Healthcare officials, police forces and media personnel around the globe have been working tirelessly amid the coronavirus pandemic. In Visakhapatnam too, police officers have stepped up their vigil to enforce the lockdown effectively. In this scenario, the police department has sought the help of citizen volunteers to deal with crowds loitering on the roads. We caught up with Anmish Varma Bhupathiraj – a city-based youth who has been chosen as a Volunteer Lead by the Deputy Collector M Srinivasa Rao to mobilize volunteers. Here’s how this operation has been running in our city:
Please tell us a little about why the local authorities chose to appoint citizen volunteers
“Police officials have been working round the clock to strictly enforce the lockdown since weeks. Despite strict warnings, people are still aimlessly roaming on the roads. The Department of Youth Services approached our NGO – Kalpavruksh to mobilize volunteers who can assist the police officers during this time. Their work involves encouraging those stepping out to go back to their homes at checkpoints and other areas. All interested citizens are welcome to sign up.”
How is the volunteering program being operated currently?
“Once a person registers to volunteer, their details of residence are noted down. They are allotted to their nearest police station so that it is easy for them to travel. Once they report to the police station, thorough orientation on safety measures, physical distancing procedures and subsequently, their work requirements is conducted. Masks are provided to ensure their safety before proceeding to the streets.”
How may hours are the volunteers required to dedicate every day?
“Considering the harsh summer weather, the work must be distributed throughout the day. Currently, the volunteers can choose between three shifts:
1. 6 AM – 11 AM
2. 4 PM – 6 PM
3. 11 PM – 4 AM”
What measures are being taken to ensure the volunteers’ safety?
“Before the volunteers get on the job, the police personnel thoroughly take them through all the safety procedures that need to be followed. While frequent sanitization and wearing masks are crucial, the police have also briefed us to maintain distance while interacting with people. They have also assured us that volunteers’ safety is the department’s priority.”
Speaking of the department’s support, what has been your experience working with the policemen closely?
“In India, we have a pre-conceived notion that all policemen are corrupt. However, they are our first line of defense in dealing with this world-wide crisis currently. I believe a community shows its true colours during an adversity. In this regard, I would give a clean chit to the Vizag Police. While we have witnessed instances of policemen hitting citizens in other parts of the country, the Visakhpatnam Police has been handling the situation with utmost patience without resorting to violent behaviour.”
Do you have a message for people violating the lockdown during the pandemic?
“During my volunteer hours, I have personally witnessed people throwing attitude or misbehaving with the police who are trying to protect them. Miscreants are in large numbers in few areas of Vizag – they don’t wish to abide by the rules, and are endangering others’ lives in the process. We would be making fools of ourselves if we point fingers at policemen In this scenario. While it is our right as citizens to call out miscreants, it is equally our responsibility to acknowledge that we are being irresponsible. This pandemic is the right time for all citizens to prove their solidarity by simply staying at home.”
Those interested to volunteer and support the Vizag Police can reach out to +917207319581 to register.