At Singhu border, 2,000 personnel maintaining peace at farmers’ protest
Led by 10 deputy commissioners of police (DCsP), 20 assistant commissioners (ACsP) and 30 inspectors, 2,000 Delhi Police personnel have been working 12-hour shifts everyday for the last 10 days at the Singhu Border -- the protest side with the biggest gathering of farmers.
They are supplemented by about 600 personnel of the paramilitary forces such as the Rapid Action Force, the Central Reserve Police Force and the Central Industrial Security Force.
Every day, 20 buses have been making four to-and-fro rounds to pick and drop these police personnel between a common gathering point and the Singhu Border for 8am to 8pm and then 8pm to 8am shifts, said a senior police officer about how the police have been managing it’s staff as protesters continue to camp at this border point.
These police personnel include about 25% women and they are from the local north-west district as well as adjoining districts. “There are also teams from special cell, crime branch, battalions and the traffic unit,” said the officer, requesting anonymity since he was not authorised to speak to the media.
“Each and every one of these personnel has been equipped with body protection gear, helmets and canes. If someone arrives without his or her gears, we have set up a temporary store room here to equip them on arrival,” the officer said, adding that about 2,000 tear gas shells stored there to deal with any eventuality.
BASIC, BUT TIMELY MEALS
While a few police personnel bring their own food, most rely on meals prepared at the protest site.
“We have hired local chefs to cook lunch, dinner and tea every day. They have been cooking lunch for 1,200 police personnel, dinner for 600 personnel and about 4,000 cups of tea every day. Apart from the police, even some paramilitary personnel have these meals,” said Gaurav Sharma, DCP (outer-north), under whose jurisdiction the border area comes.
The other police officer said the meals may be very basic, but they are cooked fresh and packed meals are a complete no-no for the police. The meals usually consists of rice-rajma, rice-chhole or poori-curry. On Sunday, kadhi-rice was on offer for lunch as about eight men and women went about cooking in an empty plot of land, about 50 metres from the barricades.
DROP IN HOSTILITIES
Initially, after a violent clash between farmers and police at Singhu Border, there was much hostility between the two sides. “Policemen would come with complaints that they were being taunted at the barricades. We would urge them not to respond,” said the first officer.
The situation is quite different now.
“The farmers often have been visiting us to offer their food. Some of us politely refuse, but I accept it as the farmers are our own people,” said a constable who belongs to a Haryana.
A head constable, who too isn’t authorised to speak to the media, said farmers on the other side of the barricades include people from his village in Haryana. “My family is also into farming, but I have asked them to keep away because I know how quickly the situation can escalate,” the head constable said.
MAKESHIFT ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE
DCP Sharma said the police have now even begun to provide medical aid, ambulances and other help to the farmers. “The farmers who are on the Delhi side of the border sometimes come to us for help. Humanity matters more than anything else and we have set up a help desk where even farmers are welcome,” said the DCP.
The help desk is operational from a neat, 10×25 feet metallic cabin. This is the police’s administrative room for the time being since November 29.
Half-a-dozen policemen, led by an ACP, work on four computers in this cabin that is also equipped with two small and a large printer. “Every issue related to the police deployment, ranging from making rosters to holding meetings are done here,” said the DCP.
This hurriedly set up cabin turned out to be an “opportunity in a crisis”. “The police booth at the border is set to be dismantled when a flyover scheduled to be constructed at this border point begins. This cabin will be turned into a police booth once the protests wind up,” said the first officer.
For basic facilities like toilets and water, the police had sought help from civic agencies. “The Delhi Jal Board provides us with water tankers. We have 25 portable toilets deployed here. Two ambulances are on standby at any time and sanitation workers arrive every morning to clean the area,” said the officer.
For the cold nights, the police have arranged 12 braziers (angeethis) for the personnel. “So far, about seven-eight police personnel have fallen sick at the border duty. They have been replaced,” said the officer.
While camping at the borders for a prolonged period has been tough, the police had something to cheer on Saturday. “Since the protests have continued for longer than the police had anticipated, from Saturday we have decided to give a day off to every personnel by turn,” the officer said.