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Maharashtra: Asked to wait, Bhandara Police sews its own masks

For the last four days, four women and two men have been working 12 hours at the tailoring class in the local police training school.

Written by Srinath Rao | Mumbai | Updated: March 24, 2020 12:58:00 pm
coronavirus outbreak, face mask, Bhandara Police, maharashtra news, indian express news The department got its supplies locally and just in time, before the markets were ordered to shut. (Express photo)

A tiny police department in a remote corner of Indiahas shown this week that in combating COVID-19, it pays to prepare in advance and to look for solutions within.

Asked to wait a week for the delivery of protective face masks for its 1,600 employees, the police in Bhandara district has turned to its seamstresses and tailors.

For the last four days, four women and two men have been working 12 hours at the tailoring class in the local police training school. As of Monday, when the consignment of vital supplies from the state government finally arrived, they had churned out close to 2,000 masks.

Read| Coronavirus scare: Do you need to wear N95 masks?

“We have a force of close to 1,600 people and our plan is that every employee should have two masks, with one spare at all times,” said Aniket Bharti, Additional Superintendent of Police, Bhandara.

That job fell to Pushpa Uke, who has been training policewomen to sew at the police headquarters in Bhandara town for the last 35 years. Her class, which produces police uniforms and trains wives of policemen, had been earlier forced to shut like other establishments nationwide as part of measures to prevent the virus spreading.

When it became apparent that the work-from-home option did not apply to the police department, Uke went shopping for 100 hundred meters of green cotton and several meters from elastic bands.

The department got its supplies locally and just in time, before the markets were ordered to shut. Producing in-house has also meant that apart from working through the delay, the department has incurred a fraction of the cost it would have in purchasing wholesale.

Read| Coronavirus: No system in place for disposal of used face masks

Under Uke’s watch, three policewomen and two policemen have cut, sewn and spun at a rate of nearly 500 masks a day. Of her industrial undertaking, Uke said that once strips of cloth and elastic are cut to the right size, she and her colleagues need only five minutes to complete one mask.

Each morning that Uke leaves home for the classroom, she also keeps a few masks handy to give to those performing vital services without one.

Assistant Sub-Inspector Rajesh Wasnik, who is in charge of delivering the masks and counts tailoring as a hobby, said that work begins at 7 am and ends at 8 pm, with an hour in between for lunch. “We know how important it is for our colleagues working on the field to be properly protected while carrying out their dutie,” he added.

A kit comprising two masks, a pair of gloves and a bottle of hand sanitizer, have now reached each of the district’s 17 police stations, offices of the four sub-divisional police officers and branches like traffic, crime branch and motor transport among others, said Wasnik.

“Our masks can be easily washed and dry overnight. We have taken care to ensure that they of the highest quality and last long,” he added.

The safety gear, said Bharti, would give his force a sense of confidence while patrolling the roads, monitor traffic and carry our legal procedures in hospitals. “Those of our men and women who come directly in contact with the public are worried about their safety. They are aware that police personnel are especially vulnerable. We are ensuring that they work in safe conditions,” he added.

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