Thiruvananthapuram: The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the workload of the Kerala Police manifold. Making matters worse, the number of police personnel in stations and camps contracting the disease is steadily rising.
The police personnel also face severe mental stress while carrying out duties round-the-clock on the streets and in containment zones without any insurance cover.
Currently, 90 per cent of the officials in police stations are deployed for COVID duty.
They had hardly recovered from the stress of the assembly elections, when the second wave of the pandemic struck. Personnel attached to most police stations in Kerala are now testing positive for COVID-19, but their colleagues who are the primary contacts are unable to go into quarantine due to manpower shortage.
Considering the second wave, the state’s Director General of Police (DGP) has ordered all police officers, except the two officials holding General Duty and three personnel deployed for sentry duty to engage in COVID control and awareness tasks. Following which, around 35,000 members of the Kerala Police force are presently carrying out COVID-related work.
Another issue haunting the police personnel is that many of them are testing COVID-positive even after receiving two doses of the vaccine. In fact, during the first wave, over 10,000 police personnel had contracted the disease and with cases steadily rising in the second wave, the training classes at Kerala Police Academy and Training College have been called off.
Meanwhile, the DGP has instructed all officers and staff to take their second dose of vaccine by April 30. However, the personnel are worried that they would be deployed for the security of the counting stations of the Assembly elections after COVID duty.
Police personnel’s pleas
A large section of the Kerala Police force feels that a shift system should be implemented in COVID duty to decrease their workload. This would avoid the present situation of working round-the-clock, they say.
As COVID duty poses a huge health risk, the personnel have also demanded special benefits and an insurance scheme on the lines of the one implemented by the Central government for health workers.
The Kerala Police personnel also point out that even after shouldering additional responsibilities, their salaries are cut by the state government along with other government employees to find money to fight COVID-19.