Role of police better than ‘netas’ in dealing with migrants: Former top cops

New Delhi, 17 May (IANS) Barring a few incidents, the role of police in dealing with migrating labourers has been better than political leaders and local civil administration, feel former top cops.
“The Police have been on the frontline of this battle. They have been more or less lenient with them (labourers)”, says former DGP, Uttar Pradesh Prakash Singh. On sporadic incidents of police force being used on labourers, former Chief of Border Security Force Ajay Raj Sharma said, “Such incidents are an exception. The role of police during this pandemic is better than netas (politicians). I can quote several instances, where police are serving food and arranging transport for labourers out of their pocket.”
Senior police officers feel that men in khaki have a limited role to play in a situation which leads to one of the biggest-ever exodus of people in recent times.
“Poor labourers are dying from dehydration. They have been killed in road accidents. Kids are suffering from heat, humidity. And almost all of them are battling hunger and have been left penniless. Tell me in such a pathetic situation what can the police do? The primary responsibility is of the civil administration and state governments to take care of the workers marching on foot for hundreds of kilometers”, says Neeraj Kumar, former Police Commissioner of Delhi.
Reacting to a story of a labourer who set out on bicycle from Bangalore, carrying his old mother to Kota in Rajasthan, former IPS officer, Neeraj Kumar said, “The man crossed several states. It took him weeks to cycle on various highways. But the state governments, local administration did not intervene. The story remains the same for the rest. I feel bureaucracy has turned out to be a mute spectator (to mass migration).”
The lack of in-depth planning while strategising implementation of lockdown is one reason behind a large-scale reverse migration of labourers.
“The overall concept of lockdown and its initial implementation was fine. But on the issue of migration of labourers, policy-makers seem to have lacked the foresight on the exodus front….They just missed the point that such a large-scale migration can take place as a fallout of complete lockdown,” says Prakash Singh. “The response to run trains and buses for the migrating labourers came a bit late. The decision (of providing transport) was taken when millions of labourers have already set out on foot to reach home. Now in such a chaotic situation, and that too during a pandemic, how can police prevent this exodus?”
Whenever the administration fails, often the police is made the scapegoat, feels Kashmir Singh, the 1978 batch IPS officer who was the first police officer to serve as Joint Secretary in Ministry of Home Affairs.
“When thousands of labourers from Delhi broke lockdown norms and flocked to the Anand Vihar bus terminal a month ago, then police were blamed for the disorder. But I believe lack of coordination between state governments and a disconnect with the executives (on the ground) and decision-makers was more responsible for what went wrong on Anand Vihar terminal,” says Kashmir Singh, one of the well-known police officers of Uttar Pradesh.
According to him, while chalking out public policies and norms, it should be kept in mind what could be the fallout of such policies or the problem faced by the last man on the street.
The police have been shown using force on migrating labourers, in several videos going viral on social media. Top police officers feel that sometimes, some policemen do lose patience and react in an inhuman way. “Often the lower-rung constable, who performs an arduous duty in such hot temperatures, gets irritated. Such incidents can be counted on fingers. But if we take a comprehensive view of the role of police, the image has gone stronger…as a covid warrior, they have braved the menace of the pandemic,” says Rajnikant Mishra, former DG BSF.
“Nevertheless, the police should be compassionate and extend a helping hand to these labourers. The district police chiefs should interact with the constabulary and guide them to be more empathetic towards the poor, who are facing the actual fallout of the lockdown. But allow me to say that the role of police in these depressing moments needs appreciation,” said Mishra.

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