The lockdown and curfew amid the COVID-19 has earned the Punjab Police, like many of its counterparts across the country, immense criticism for its inhuman behaviour towards alleged violators; at the same time its efforts to generate awareness in an entertaining manner are going viral, providing much needed lighter moments in this time of despair.

The force is also putting in special efforts for an image makeover. As cops’ inhuman treatment of civilians grew it took the intervention of no less than chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh to drive home the point that the police are expected to be more humane and sensitive in dealing with a public emergency that has dealt a blow to almost everyone’s lives.

After many informed citizens protested the police actions, and the sadistic pleasure derived by many from watching videos of people being thrashed, Singh issued a statement Thursday evening urging police personnel to exercise maximum restraint in this difficult situation, and to find more “compassionate ways of handling curfew violations, especially in cases of individuals found moving out for essentials”.

The chief minister categorically stated that using corporal means to punish violators could not be allowed, and has directed state director-general of police Dinkar Gupta to take all possible steps to sensitise police personnel and warn them against taking the law into their own hands in cases of curfew violation.

But there is another side to the story as well, with the police force drawing appreciation for its efforts to make people aware of the seriousness of the pandemic. A video has gone viral of police personnel shaking a leg to the Bhangra tune while singing ‘boliyan’ on the coronavirus in traditional style:

This was followed by a very effective campaign under #GawachaGurbaksh that talks about NRI Punjabis coming home from countries like Italy and the need to quarantine them, read out by popular singer and actor Diljit Dosanjh:

There is also a complete song on Gwacheya Gurbaksh sung by Sidhu Moose Wala that is being circulated by the police; it talks at length about precautions like social distancing and quarantine:

CM Singh stated earlier this week that over 94,000 NRIs and foreign-returned persons had entered the state in recent days. He said the government had tracked down most of them and placed around 30,000 in isolation, adding that all-out efforts were being made to trace the remaining.

Yet another very popular post doing the rounds is about a policeman addressing women in a housing society on how they should try to restrain the men who want to loiter around and teach them home skills. The cop can be seen telling the women that they have 21 days of lockdown on their hands where they can teach their men things like cooking and get some rest from their daily drudgery:

There are also many videos that show the police extending a helping hand to people in need. A very popular one is about cops purchasing the entire lot of vegetables being sold by an old man on his handcart:

A state government spokesperson on Thursday said the police have intensified relief operations across the mostly curfewed state, with over 41,000 personnel on the ground having distributed more than 1,50,000 packets of dry food in the past 36 hours to those in need, besides providing doorstep delivery of essentials to citizens in all districts of the state.

DGP Gupta said that in order to further facilitate the general public in meeting their essential needs and coping with medical emergencies, an e-Pass facility for the Covid-19 curfew has been launched. The general helpline number 112 has been converted to a curfew helpline to deal with all curfew-related problems. He asked the people to contact the police for all emergencies arising from the clampdown.

The DGP elaborated that the e-Pass would ensure the smooth movement of essential goods and services and those with medical emergencies. The Curfew Pass facility is available at the link. Those eligible under different categories can fill in their particulars along with supporting documents and submit applications online to obtain a curfew pass.

Two designated Curfew Pass Officers in each district will scrutinise these applications. Successful applicants will be forwarded a link through which they can generate an e-Pass on their smartphone or print it if required. The pass displays identification details of the person and the vehicle, and a QR code which may be checked by the police officers on duty.

Meanwhile, the door-to-door drive to distribute 10 lakh packets of dry rations to daily wagers and unorganised labourers announced by the chief minister got underway yesterday.

Police teams have identified a large number of slum residents in all Punjab’s districts managing to cover almost every area. They have tied up with NGOs and other organisations that were willing to provide food packets, and are giving these organisations logistical help.