Life has been difficult for us since the day the lockdown was announced to curb the spread of coronavirus. There is no doubt that people from all walks of life need to do their best to stay safe from COVID-19. The State government is understandably seeking public support for its attempt to enforce the lockdown. What's worrying is that some policemen have bungled in handling the situation arising out of the pandemic. It seems they are creating misgivings among the people about the campaign to tackle the health crisis.
While the police's effort to enforce social restrictions is undeniable, we hear about sporadic incidents of public outrage because of police high-handedness. I was made to experience such an incident which happened at Nazira in Shivasagar district at about 9:20 a.m. on Thursday. I was roughly treated by the Nazira police when I was returning home after taking delivery of a refilled LPG cylinder. The scooter on which I was carrying the LPG cylinder was stopped by the police at Nazira College Tiniali (road junction). A two-star police officer told me that I was not supposed to ride a scooter bearing an even registration number because only odd-numbered vehicles were allowed on the road for the day.
I sought to reason with the police official that transporting an LPG cylinder in a vehicle should be regarded as being part of an essential service. The police officer refused to heed my pleas and instead asked me to park the scooter by the side of the road. Interestingly, two other people who were also carrying LPG cylinders on their motorcycles with even registration numbers were allowed to go after being stopped at the road junction for over half an hour. I was still expecting the police officer to consider my case but it was not to be. My scooter was shifted to model police station, Nazira. However, I managed to hitch a ride to the police station.
After waiting for more than three hours, I got a chance to meet the officer-in-charge (OC) of the police station, Sushil Kumar Dutta, who also didn't show any compassion for me. I wanted to tell him that my family had not had food since Wednesday night. The OC demanded a hefty fine straight away, but I told him I didn't have the money, so I decided to walk back home. However, the scooter was given back to me without fine at 5:15 p.m.
It is difficult to understand if the even-odd number formula will really help the public in times of need. Notably it has not been implemented in all the districts of the state. My family has only one vehicle, i.e. scooter, which we hope to use in any emergency. If social distancing is to be strictly maintained, why can't the administration ensure regular home delivery of LPG cylinders?
This scooter was also seized by the Nazira police at the same place on March 30. The incident took place when I was riding the scooter to town to buy medicine for my family. I was unceremoniously turned back by the OC that day. The police returned the scooter to me after 17 days. If the police continue to treat the common man as I have been, then the lockdown will most likely be a meaningless exercise.
Siba K. Gogoi,