At 40 deaths due to Covid-19, close to 3,600 positive cases and over 8,000 personnel in quarantine at present, the Maharashtra police force is increasingly facing the problem of multiple units being partly or entirely quarantined. Whenever a cop tests positive for the novel coronavirus, the responsibilities of the affected unit is handed over to other units.
Officials said while the number of positive cases in the two-lakh strong force continued to rise, there had been a gradual decline in the number of active cases. Out of 3,615, close to 1,388 are active. A large number of personnel, who have recovered, are even back on duty.
Two days ago, four cops from Mumbai police force died of the infection, taking the death toll to 40. Of them, 26 were from Mumbai city police.
Majority cases are either of police personnel from Mumbai, surrounding areas like Navi Mumbai and Thane, State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) deployed in these high-risk areas and were later repatriated to home units are Nashik Rural, Pune, Solapur and Mumbai Railway police. The SRPF units based in Aurangabad, Hingoli, Jalna, Daund and Pune have been most affected. Of the total 3,615, well over 2,000 are from Mumbai city police and close to 700 from SRPF.
There is a growing concern among officers in the worst-affected areas over how to keep up the morale of the constabulary over three months into the pandemic. “40 deaths is not a small number. We are sincerely hopeful that some drastic steps are taken at the policy level about the functioning of the police force, which is the worst-hit force among frontline workers, said a police officer.
While a large number of police personnel, who were quarantined as contacts of those who tested positive, have joined work, over 8,000 officers and personnel remain in either institutional or home quarantine as of Monday.
A senior officer from the state police said, “We are increasingly facing a problem that when some cops from a specific police unit test positive, all the personnel who have come in contact with them have to be quarantined. This has happened with police stations and also other units of an individual jurisdiction. While people are quarantined, the responsibilities of those units have to be shouldered by other units, adding to the burden. With the lockdown being eased, crime numbers have bounced back. Deployments at high-risk containment zones, hospitals and quarantine centres continue. As a respite, the workload of facilitating homeward journeys of labourers and stranded people has reduced and so has the work at checkpoints outside containment zones.”
As announced by state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, around 23,000 police personnel, aged between 50 and 55, were being given low-risk police station tasks while 12,000 more, who are above 55 years, have been asked to stay home as a precautionary measure.
An official said the reduced police strength due to this measure and also due to 8,000 cops being in quarantine, the burden of duty on available strength had increased on any given day.
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