Security forces in the insurgency-hit Bastar division of south Chhattisgarh are not just fighting Naxals, but are also tackling the coronavirus outbreak, an official said on Saturday. Security personnel were asked to take extra precautions and follow protocols during their stay in camps and when they are out on operations, he said.
“Although no confirmed case of Covid-19 has been detected in Bastar division so far, certain directives have been issued as a prudent measure to keep the forces safe,” Inspector General of Police (Bastar range) Sundarraj P told PTI.
This was a new situation for security forces, who have been dealing with the Maoist menace in the region for more than three decades, he said.
“At this time, we are battling against two menaces — Naxals and coronavirus,” the senior official said.
At least 80,000 security personnel, including different wings of the state police and paramilitary forces, are deployed in Bastar division, comprising Bastar, Kanker, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur, and Sukma districts.
There are around 135 camps of security forces in the region, spread around 40,000 sq km, for counter-insurgency operations.
Apart from maintaining personal hygiene, personnel reporting on duty after leave will be quarantined before resuming duties and those experiencing symptoms of coronavirus will be isolated, he said.
Police and district administration officials have been visiting camps and sensitising personnel about steps they need to take to reduce the risk of infection, he said. Masks, sanitisers and hand washes were provided in all camps, he added.
Several districts of Bastar division share borders with neighbouring states, including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra, where a large number of people from the region migrate for work.
Meanwhile, according to health officials, there has been an unprecedented movement of labourers returning to their villages from neighbouring states following the lockdown, triggering the chances of community transmission.
“Taking note of the situation, we are coordinating with the police and civil authorities of neighbouring states and trying to curb inter-state movement as far as possible,” the IG said.
Makeshift camps have been set up on the inter-state borders to keep those returning from the neighbouring states in quarantine before they proceed to their homes.
Villagers in Bastar were following the lockdown norms and all local markets, except for shops selling essential items, have been shut, he said.
Last month, a CRPF jawan, posted in Sukma district, was screened for possible exposure to coronavirus, but later tested negative for the infection. Of the nine COVID-19 cases reported in the state so far, four patients were discharged following recovery.