another officer said. The second officer said living, sleeping and performing daily ablutions in small and shared spaces is a concern in certain camps, including temporary ones, where there is no land space to expand.
“New locations where a battalion or company camp is made have better space when it comes to barracks and toilets for jawans and sub-officers. The coronavirus pandemic has magnified this issue and hence solutions are being looked into,” he said.
As part of measures to combat the disease, the CRPF has also decided that all those personnel who have an exposure to COVID-19 patients or surroundings, those who are joining back after leave or those who are returning to camp after lockdown will now be put in 17 days quarantine.
Officials said the measure has been declared by the CRPF chief in order to cut the coronavirus infection chain in the camps and units of the force where troops and their families ranging from a varied strength of 1,000-3,000 people reside.
When the issue of infection to so many troops living in the 31st battalion came to light it was found that the medical wing of the force had issued “dichotomous” order of quarantining a returning medical staff for 5 days rather than the stipulated 14 days time period and that possibly led to the spike in the number and the camp virtually becoming a hotspot, they said.
Officials suspect that as jawans live in closed spaces like barracks, mess and toilets, the infection quickly spread from one person to the other in this camp and few others from where the coronavirus cases were reported. Hence, it has been directed by the DG that the quarantine period will now be 17 days in CRPF, they said.
The 3.25-lakh-personnel-strong force, the mainstay for anti-Naxal operations and counter-terrorist combat in the Kashmir valley, has also ordered that officials above 50 years of age will not be deployed for “hotspot or active duty,” they said.
“Also, men and women troops suffering from medical conditions like hypertension, diabetes among others will not be sent to hard duties as the health ministry guidelines for COVID-19 state such people fall in high-risk category when it comes to contracting coronavirus infection,” a senior official said.
The DG, during a recent address to troops, has also asked the personnel to increase intake of immunity boosting food items, shun junk food, be stress free and adopt a healthy and positive-thinking lifestyle.
He also said that it has been decided that the troops who could not join duty due to restrictions of travel during the nationwide lockdown will be “considered on duty” and their personal leaves will be intact.
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