Kochi: The entire police force in Ernakulam district is under severe stress as the workload of officers has increased manifold after COVID-19 struck. Issues haunting the police personnel include COVID duty, controlling agitations and increased checking to meet targets. All these tasks have to be carried out in addition to the regular duty involving the investigation of crimes and station duty.
With several officers unable to attend duty after testing positive for the infection or going into quarantine, the remaining personnel are overburdened. In fact, police officers in all stations in Kochi, except South, have become COVID-19 positive. A number of others are in quarantine.
Similarly, 56 personnel at the Armed Reserve camps in Ernakulam and Tripunithura are positive and around 80 have been quarantined. Even the family members of numerous police officers under observation in their homes have tested positive for the disease.
Even though there is widespread discontent among the police personnel over the heavy workload and threat of infection, nobody has dared to air their grievances fearing charges of insubordination.
A costly affair
During the early stages of the lockdown, police officers were directed to check the houses of people in quarantine several times a day. This task was to be carried out by two police officers at a time and they used to spend money on petrol from their own pockets. None of these officers has been reimbursed for the amount they spent on fuel.
Meanwhile, officers on duty in containment zones are worried over contacting the disease. Similar is the case of personnel tasked with taking on the striking political activists. In fact, police officers cite the lack of social distancing while controlling agitations for the severe spread of the disease among them.
Worries over Sabarimala duty
With the Sabarimala pilgrimage season approaching, police officers are concerned that their plight would worsen. As several officers will be deployed for Sabarimala duty from various police stations, the staff shortage will become more acute, they point out. Moreover, the pandemic can pose a severe threat to the health of police officers deployed at the pilgrimage centre.
Kochi police is also facing a severe shortage of drivers. As a majority of the 50 drivers in the city are under observation, civil police officers are forced to work as drivers also.
The situation is pathetic at the Armed Reserve camps in Ernakulam and Tripunithura also, where around 150 officers are on leave after testing COVID-19 positive or being in quarantine. Moreover, the mess at Tripunithura was closed. Personnel say that COVID-19 protocols are not being diligently followed at the camps due to the lackadaisical attitude of the top officers.
Considering the situation, the Camp Followers’ Association has demanded increased testing at the camps and sanitization of the premises at least every three days. It also urged the authorities to exempt armed reserve personnel from Sabarimala duty considering the safety issues involved.
Yet another issue bothering police officers is meeting targets for filing petty cases, which has forced personnel to carry out inspections on the road even in containment zones. According to officers, the target is 100 petty cases a day in each police station.