Acknowledging that Delhi Police may have been caught off-guard by the enormity and unprecedented nature of the nationwide lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak, leading to disruption of certain essential supplies, Police Commissioner S N Shrivastava Wednesday said clear instructions have now been given to personnel on the ground on free passage of essential goods and services, and this will be streamlined in the coming days.
In an interview to The Indian Express, Shrivastava said: “This lockdown is unprecedented. Never in the past has it happened that the entire country is locked down. Because it has happened so suddenly, it is taking some time for things to settle down. As of now, the primary concern is that people, barring those not engaged in essential services, stay at home. Many times it is not so easy to implement.”
On disruption of supplies, he said, “Now what comprises essential goods and services is evolving continuously. We are also trying to grapple with it. Every other second we come to know, okay, even this is an essential good or service and we must facilitate it. We are doing so and are in constant touch with various stakeholders, educating people down below that these are essential goods and services and you must accommodate them. We are trying our best.”
He said he is personally ensuring there is proper communication. “I am constantly speaking to senior officers. I have been doing video-conferencing with the DCPs. We have even sent a direct message to each constable. All 90,000 policemen are being directly communicated with on what are essential commodities. I can assure that in the days to come, these teething troubles will be overcome.”
Since Sunday, there have been multiple instances of doctors and paramedics being stopped at inter-state borders, vegetable shops and fruit kiosks being shut down, meat shops being forced to down shutters, trucks carrying essential items not being allowed to enter Delhi, newspaper vendors being kept off roads and e-commerce delivery staff being beaten up by police.
“Regarding transition of goods, the instructions are very clear that all essential goods have to be allowed. No questions are to be asked, no documents sought at the inter-state borders. We have to just be satisfied that these are essential goods. There may be an error of judgment here and there. But all this is being streamlined. We have setup a helpline 011-23469526. It is 24×7. It has become so popular that we are getting calls from as far as Karnataka and West Bengal,” Shrivastava said.
On obstructions being faced by e-commerce platforms, he said, “There was a problem of e-commerce warehouses being shut down. Now we have made sure it is communicated that warehouses need to be open and functional. We have also communicated that delivery boys will pick up from these warehouses and so their movement is also important. The magnitude is now being understood and being acted upon. One of our Additional CPs has spoken to representatives of all e-commerce companies. We have already sent passes to them and also told all policemen that they should be facilitated.”
He said police are also trying to facilitate movement of doctors and paramedics to hospitals.
On newspaper vendors not being allowed to deliver newspapers despite the Prime Minister saying that print and electronic media are essential services, Shrivastava said, “Clear instructions have been given that all those with ID cards in print and electronic media be allowed movement. As regards vendors, there is no ID card. How will my constable identify who is a genuine vendor? We have asked all media houses that they should obtain passes for them.”
The police also have to ensure their own safety. He said not only have the dos-and-don’ts of social distancing and hygiene been communicated but masks, gloves and sanitisers have also been provided. “Our central store at police lines has dispatched five vehicles across the city. Wherever they find a policeman without a mask, gloves or sanitiser, it is provided there and then. The DRDO is supplying us masks and sanitisers.”
Shrivastava maintained that despite the preoccupation with the lockdown, normal policing has not been impacted. “We have ensured that basic functions of policing and crime prevention go on. The investigations into the Delhi riots are also progressing well. We are moving from one challenge to another, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” he said.
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