Hyderabad: When the city police commissioner Anjani Kumar said that lockdown violators will be strictly dealt with starting today, many gave the thumbs up and lauded his warning. However, what it translated to in turn is nothing short of police brutality, as cops once again like last year started beating up people if they thought even for a second that something was amiss. And the brunt of this was borne by food and e-commerce delivery boys.
On Saturday, across Hyderabad and Hitec City, cops swelled up in large numbers at various check posts to keep tabs on vehicles that were out beyond the 10 a.m. COVID-19 lockdown rules. In almost every place, all the delivery boys who were out were made to stand in a corner, hapless. Shaik Salahuddin from Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union said that it was up the companies to sort out the issue with the police. “Delivery boys are being fined and beaten for no fault of theirs. The companies must take responsibility,” he added.
The police action comes days after the implementation of a 20-hour lockdown by the state government, that was imposed since May 2. For most parts, until Saturday, the police’s conduct was normal, though perhaps a bit lax. However, Saturday’s action by the overzealous cops was completely unwarranted given that food and e-commerce delivery executives are actually permitted to move around during the lockdown. This is something that was clearly mentioned in the state government government order itself.
Hyderabad Lok Sabha member of Parliament and AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi also took to Twitter and questioned the police. “G.O on lockdown in Telangana clearly states that food delivery is permitted. Why are delivery personnel being detained then? They must be released along with their vehicles immediately. These are poor youths trying to get by @TelanganaDGP@cpcybd@CPHydCity@RachakondaCop 1/2,” said part one of his tweet on Saturday.
“@TelanganaCS if the govt has decided to not allow food delivery, then please amend the GO. Till such an amendment is made, food delivery personnel should not be stopped 2/2,” Owaisi added. He also posted a picture of the government’s GO, clearly outlining the fact that delivery personnel are in fact allowed to move around.
So what brought upon the police’s wrath on the public and delivery personnel? We will never know. However, it is clear that the top cops received instructions from above to implement the lockdown strictly. While that in itself is not a bad thing, how it is done makes a big difference. Last year too, several people complained of police brutality, wherein people were beaten up black and blue for violations. How a policeman is also allowed to beat up common citizens, especially when there are provisions to levy fines, is clearly arbitrary.
On Saturday, several people took to social media to censure the police for abruptly stopping delivery boys. Many pointed out that food the food delivery system is in fact helping COVID-19 patients who can’t cook. “How can police be so unreasonable? People are already dying owing to Covid & now Black Fungus. Does the police want some more people to die without food? There is a limit to cruelty!,” said a Twitter user Sanghamitra Malik.
Food delivery companies it seems were also taken aback by the situation. “While the government’s recent directive allows Swiggy to operate as an essential service not just for our food deliveries but also Genie and other services, we have paused our operations due to the on-ground challenges today. We’re prioritising the safety of delivery partners while we await clarity on this matter.” a Swiggy spokesperson stated.
Thousands of cases booked against lockdown violators
On Saturday, owing to the unusually strick and violent crackdown by the police, a total of 5680 cases were booked against violators in the Hyderabad police’s jurisdiction. SImilarly, under the Cyberabad police limits, which covers most of the Hitec City area, 2115 cases were booked by the cops against people for various violations.