AS the state police enforces the lockdown on the ground and performs many other pandemic-related duties, as many as 74 personnel from Maharashtra Police have tested positive for COVID-19 till now. During the lockdown period, there have been over 130 cases of attacks on police personnel across the state.
The police teams in Mumbai and Thane have been the most affected. Of the 12 officers, eight are from Mumbai Police and four from Thane Police. Of the 62 constables, 33 are Mumbai, 18 are from Thane, three from Pune city, six from the State Reserve Police Force in Hingoli and two from Mumbai Railway police. Three of the officers and two of the constables have recovered till now.
Maharashtra Police has a strength of over 1.8 lakh, including over 16,000 officers of sub-inspector rank and above.
On March 23, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had announced a statewide lockdown, including closure of district and state borders. A day later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a national lockdown, which has now been extended till May 3. Meanwhile, Pune City Police and Pimpri Chinchwad Police ordered a conditional curfew till April 27, becpming the first two police jurisdictions to do so.
In Pune, two police personnel attached to a police station in the city tested positive on Tuesday. They are among the 14 persons quarantined and tested as contacts of a police constable who, along with his wife, had tested positive earlier.
An officer from the police station they are attached to admitted that a colleague testing positive affected the overall morale. “We know that we are at high risk and all precautions are being taken. But when the news of someone you know testing positive arrives, it does affect the morale. Safety of our families, other police staff becomes a constant worry. There is constant communication from the senior officers and efforts to make sure that we all keep doing our duties.”
Milind Bharambe, inspector general (law and order) for Maharashtra, said requisite safety gear was being provided to all police personnel. “It has been made sure that safety gear including masks, sanitisers, gloves have been given to all. In cases where they are necessary, personal protective equipment kits have been issued. Standard operating procedures have been put in place and regular counselling and awareness sessions are being conducted,” he said.
Speaking about the protocol laid down for Pune City Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police Virendra Mishra said, “As per the standard operating procedure, there are guidelines to be adhered to at check points, police stations, office spaces etc. We have separate plans for police residential colonies. It is being made sure that family members of police get ration and all essential commodities with minimum exposure. Regular screening is being done and immunity-boosting medicines have been advised.”
As they enforce lockdown on the ground, there have been instances in which police have used excessive force — videos of which have gone viral – but there have also been several cases of attacks on policemen during lockdown duties.
As per figures released on Thursday, there have been as many as 136 cases of attacks on policemen in 44 police jurisdictions in the state. Among these, two offences each have been registered in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad and nine have been registered in Pune rural jurisdiction. Bharambe confirmed that all of these offences have taken place when the police were on lockdown or COVID-related duties.
Officials said many of these attacks take place at check-points, or when police teams were on contact-tracing or home-quarantine monitoring rounds.
Cops ‘manhandled’ in Baramati, 3 booked
Pune Rural Police on Thursday booked three fruit sellers for allegedly manhandling cops on duty in Baramati.
The accused have been identified as Bhausaheb Mande, Vaibhav Madane and Raju Bagwan. Police Constable Popat Nale lodged the complaint in this case at Baramati City police station.
According to the police, sale of fruits, vegetables on road is banned due to the strict imposition of lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Baramati. However, some vendors were found selling fruits at Bhigwan Chowk area. Some local residents had also gathered there to buy fruits, violating the lockdown orders, said police. When the police reached the spot, the accused allegedly manhandled them.
Later, a police team, led by Inspector Audumbar Patil, reached the spot and asked vendors to stop selling fruits and booked the accused.
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