According to a press report a few days back, the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Range, Pravin Gurung of Sikkim Police removed barricades put up by villagers and localities to prevent people from entering their respective areas fearing the spread of the virus due to the surge in Covid 19 cases in the state, terming the act of putting up barricades by citizens in different localities as illegal while appreciating the high level of awareness of the locals and the precautions they have taken. While the above instance is not a one off incident, the police officer acted responsibly and prevented further inconvenience and possible misfortune due to restricted movements in case of emergencies in the state. In fact the practice of putting up unauthorized barricades in localities and colonies by the local residents have seen a sharp rise with the surge in Covid 19 cases throughout the country, and with the added apprehension of community spread of the contagion, the sense of uncertainty and suspicion of ‘outsiders’ has taken on a more accusatory overtone.
What exactly is the logic behind putting up such unauthorized barricades in localities? Are they really helping in slowing down or preventing the spread of Covid 19? Exactly who are the people the residents are trying to prevent from entering their respective localities? Does the ‘ban’ include persons engaging in ‘essential services’ or are there some local mechanism to monitor the movement of these persons? What about the residents going out of their barricaded localities? Or, has arrangements been made by the locals so that the needs of the less affluent residents are also looked after while imposing a blanket ban on movements in these localities? Considering the mandate and influence the local Clubs enjoy, are these barricades erected with their support or supervision? Has there been even the slightest hint of suspicion that only ‘outsiders’ are at risk of spreading the contagion? What is the view or stand of the state government in this regard? Is this just another example of relegating greater power to the people or yet another instance of failure to implement proper protocols and legal guidelines?
When a locality or residential area is declared containment zone, the local police will put up barricades, often yellow painted metallic ones on wheels, two-layers deep and overlapping if possible, completely restricting the entry and exit of all vehicles. No vendors, milk suppliers, household help, drivers or nannies will be allowed to enter, and residents will not be allowed to exit the building or locality. There will be constant police vehicles on patrol on the main roads, in addition to police personnel permanently stationed at the barricade itself. In case of an emergency, people are expected to alert the police and help will be sent. If needed, ambulances will be sent to take the patient to a nearby hospital. All essential goods vendors will have to leave the deliveries at the barricade gates and residents will be called to come and collect the packages one by one. All other unessential, civilian movement has been banned. Everyone has to wear a mask when they step out of their front doors now. This is compulsory by government order as well. Any non compliance will be dealt with strictly and according applicable laws.
Barricades are and should be the last resort of the state authorities to contain and fight the contagion. The dreaded virus does not differentiate between an ‘insider’ and an ‘outsider’. What we should understand as responsible individuals and citizens is that instead of creating more inconveniences and even potential danger in case of emergencies, we should follow the safety guidelines strictly and avoid exposing ourselves to the risks of contracting the virus. If each one of us does our bit, there will not be any necessity for barricades and bans. We are the ones who will determine the next course of action against the dreaded contagion and thereby decide its fate.