How Odisha Police is helping people during Covid-19 lockdown
She is eight months into her pregnancy and should have been on maternity leave. Yet, Mamata Mishra, working as assistant sub-inspector in Betnoti police station of Mayurbhanj district of Osidha, has been manning the police station and managing the difficult days alone while her husband, also a sub-inspector, is busy in his duties at a nearby police station.
Constable Manorama Satpathy in Sambalpur traffic police station met with an accident two months ago. Despite advised sedentary duty, she has been doing traffic duty on road to ensure enforcement of Covid-19 lockdown.
Often vilified for their alleged excesses, policemen in Odisha have turned a new leaf in times of coronavirus pandemic as they go extra mile to help people in the times of their need.
Soon after his salary for the month of March was credited, Narendra Kumar Singh, a commandant of the 8th battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) at Maoist-affected Rayagada district called 200 poor villagers living around the camp and gave Rs 500 each. With lockdown stopping all rural livelihood activities in the tribal-dominated district, the people of Kudulima, Jhiliguda, Kukurlima and Sunabandha villages were wondering about their next meal when Singh turned saviour for them.
Apart from the cash assistance of Rs 1 lakh, Singh spent another Rs 1 lakh on providing around 6,000 food packets for the villagers in the area. He even got the jawans under him to crowdfund for providing sanitisers, masks and soaps for the tribals.
“Since the day lockdown was announced, we have been giving something to the tribal people living in the villages around our camps apart from holding awareness camps on how to remain safe. In the times like these, it is our duty to give back to the society,” said Singh, a native of Palamau district of Jharkhand.
In Maoist-affected Bolangir district, the policemen engaged in anti-Maoist activity have taken it upon themselves to feed the poor. Under the supervision of Satyajit Khandelkal, in-charge of the anti-Maoist unit called District Voluntary Force, destitutes, daily wagers and people with disability are being fed in Tureikela block. With contributions by him and other policemen in his team, Khandelkal and other policemen have been giving cooked food to around 400-500 people everyday.
“Since last 13 days, we are reaching villages that are normally inaccessible. As we know the areas like back of our hands, it has been relatively easy for us to reach destitutes and old people left alone,” said Khandelkal. Similarly, traffic constable Manjari Biswal in Bolangir town too has been feeding destitutes out of her salary.
“I have told my staff that no one should go hungry. These are extraordinary times and the police should do everything that is possible and even spend from their own pocket to help people,” said Bolangir SP Madkar Sandeep Sampad.
In Cuttack, police have distributed around 90,000 packets of cooked food and 9,000 packets of dry ration to destitutes, stranded migrant labourers and disabled people through different police stations since the day lockdown was announced. “Our special squad are feeding people without a break for about a month,” said Cuttack deputy commissioner of police Akhileswar Singh.
Five days ago, the photo of sub-inspector Barsha Mohanty of Mahila police station in Cuttack feeding a woman on the road had gone viral on social media. In Bhubaneshwar, police allowed a man to transport a dialysis kit to Rourkela relaxing the lockdown norms. Similarly, at Puri railway station, the local unit of Railway Protection Force is giving cooked meals to hundreds of rickshaw pullers, destitutes as well as those who had got stranded due to lockdown since last three week.
Though sometimes slammed for their overzealousness in enforcing lockdown, they may have been instrumental in stopping the spread of the Covid-19. The Indian Medical Association (IMA), in a letter to Odisha DGP Abhay last week, said the act of police stopped the spread of the disease. Odisha has one of the lowest ratio of positive cases to samples tested. With 89 positive cases from 15,984 samples, Odisha has a ratio of 0.5, the lowest in the country.