SP Amrita Sinha: Saving Manipur From Cross-Border COVID-19 Spread
The Superintendent of Police of Churachandpur in Manipur, Amrita Sinha is at the forefront of coronavirus battle at a district that is only 79.5 kms from the neighbouring country of Myanmar, where the impact of the virus is increasing at an alarming rate. Sinha’s team along with the personnel of Assam Rifles which is deployed on the Myanmar border has been working towards strengthening border control so no one can infiltrate it.
“Although the Assam Rifles primarily work on border control, we as the district police and I as the head of the district police, we have the responsibility to handle every aspect which starts to bother people in my jurisdiction. Certainly, after the outbreak of COVID-19, we all have geared up to deal with it. Regarding the border management, per se, we are working in close coordination with the Assam Rifles so the patroling activities have been enhanced. In fact, we have a border police station at Behiang and another one in Singhat which share the international border. We have deployed more manpower there so we can manage it better. Apart from this, we carry out several activities to spread awareness, put up active check posts to keep a check on people’s movement,” Sinha tells SheThePeople.
She adds that no one apart from those having a pass issued from appropriate authority is allowed to pass through, to ensure that the lockdown is implemented effectively. For social distancing, the cop says that they are following the guidelines to create markings three feet apart in front of shops selling essential goods so that people maintain distance.
Why people infiltrate the Myanmar-India border?
On cases of infiltration, she reveals that two such incidences have come up in the recent past. “In these cases, people have managed to come through from the other side. We had some idea that people are trying to move in so the police and the Assam Rifles were alert. In both cases, the people were apprehended and detained and put under the government quarantine facility. We have also filed complaints against those people,” she says.
“In fact, we have a border police station at Behiang and another one in Singhat which share the international border. We have deployed more manpower there so we can manage it better. Apart from this, we carry out several activities to spread awareness, put up active check posts to keep a check on people’s movement”
Sinha’s persistent work towards containment of the transmission comes with its set of challenges but her dedicated approach helps her overcome them. She says, “People generally try to cross border because on either side they are culturally related. People attend each other’s weddings, funerals etc. as it is the same community which exists on both sides. Now with the outbreak of coronavirus, several people working on the other side want to come back. But we have to keep a very close vigil and implement strict lockdown enforcement.”
In usual circumstances, people in Myanmar can come through the airport in Imphal or the integrated check post in Moreh in Manipur. So now that the movement has been completely stopped, people are trying to find illegal ways to cross the border.
Why the border isn’t fully fenced?
One of the biggest challenges for the police and army is that the Myanmar border has a terrain that is difficult to fence, thus making it susceptible to penetration. Sinha reflects on this issue and says, “The terrain is such that it is difficult to fence properly. It’s a combination of hills, rivers, dense forests which is what makes it problematic. But we work in guarding it with the support of the administration, senior officers and with the coordinated efforts of the police, Assam Rifles, intelligence agency and also the help of the medical team.”
Dealing with rumours
On how she is combating fake news and rumours, Sinha tells us, “There have been cases when rumours spread in the district so we have appointed one officer who proactively looks into such activities. We have a good network which makes it easier for us to gather fake news. We immediately begin with verification. We also have volunteers, organizations and civil society organizations. They also inform us and we work together. We like to maintain an interactive and participatory approach with the public. We also take all kinds of feedback with a pinch of salt and in a constructive manner.”
Due to her robust efforts, Churachandpur is safe from coronavirus as of now. Manipur as a state had two infected patients but both have recovered now so the state is coronavirus free. Recently, Manipur’s Chief Minister, N Biren Singh also praised Sinha’s efforts in a tweet. She finds this appreciation “very encouraging”. “It is very motivating and it certainly instils more confidence to do my work with more sincerity in the days to come. It is not just about one person per se or about one office. It is about the entire Churachandpur district police,” she adds.
“People generally try to cross border because on either side they are culturally related. People attend each other’s weddings, funerals etc. as it is the same community which exists on both sides. Now with the outbreak of coronavirus, several people working on the other side want to come back. But we have to keep a very close vigil and implement strict lockdown.”
Known for her innovative approach to tackle issues
In September last year, she realised that people driving two-wheelers in her area aren’t wearing helmets. So Sinha instructed the police personnel on-ground to distribute sweets to the offenders and counsel them to realize the seriousness of road accidents and the need to wear a helmet. “Imposing fines is not bringing any change and our intention is to bring about a change, to instigate some kind of safety sense in the minds of people because helmet protects an individual and it is not for anybody else but for their own safety,” Sinha had said then.
She also introduced interaction programmes in Churachandpur between the police and neighbouring villages heads to discuss the various problems that the people are facing and to find their solutions.