Excesses by authorities mar government efforts to fight coronavirus

Excesses by the authorities including army, police and public administration officials were reported in different parts of the country when they were engaged in ensuring social distancing and home quarantine of returnees to check the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Senior citizens and retired bureaucrats said that while on duty some resorted to excesses including torturing elderly people visiting the kitchen markets while others took pictures of people after compelling them to do sit-ups by holding their ears.

All this indicated that no proper briefing was given before their deployment order on March 23, they added.

Several videos went viral on social media much to the chagrin of the government.

A video went viral on social media on March 26 that showed a police official forcing a rickshaw-puller to roll on the street in Jamalpur.

Another video from Tangail that went viral on March 25 showed a police team charging batons on people for not wearing masks.

Retired secretary Nazrul Islam Khan alleged that an army patrol team tortured some villagers in Rajganj market area in Monirampur upazila of Jashore on March 26 when the latter were collecting their necessary items from the locality.

In another incident, a 65-year-old farmer, Aziz Gazi, was beaten with sticks in the afternoon of March 26 while his family told New Age that he went out to collect oil from a shop.

On the following day, another photo went viral on social media on Friday showing Monirampur assistant commissioner (land) Sayema Hasan in Jashore taking a picture of three elderly men, who were forced to hold their ears, at Chinetola kitchen market in Monirampur for not using masks.

The photo sparked uproar.

The assistant commissioner, Sayema, was withdrawn and attached to Khulna divisional commissioner’s office for her misconduct with senior citizens, public administration secretary Shaikh Yusuf Harun said on Saturday.

He said all deputy commissioners across the country were alerted against the incidents of excesses in some places and were asked to make sure that the public servants discharged their duties in a professional manner.

Another video on Saturday showed that the army personnel were beating a youth wearing a helmet and the personnel were asking for his identity.

The Khulna divisional commissioner Anwar Hossain Howladar told New Age on Saturday they also spoke to the army as excesses were reported while maintaining social distancing.

‘We have warned the army personnel to maintain decency,’ said Anwar.

When approached, Inter-Services Public Relations director Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah Ibn Zaid said they were examining the clip.

Abu Alam Md Shahid Khan, a retired secretary, believed that the proper briefing was not given while the authorities deployed civil administration with military to check the spread of virus.

Another problem was, he said, that this was a completely new experience for the officials to deal with, which triggered these problems.

Talking to New Age, a number of field-level officials admitted that instructions were not properly conveyed so that everyone engaged could deal with this unique problem of making people maintain social distancing.

The police headquarters officials also received allegation of public harassment. The police units were now briefed to assist emergency service providers, they said.

‘We are directing our officers and members of the force to behave politely and professionally. Still, there are a few complaints. Now an enquiry is on. If proven, we will surely take action against them,’ said the police headquarters assistant inspector general Sohel Rana.

‘At this critical hour, police on duty in the fields have been facing difficulties in managing people too,’ he added.

Amid the crisis, the police officials said that the inspector Mohammad Javed Patwary held a video conference with his operational commanders and asked to maintain safety and security of the people.

In a message on Friday, the police chief asked the two lakh members of the force to discharge their duties with modesty and professionalism.

In Pirojpur, the Bhandaria upazila nirbahi officer Nazmul Alam Nobin said he set particular time for kitchen markets in the locality but kept the pharmacy open round the clock.

Troops along with police from respective police stations were also restricting vehicular movements in Dhaka and elsewhere.

In Cox’s Bazar, soldiers from Ramu cantonment were plastering warning leaflets to make the people to stay home while military and police personnel in different places were seen using announcement system asking people to stay home.

The government has already banned all social, political and religious gatherings and shut down public transports to fight the spread of COVID-19 that has already killed five and infected 48 people so far in the country.

It also announced a 10-day public holiday beginning on March 26, asking people to stay at home. (Source: New Age)

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