Hundreds of videos, doing the rounds on social media, show policemen thrashing the people who step out of their homes during the lockdown. Pedestrians, motorcyclists and even motorists are not being spared across the country. Sometimes, police use force against persons who come out to buy essentials, journalists and doctors too.
But in Tamil Nadu, the use of force has comparatively been less. In fact, after being slammed for caning the public, the state police have adopted various techniques to ensure that they stayed indoors. Punishments range from seizure of vehicles to making violators do sit-ups. Some policemen have literally been pleading with violators to maintain social distancing. Some have even gone to the extent of prostrating themselves on the road.
In Chennai, policemen have been creating awareness by wearing masks resembling the coronavirus. Besides, the police keep round-the-clock-vigil to see to the smooth passage of the lockdown. But very little has been done for their protection during the rapid spread of deadly coronavirus.
Many police personnel patrol the roads in scorching sunlight. They cannot even relax with a tea as most restaurants and tea shops remain shut. As their shifts are continuous, it is impossible for them to bring home-cooked food.
Though the government has not issued any notification regarding relaxations in deployment of police personnel, some higher officials in the state have taken various steps to ensure the protection of their juniors. For instance, officials have asked police personnel over 50 years to stay indoors as they are more prone to the viral infection. In Tirunelveli too, those aged 50 and over have been given untaxing works.
“We are currently using only two-thirds of the workforce. If there are 1,000 police personnel, only 600 are being deployed and 400 are given rest,” says a senior police official. After a week, the remaining 400 will replace a set of 400 personnel on duty who will be given rest for a week, he says.
The official also says the government has advised all police personnel and their family members to take kabasura kudineer, a Siddha medicine that has been recommended for protection from the disease.
During the day, there are two six-hour shifts. So, a police person on duty will only have either breakfast or lunch outside. Only during nights, they will have a continuous 12-hour shift, the official says. Personnel who have been deployed in isolation wards at government hospitals had been provided with personal protective equipment (PPE). Other police personnel too have been given masks, gloves and hand sanitisers, the official says.
However, this is not the case in other parts of Tamil Nadu. Recently, 57-year-old Kuppan, a head constable, died of cardiac arrest in Tiruvannamalai, while on duty.
Maharashtra and Punjab have announced a compensation of ₹50 lakh for the kin of police personnel who die in the line of duty during the lockdown. But Tamil Nadu, which has the second most number of confirmed cases, has not made any such announcement.
“Recently, the state government announced incentives for frontline healthcare workers. But, it has not made any announcement regarding financial support for the police,” says the official, hoping that the government will soon come with such a policy for them.