AFTER directives from Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar as well as Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, the Pune Police have intensified their crackdown on motorists not adhering to compulsory use of masks. For about last two weeks, the police have been penalising over 3,000 violators per day for not wearing masks and collecting a fine of Rs 500 from each violator.
The drive, however, has not gone down well with BJP MLA Siddharth Shirole, who has written to Pune Police Commissioner K Venkatesham, pointing out that the focus on “fine collection” rather than “educating people” was leading to harassment of motorists, especially four-wheeler drivers and passengers.
In the letter, Shirole has requested the police chief to formulate a more amiable standard operation procedure (SOP) balanced between punishment and education.
Shirole said he has received multiple complaints of ill treatment of residents by the Pune City Police in the past few days, especially while enforcing the compulsory masks and other Covid-19 protocols.
“I do understand the need in Pune to have strict enforcement of Covid-19 guidelines, but citizens are also worried about the hostile environment that is been created by the police, who are stationed at every junction solely focusing on finding as many violators as possible to increase the total fine collected rather than educating them about rules and guidelines,” he wrote.
Shirole said it has been brought to his notice that police personnel were only accepting cash and issuing paper receipts. “I have strong objections to this methodology especially during the pandemic where all modes of digital payment and e-challans should be encouraged and recommended,” Shirole said.
Pune district administration and municipal authorities had issued an order in June warning residents from venturing out without wearing a mask, with a provision of Rs 500 fine. Recently, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar and Prakash Javadekar had held a review meeting in Pune, where they reiterated the need to strictly enforce the compulsory mask rules in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases in the district.
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