Mohammad Asif and Pankaj Sharma
While throwing our normal life out of gear, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic also taught us many lessons. Unfortunately, many people lost their lives, some their jobs and others are still struggling to make both their ends meet. With no jobs in hand, government help or dole outs from charitable agencies became their only source of survival.
However, a big takeaway from the pandemic is that society learnt to live on bare minimum resources. During the prolonged lockdown, residents had to remain confined to their houses. With restrictions on movement, staying at home became frustrating. A long wait under the roof took a toll on the mentally feeble who even needed psychological counselling.
During the middle of the year as the COVID infected cases were on the upswing, migrant labourers got stuck in the lockdown while anxiously trying to go back home.
The Government of West Bengal took great initiative, generosity and compassion towards them by keeping the supplies of essential commodities absolutely normal.
Helping hands were extended round-the-clock by the policeman in case of emergencies. The entire state battled the pandemic with great resilience. After a few months of lockdown, the unlocking phase began. People started moving out for work as the process of restoring normalcy commenced.
But, restoring normality was not an easy task as the dangers of getting infected by the fatal virus were not yet over.
As the front-line warriors, policemen took the challenge upfront. Right from running community kitchens, arranging temporary shelters, supplying food and medicines to elderly people, arranging ambulances for ailing people, Kolkata Police tried to be the true warriors of the time.
For citizens who have been facing many difficulties due to curbs, the festivals gave them the right opportunity to shrug off their woes. However, the inherent danger of rise in infection in crowded pandals became a cause for concern. So, letting people celebrate festivals with precaution in place became the top priority.
Many businesses eyed puja celebration for doing a brisk business as prolonged lockdown had wreaked havoc with their trade. It was a challenge everywhere to strike a balance between meeting economic needs and following strict COVID norms. This was the need of the hour for the sake of a decisive battle against corona.
Up came the policemen regulating mobs everywhere. Lockdown measures were enforced with utmost seriousness. Localised containment zones were made in which entry and exits were controlled meticulously by the police. Such strict enforcement helped in controlling the infection. The honourable High Court ordered certain guidelines for observing safe puja. Pandal organisers were also asked to follow social distancing norms and avoid crowding on the premises. Big community gatherings in puja pandals were discouraged.
The honourable Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, set the guidelines for making pandals. All of the pandals were made spacious with a large open area and several entry and exit gates. With cooperation from puja organisers and under the tight vigil of the police, the directives of the honourable court and the government were followed in letter and spirit.
Even the immersion was done by taking all the precautions. Apart from these special duties, the force did not forget to continue with their normal policing duties. To check rogue bikers and those not wearing masks in public, surveillance was maintained round-the-clock. Nearly 8,000 policemen were deployed on the streets for controlling mobs and law and order.
Unprecedented times forced policemen to stay away from their family for longer duration but they didn’t bat an eyelid. Vigorous naka checking against rogue bikers continued with a firm hand. More than 1,600 bikers were booked for rash driving and violating traffic norms.
Festivals like Deepawali and Dhanteras were also observed with the same precautions. The enforcement of rules gave good results as by Christmas the number of infected cases started decreasing. To avoid gathering, Allen Park on Park Street was shut on Christmas Eve.
Many churches organized evening prayers instead of midnight masses. Even St. Paul’s Cathedral held midnight prayers with minimum presence.
With no scope for complacency, the forces again tightened their belts for the New Year’s celebration. Thousands were booked for not wearing masks in public places. Others were booked for drunk driving and violating traffic rules. Kolkata Police Commissioner Anuj Sharma put more emphasis on naka checking and his cops continued with their drive throughout December and January.
Now, the process of vaccination has started but, still the COVID protocols are in place. Precautions need to be taken to defeat the deadly virus. Kolkata police has lost several warriors in its battle against Corona. But, the morale of the force remains high under the leadership of Anu Sharma who himself got infected in the line of duty.
Along with the police, the government officials and healthcare staff also fought the battle unitedly. Leading the battle, the Commissioner of Police set an example for others. Rendering all possible help to the infected cops, Anuj Sharma personally went on to see them and also supervised the police stations. Such an act of kindness plays a great role in boosting the self-esteem of cops on duty.
As the vaccines have started arriving, we can expect to overcome the pandemic in the near future but the role of Kolkata Police will be etched in history books and the memory of citizens forever.