Updated: August 27, 2020 7:09:18 am
Over 60,000 personnel from state police forces and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have till now tested positive for coronavirus disease across India and over 340 Covid-related deaths have been reported, as per data collated by the Indian Police Foundation (IPF), a multidisciplinary think-tank based in Delhi.
The CAPF is an umbrella term for forces under the Union Home Ministry which includes Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Border Security Force (BSF), Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Assam Rifles (AR), National Security Guard (NSG) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB). The IPF has also included the Covid data of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which draws its personnel from the CAPFs.
In terms of the total number of Covid-19 cases among personnel, Maharashtra Police, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), West Bengal Police, Border Security Force (BSF) and Jharkhand Police have the highest number of cases in the country, according to the data.
From the beginning of the lockdown in March, state police forces have been deployed for enforcement of movement restrictions, contact tracing efforts, security of Covid facilities, facilitating movement of stranded people to their homes and ensuring smooth flow of supply chains and resources, in addition to regular police duties. Personnel from CAPFs have been moved in large numbers to augment state police forces for performing these tasks. These CAPF deployments were in addition to their existing charter of duties.
As per the latest collated data by the IPF, state police and CAPFs have reported 60,528 Covid-19 cases and 344 deaths. Of the nationwide numbers, Maharashtra accounts for 13,716 cases and 140 deaths. While the Maharashtra numbers in the IPF database are from Monday, the figures for Maharashtra stood at 14,189 cases and 144 deaths, as per the data shared by the state police on Wednesday.
The CRPF (6,855 cases, 34 deaths), West Bengal (4,500 cases, 27 deaths), BSF (4,030 cases, 14 deaths) and Jharkhand (3,640 cases, 7 deaths) are the forces with the highest number of cases till now. In terms of the percentage of personnel affected, Maharashtra (6.4 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (5.8 per cent) and Assam (5.1 per cent) are some of the worst-affected police entities.
Over 25,000 personnel are currently in quarantine facilities on the account of being high-risk contacts of those who have tested positive.
Senior officials from various state police and CAPF entities said that while early testing will be a key strategy in the short term, improving general health will have to be a long-term goal, especially for state police forces and particularly for cops deployed in urban areas.
Fourteen state or CAPF entities have above 1,000 cases, while four of them have above 4,000 cases. A senior CAPF officer said, “From the beginning of Covid duties, new standard operating procedures have been put in place for deployments. There are ongoing efforts to recalibrate deployment plans to make sure there is least exposure and risk of such infections.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, retired IPS officer N Ramachandran, the president and founder of the IPF, said, “The very nature of their duties makes it difficult for police personnel to practice social distancing. During the course of their duties, they are often required to physically interpose and enforce the law or even grapple with crowds. Similarly, CAPF contingents are moved from station to station for emergency deployments – and very often, they are accommodated in congested spaces. All these factors render them vulnerable to infections. Another matter of concern is the state of physical and mental health of police personnel. The nature of duties resulting in irregular sleep and food intake patterns, high mental stress along with inadequate physical fitness leads to several health issues. Most of these health issues manifest as comorbidities during Covid-19 infections.”
Ramachandran, who served as the DGP of Assam and Meghalaya during his tenure, said, “The Indian Police Foundation had recently organised a discussion involving police chiefs of several states and CAPFs to consolidate the learnings from handling Covid thus far. The police chiefs discussed and summarised national good practices in infection control and management, management of occupational stress and mental health of personnel during the pandemic, morale and motivation of the personnel; as well as strategies for ensuring preparedness, availability, operational continuity and resilience of police forces in the country.”
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