For India’s poor, COVID-19 ‘pandemic policing’ adds to lockdown hardships

CHENNAI: Poor Indians are bearing the brunt of “pandemic policing” because the nation struggles to include a lethal second wave of COVID-19 instances by imposing stricter curfew guidelines and curbs on motion, rights advocates mentioned.

Hawkers, slum dwellers, meals couriers and migrant staff are probably to fall foul of lockdown guidelines – from fines for failing to put on a face masks or being out on the street to having roadside stalls closed down, in accordance to unions and activists.

“Our ground experience shows police target the poor, marginalised and those who cannot speak up,” mentioned Dharmendra Kumar, secretary of Janpahal, a charity that works with avenue distributors.

“As micro-containment zones are being set-up and markets shut, the police are in charge on the streets. On the pretext of pandemic policing they victimise hawkers, pedestrians and the poor,” he mentioned.

India’s day by day COVID-19 dying toll hit a brand new report on Tuesday (Apr 20) because the health system crumbles beneath the load of sufferers and confirmed infections rise nearer to that of the United States – the world’s worst-hit nation.

FILE PHOTO: Frontline workers prepare a funeral pyre on the outskirts of Mumbai

FILE PHOTO: A frontline employee in private protecting gear (PPE) sprays a flammable liquid on a burning funeral pyre of a person who died from the coronavirus illness (COVID-19), at a crematorium on the outskirts of Mumbai India, April 15, 2021. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

Police implementing lockdown guidelines have confronted accusations of arbitrary and heavy-handed remedy, particularly because the deaths in custody of a father and son locked up for violating a nationwide coronavirus lockdown final June.

A policeman was caught on digicam beating prospects and staff at a restaurant in southern Tamil Nadu state final week after ordering them to shut though they weren’t in breach of lockdown guidelines.

Many states have appealed to police authorities to keep away from such excesses throughout the well being disaster.

Earlier this month within the capital, New Delhi – the place a six-day lockdown was ordered on Monday, civic authorities took the aspect of disgruntled stallholders at a weekly market who had been pressured by police to pack up sooner than well being guidelines required.

READ: Week-long lockdown in Delhi as COVID-19 cases soar

Police, nonetheless, have highlighted officers’ work to assist native communities throughout the lockdown, saying they’ve usually gone past the decision of responsibility to assist folks in want.

A current report by the Bureau of Police Research and Development highlights the “humane approach” of officers throughout the lockdowns, citing examples of personnel serving to migrants and distributing meals. Officials from the inside ministry, which oversees the police, weren’t instantly accessible for remark.

READ: India’s Modi scorned over reckless rallies, religious gathering amid COVID-19 mayhem


It is the uneven enforcement of lockdown guidelines that has led to the concentrating on of marginalised communities, tribes and different susceptible teams, in accordance to a research by the Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project (CPAProject).

The unbiased analysis physique analysed 500 police complaints and 34,000 arrests in Madhya Pradesh state, and located officers had been utilizing “enormous” discretion in implementing restrictions.

“The police decided who had a valid reason to be out and who didn’t … even in cases where a person was out to refill their gas or buy essentials. All police complaints said was ‘reason not satisfactory’,” mentioned Nikita Sonavane, co-founder of the CPAProject.

Virus Outbreak India

A employee arranges beds at a COVID-19 remedy facility newly arrange at an indoor stadium in Gauhati, India, Monday, April 19, 2021. India now has reported greater than 15 million coronavirus infections, a complete second solely to the United States. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

The proportion of instances in opposition to pedestrians elevated from 50 per cent within the first lockdown to 89 per cent throughout the third lockdown, with shopkeepers and avenue distributors among the many largest class of “offenders”, the analysis discovered.

Dayashankar Singh, president of Azad Hawkers Union, which represents about 31,000 distributors in Mumbai, mentioned roadside fruit and vegetable sellers had been requested to shut store.

“I submitted a letter to the police that they should follow government instructions and fine those flouting guidelines, not act against the entire community of hawkers,” he mentioned.

“Food vendors are threatened that their food will be thrown away. We also got complaints that their pans and cooking oil were being seized by the police,” Singh mentioned.

READ: India opens up COVID-19 jabs to all adults as New Delhi goes into lockdown


Such tales had been an “eye-opener” for illustrator Anurag Ekka, who labored with the CPAProject to create a comic book referred to as Policed During The Lockdown”.

Based on a fictional vegetable seller who struggles to understand her rights and make a living under lockdown, the comic has been translated into 10 Indian languages and is being used as an advocacy tool by human rights organisations.

“Facts and figures are at all times very summary and the concept was to put a face to the numbers,” Ekka told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

While the comic’s protagonist Phullobai has her vegetables thrown to the ground by a police constable and a man out to buy medicines for his parents is fined, a driver found breaking the lockdown is let off.

READ: Britain is investigating COVID-19 variant originating in India

For street traders struggling to scrape by as restrictions keep many customers home, such incidents have aggravated their pandemic woes.

Joginder Verma, 23, a fruit vendor in Mumbai who comes from northern Uttar Pradesh state, said last year police refused to let him set up his stall – forcing him to join an exodus of migrant workers out of the country’s big cities.

“My fruits had been rotting and I had to dump them within the rubbish earlier than leaving for my village,” he said.

“Now I’ve a mortgage of 20,000 Indian rupees (US$266). I by no means had a mortgage earlier than.”

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