R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, June 30 - With imposition of the lockdown to check spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring movement of stranded people by maintaining the standard protocol, turned out to be a major challenge and as part of the mega operation, more than three lakh people of the State stranded outside have returned home so far. Similarly, over 50,000 people of other states have been sent back home.
According to records available, between May 2 and June 28, altogether 3,57,203 people stranded outside the State have returned home. Of them, 1,55,421 returned by road, 1,26,381 returned by train and 75,401 returned by air.
Similarly, 20,156 persons left Assam by road, 9,573 by train and 29,533 left the State by air.
As soon as the first phase of lockdown was announced, a good number people of Assam were stranded in different parts of the country. They included students, patients and their attendants, migrant labourers, people who went out for other work, etc. Similarly, people from other parts of the country were also stranded in Assam as all modes of transport were stopped.
Even during the first phase of the lockdown, the helpline numbers of Assam Police were flooded with calls and most of those were to request for inter-state travel because of bereavement in the family, urgent medical emergency, etc. The calls were dealt with on the merit of the cases. “It was clear from the very beginning that bringing back all the stranded people and helping people stranded here to return home by maintaining all protocol would be a major challenge.
But Assam Police, with help of the other departments concerned, started the job by following well-set standard operating procedures (SOP),” said Additional Director General of Police, Harmeet Singh. He said, “Team Assam, of which Assam Police is an integral part, ensured that the standard operating procedures were strictly followed and all those persons who arrived in the State were tested and quarantined before being allowed to mingle in society. The Chief Minister and the Health Minister have been monitoring the operation right from the beginning.”
During the second phase of the lockdown when the restrictions were relaxed, Assam Police began to chalk out strategies to bring the people back from other states. On April 24, as per instructions of the State government, an Assam Police team was sent to Kota in Rajasthan by a special flight to bring back hundreds of students stranded there due to the lockdown. With active support of the government, the police team brought back 391 Assam students by 18 special buses.
Assam Police provided a phone number for people stranded outside Assam, asking them to give a missed call to it if they wished to return. They were informed that after giving a missed call, they would receive a link within 48 hours and they would be required to fill up a form by opening that link.
Assam Police also provided an email id for people who wanted to return using their own means of transport. State-wise helpline numbers too were announced by Assam Police for any clarification on the matter. These phone numbers and email id were shared with the public through the various social media handles of Assam Police.
On April 30, the State Level Empowered Committee, Assam, designated Additional Director General of Police GP Singh as the Nodal Officer for the entire exercise of transporting people back to Assam. Harmeet Singh was designated as the alternate Nodal Officer. A committee headed by GP Singh was also formed. The other members included Harmeet Singh; AP Tiwari, MD, ASTC & MD, ASDM; AS Manivannan, CEO, Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA); Dr Laxmanan S, MD, National Health Mission (NHM), Assam and Adil Khan, Commissioner, Transport Department, Assam.
Assam Police is now assisting the State government in facilitating and arranging transport of stranded passengers from various parts of the country back to Assam. They are also coordinating with other state governments so that these states can take their people back from Assam.
A Command and Control Centre was set up at the ASDM office at Gorchuk here to arrange and coordinate all transport operations regarding movement of stranded passengers. It first started by managing the inter-district movement of people from the last week of April. From May, it is looking after the entire inter-state movement of the stranded people.
This centre is, in fact, involved in data analysis, data mapping, planning and information dissemination to the citizens. It is involved in coordinating the efforts across departments and agencies like the Indian Railways, police, health, transport, etc. Assam Police officers led by Gaurav Upadhyay, AIG (Logistics) and Shwetank Mishra, SP (SB), are playing a crucial role in coordinating and managing these activities.
Detailed standard operating procedures were formulated for both inward and outward transportation of people by road, train and airways and the same are being followed strictly till date.