The police on Tuesday fanned out across population centres to enforce the COVID-19 pandemic control regulations even as growing rumblings of political discontent with the government’s decision to grant wide-ranging powers to the law enforcement appeared to get louder by the day.
Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in an open letter that “this is a health crisis and not a law and order crisis”. Mr Vijayan had imposed a police raj on the people to cover up the shortcomings of his government. The pandemic-hit population deserved care, understanding, and empathy. However, the government imposed hefty fines on the people and arrested and humiliated them for minor infractions. It had created an atmosphere of terror. Kerala was in the grip of an unforgiving and cruel police state, he said.
The protracted lockdown and heavy police presence on the street appeared to have triggered public resentment in some measure in several places. This also seemed to be laying the ground incrementally for political protests in the coming days.
For one, traders in Chalai in the capital gathered at the market. They threatened to open shops on August 9 in defiance of the lockdown.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has thrown in its lot with the traders. BJP MLA O. Rajagopal inaugurated a protest at Attingal. The police slapped a case on him.
In a directive late Monday, State Police Chief Loknath Behera ordered strict enforcement of curfew and lockdown norms in containment zones. However, officers should make allowance for home delivery of essential items.
Motorcycle patrols scoured containment zones and the police also carried out aerial surveillance with the help of drones. Officers verified the location of persons in quarantine by checking their mobile phone location.
The police also set up checkpoints on important roads across the State to prevent overloading of passengers in vehicles and ensure compliance with the pandemic protocol.