Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta on Tuesday barred all police personnel with medical issues, as well as women cops with children under 5, from frontline duty, in a bid to protect them from undue exposure to the risk of Covid.

The decision has been approved by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who has asked the DGP to ensure all protective and welfare measures for the Corona Warriors battling Covid from the front.

The DGP said there had been concerns expressed on this count during several calls received on the newly-launched tele-counselling facility for anxious police corona warriors and their families. At present, there are over 48,000 police personnel engaged in curfew enforcement and relief measures across the state, and the facility was launched on April 20 to equip police officers and their families with additional information & skills to cope with the psychological aspects of the Covid-19 duties, including a high degree of risk of contracting infection.

Several calls were received regarding issues of health and safety of women police personnel who were either lactating mothers or mothers of children under age of 5 years, who needed the mother’s constant presence. Separation from young children was causing hardship, worry and anxiety, especially in cases where the husband and wife were both members of the police force, said the DGP, adding that in response to these concerns, it was decided not to deploy such women on frontline duty. Similar apprehensions were forthcoming with respect to personnel suffering from various medical issues, especially respiratory distress etc., which could aggravate their risk factors, he said.

Necessary directions have been issued to Range IGP/DIGs, Commissioners and SSPs to ensure that police officials with pre-existing medical issues, and women police personnel with children below 5 years of age, are not posted on frontline duties in view of their peculiar & specific circumstances.

Giving details of the tele-counselling service, launched by Punjab Police in partnership with the Chennai based NGO Mastermind Foundation, ADGP Community Affairs Punjab Ms. Gurpeet Deo said that the Foundation Director, Col Thiagarajan, had offered to the state police the services of a panel of 10 trained Psychologists, who had volunteered for this unique initiative.

The foundation is providing tele-counselling as well as video counselling services for mental health workshop and interaction sessions, said Gupta, adding that the ‘MindCare’ App link can be downloaded free of cost from Google play store.

Within two weeks of its inception, the app-based helpline has received and handled around 130 calls, of which 104 calls resolved through counseling whereas in about 23 cases, counselling is ongoing. The remaining cases pertained to administrative issues.

Out of the total calls, about a third of the calls were from wives or other family members of the policemen who had concerns, such as tackling the corona virus scare alone at home with the added responsibilities of small children and elderly parents in the absence of the policeman husband, or concerns regarding the health and safety of husband posted away from home.

The DGP further disclosed that there were also queries related to fear and anxiety arising out of the possibility of contracting the corona virus, and uncertainty about the future in the context of the pandemic. A few calls pertained to administrative issues such as transfers and departmental action, not related to the mandate of the counselling, wherein, the callers were asked to approach the Departmental superiors.

The app provides audio guided therapy, Psychometric Tests and also contains articles on mental health. It addresses common problems like stress, anxiety etc, and includes training for developing mindfulness. Several widely used psychometric questionnaires are available on the app for self-assessing problems like anxiety and depression. It also provides solutions to cope with the problem, based on their results, via mail. Information about the service has been widely circulated by the department on the internal Whatsapp groups of the police force, according to the DGP.

An interesting informative video in Punjabi has been created and shared with the Punjab Police Personnel detailing the psychological impact of a pandemic such as the Corona virus on the health and functioning of the police personnel. Apart from this, the app is suggests simple remedies for anxiety and stress, such as advice to ensure good sleep, periodical medical checkups, continuous dialogue with family members and friends, chatting and sharing of problems with friends and colleagues, drinking lots of water, and so on.

In addition, on the request of DGP Punjab, doctor members of Punjab IPS Officers Wives Association (PIPSOWA) have created an awareness video for Punjab Police personnel and their families, which outlines the early warning signs of CoviD and the precautions which need to be taken to avoid contracting the virus.

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