GUWAHATI, June 16 - �I�m working in a very risky situation because I can get infected with the coronavirus at any moment. But, the duty that has been assigned to me is my priority. So, I leave it to the Almighty to protect me,� said an on-duty Assam Police homeguard here.
The man-in-khaki was doing traffic duty wearing an ordinary mask that costs not more than Rs 50, and he did not have a sanitizer and a pair of hand-gloves in his possession as well.
�A few days back, we received a pair of gloves and a face-mask each from the department. But, the products were non-reusable. So, I�m working without wearing hand-gloves now,� he said.
The homeguard informed that his senior officials are regularly instructing them to maintain social-distancing and follow other norms to protect themselves from COVID-19 infection during duty hours.
�For lower-rank police personnel, it is not easy to follow all kinds of health rules and regulations. The condition of our barracks, in particular, is so unhygienic that chances of the spread of any disease are very high there,� he lamented.
Notably, two police personnel in the city have been detected with COVID-19 infection till date. On Saturday, one police personnel of the Panbazar Police Station was found to be COVID-19 positive, and altogether 25 people he had been in contact with, including police staff, have been put under quarantine.
According to a source, the health department will soon collect swab samples of all police personnel of Guwahati to ascertain further infection. As a precautionary measure, lower-ranked police personnel have been instructed to stay back in their barracks rather than their homes till the situation comes under control.
Speaking to this reporter, a senior police official said, �Now controlling mobs has become a major challenge for us. It is almost impossible to maintain social distancing in such situations, like the one we had to deal with recently on the Noonmati Police Station premises.�
Another senior police official pointed out that a coronavirus infection has the potential to make the staff crunch issue more severe in the police department. As per information availed from a source, a number of posts of sub-inspectors and constables are lying vacant in the city police.
�It�s not possible to follow all the medical advisories in every situation. During a police operation, especially, maintaining social distancing is impossible. Now, quarantining police personnel who had come into contact with infected persons has emerged as a new challenge for us,� the official stated.
Commenting on the present situation, Police Commissioner of Guwahati Munna Prasad Gupta said that all his staff have been following the health department protocols to stay away from COVID-19 from the very first day and distribution of gloves, face-masks and sanitizers, along with other safety kits, at every police station is also under way.
�Till today, two police personnel have been infected with the virus and both are now in stable condition. On the other hand, the existing vacancy is not alarming and will not affect us in carrying out our duty,� Gupta maintained.
On the unhygienic condition of barracks, Gupta said that his department is working on it and very soon a multistorey barrack will come up in Khanapara area.
Director General of Assam Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta stated that the department is preparing a second line of defence to manage the staff crunch, if the department is compelled to quarantine more police personnel in the coming days.