On the first anniversary of the lockdown, Delhi Police commissioner SN Shrivastava on Wednesday explained how he undertook metropolitan policing while spearheading a force that was at the forefront of fighting the pandemic along with healthcare personnel.
“Enforcing the lockdown threw many challenges as Delhi has many activities that cannot be abruptly halted. It was necessary to reach out to police personnel on the ground and explain to them how to deal with the new situation with a positive frame of mind,” Shrivastava told TOI.
Union home minister Amit Shah had made it clear that the lockdown would only be successful if it was implemented in a humane manner and people were made partners to achieve the objective. According to Shrivastava, police’s first task was ensuring that there was no panic among people and they could have unhindered supply of food, medicines and other essential amenities.
“Besides providing food to the underprivileged, ensuring supply of essential commodities, emergency movement of people for medical purposes, addressing needs of senior citizens and taking care of stray animals were other concerns,” added Shrivastava.
By March 27, 2020, all districts had started running community kitchens, the first being Najafgarh police station where cops and women cooked and gave food to the poor in the nearby colonies twice a day during the entire lockdown period. More than 1.2 crore food packets were distributed with the help of Good Samaritans. The police families welfare societies distributed special packets that not only contained food, but also essential commodities like sanitiser, soap and masks.
“We came up with movement passes to help those who had no option but to step out. Simultaneously, a helpline was launched to inform people about the restrictions and relaxations, movement passes, etc. We were the first police force to start such a helpline in the country,” said the top cop.
PCR vans became a pillar of strength for the public. While 997 women in labour were rushed to hospital, nine deliveries took place in the vans.
Around 300 cops donated plasma in association with AIIMS by November 2020. Manning containment zones was another major challenge and lathis were replaced with PPE kits. Beat cops, who were flooded with SOS calls from the elderly seeking medicines and other essentials, acted on every such call promptly.
Even non-residents who needed medicines were helped out. A person residing in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district requested South district police to provide medicines to his grandfather who suffered from heart disease. The medicine was available only in south Delhi. Police procured the medicines and got them delivered.
The movement of migrant labourers was a tricky situation and police had to be careful not to be tough while handling large crowds at the borders. In the past year, Delhi Police lost 34 of its own, while 7,733 cops have tested positive for the virus till now.