HYDERABAD: As many as 325 policemen — a substantial number of the operational police strength — have so far contracted the coronavirus in Hyderabad within the last 12 months.
Police management had to seek additional force (around 125 personnel) from other districts to ensure anti-corona policing in the city as Hyderabad has become a hotspot for the virus in the last fortnight, statistics obtained by Dawn on Tuesday show.
Of 325 policemen, 240 were primarily lower-scale head constables and constables — being front-line workers — mostly deployed in the field at health facilities, isolation centres, Ehsaas centres and government hospitals besides those found patrolling in locked down areas.
Many of them contracted the virus while transporting UTPs; three affected policemen lost their lives
“Many had become positive while transporting coronavirus-positive undertrial prisoners (UTPs) or suspects at different police stations,” according to a police constable. He added: “We were not provided personal protective equipment (PPE) as these are meant for health professionals. Each suspect is to be tested first at every police station before he is remanded in judicial custody by any court of law.”
Policemen initially deployed at isolation centres like Kohsar Hospital or labour flats were provided some PPE. But this made their job difficult and since then police officers did not press for provision of PPE for policemen.
Three policemen of Hyderabad died of Covid-19, including an officer (ASI) who died on May 5. The deceased policemen, however, do not fall in the category of ‘martyrs’ for which the Sindh police department has a policy of financial package for bereaved family members.
There are 25 active cases of the coronavirus currently in the department and all of them are home quarantined. A coronavirus vaccination drive for policemen irrespective of their age group has started here which, according to the Hyderabad senior superintendent of police (SSP), is the first district where policemen are being vaccinated. So far 350 policemen have been vaccinated at the police hospital during the drive which would continue after Eidul Fitr.
“The health authorities insisted that vaccination would be done considering 40 years age group among policemen. But we convinced them that head constables and constables are the ones who are exposed to pandemic duties in the field and they don’t fall in this age group which qualifies for vaccination,” the SSP said. He said those policemen were in their mid-20s or 30s and they must be vaccinated first, considering their nature of work and the health authorities agreed to it.
The district police have a total strength of around 3,900 policemen, but over half of them are considered ineffective because of nature of their duties. They are deployed at different offices, banks, judicial offices and serving as escorts. Pandemic policing came as an additional burden and affected operational strength even further. They were now engaged at various locations for implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs).
In the past one year, 3,156 policemen were tested for the coronavirus. Of them 2,858 were found negative and around 325 positive. The positive cases included seven inspectors, 13 sub-inspectors, 33 ASIs, 240 police constables and head constables.
“We have requested the health authorities to also get the policemen tested who are being vaccinated,” said Hyderabad SSP Salam Shaikh.
Currently, 39 different locations of Hyderabad are under smart lockdown where a minimum possible deployment is also done regardless of their effectiveness. Secondly, police personnel are deployed at Ehsaas centres for disbursement of cash handouts among beneficiaries.
The SSP remained concerned about vaccination of policemen. “Policemen especially head constables and constables are front-line workers during pandemic duties and their vaccination was too important for the department,” he said.
He said a vaccination camp would be established at police hospital for continuation of vaccination drive beyond Eidul Fitr. Despite inadequate strength, he said, pandemic duties were taken care of as best as possible.
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021