Wednesday, Dec 07, 2022

Maharashtra’s Unsung Heroes: Covid-19 Claimed 312 Cops, 28,500 Personnel Infected

Maharashtra’s Unsung Heroes: Covid-19 Claimed 312 Cops, 28,500 Personnel Infected

‘Working relentlessly during the pandemic was our biggest task, but my force rose to the challenge,’ Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh said

Police personnel in Mumbai Dinesh Parab/Outlook

A poignant video which went viral during the coronavirus-induced lockdown summed up the year for the police force in Mumbai and Maharashtra. It showed a child pleading with his policeman father, who is leaving house for duty, to stay at home because "there is corona out there".

As the police faced an unenviable task of keeping people off the streets during lockdown, the virus took a heavy toll on the force-- 312 police personnel died due to Covid-19 and around 28,500 were infected across the state.

The Mumbai police also found themselves caught in the crossfire in the political slugfest over actor Sushant Singh Rajputs suicide.

"This year will be remembered for the sacrifices made by police officials in the fight against Covid-19, which claimed 98 police officers and constables. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten," Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh told PTI.

"Working relentlessly during the pandemic was our biggest task, but my force rose to the challenge," Singh said.

Before the outbreak of the pandemic, huge protests in the city against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens kept police busy. Hundreds of students and others thronged the Gateway of India on the night of January 6 after a brutal attack by goons on students of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

There were also echoes of the Shaheen Bagh agitation in Delhi as Morland Road in Mumbai turned into the venue of a 'Mumbai Bagh' protest. It ended 56 days later with the coronavirus outbreak.

An incident where 23-year-old poet Bappaditya Sarkar was taken to a police station in Mumbai by an Uber driver after overhearing his phone conversation about the anti-CAA protest in the first week of February raised questions about the polarised atmosphere and paranoia over the protests.

After the lockdown was imposed in March, lakhs of migrant workers from other parts of the country were stranded in Mumbai and other cities in Maharashtra. The police force was instrumental in providing them with food and taking care of their safety.

The pandemic, which saw a drop in the crime rate, also unleashed a flood of rumours on social media. Maharashtra Cyber, the cyber crime wing of the police, cracked down on these rumour-mongers.

Police in Palghar district came in for criticism when two Jain monks and their driver were lynched in April in the presence of local police personnel on the suspicion of being thieves and part of a gang of child-lifters. The probe in the case was handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) which has arrested 186 persons so far.

Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death on June 14 shocked the country and there were allegations that he was a victim of nepotism and cliques within the film industry. Bandra police recorded the statements of Rajput’s girlfriend and actor Rhea Chakrabortyand several members of the industry including a film critic.

In July, the actor's father lodged a complaint in Patna against Chakraborty, accusing her of abetting the suicide. In August, the Supreme Court upheld the Bihar government's recommendation to transfer the FIR to the CBI.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) started a separate probe into Rajput’s and Chakraborty’s financial transactions. The ED stumbled upon mobile phone chats which suggested drug use.

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) began a probe and arrested Chakraborty and her brother along with a few others for allegedly supplying drugs to Rajput. Chakraborty and her brother later got bail. The NCB soon widened the scope of its probe to cover the alleged rampant drug use in the film industry, and questioned some prominent stars including Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan.

The Sushant Singh Rajput death case got embroiled in politics, with the BJP questioning the probe by Mumbai police and the Shiv Sena-led state government defending the police. Justice for Sushant became an election slogan ahead of Assembly polls in Rajput’s home state Bihar.
The medical board of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at Delhi concluded in October that Rajput died by suicide and it was not a murder as many conspiracy theories claimed.

In October, Mumbai police claimed to have unearthed a Television Rating Points (TRP) rigging racket, allegedly involving some TV channels. Police arrested 14 persons, including two senior officials of Republic TV, which alleged that it was a witch hunt.

On November 4, Alibaug police arrested Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswamiand two others for allegedly abetting the suicide of interior designer Anvay Naik who killed himself over pending dues from the accused's firms.

After spending eight days in jail Goswami was released when the Supreme Court granted him bail. He alleged his arrest was vendetta as the Uddhav Thackeray-led government reopened the case closed last year for lack of evidence.