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‘Sealing inter-State borders protect both regions’

Wednesday, Apr 08, 2020 13:15 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Apr 08, 2020 07:25 [IST]

‘Sealing inter-State borders protect both regions’

Crime rate comes down drastically, social policing augmenting lockdown objectives in Sikkim

BIJOY GURUNG
GANGTOK: The all-out lockdown measures being undertaken by Sikkim Police to bolt its inter-State borders with neighbouring Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of West Bengal serves both the regions to prevent migration of COVID-19, police here maintains. People are stopped from entering Sikkim and citizens here are also prevented from going to the other side of Teesta and Rangit rivers during the coronavirus-induced national lockdown.
Speaking with SIKKIM EXPRESS on Day 14 of the national lockdown, Sikkim Police DIG (Range) and media spokesperson Sonam T. Bhutia underlined that the sealing the borders and intensified police patrolling along the unmanned stretches of Sikkim-West Bengal borders benefits both sides.
“It goes both ways, people cannot go out (from Sikkim) and people cannot enter our State. It also serves the purpose of other side of the border. It is not like that we are trying to stop people from the other side (Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts) only… we are also stopping people from our side from crossing into the other side,” he said giving the recent example of migrant workers of other States being stopped by the Sikkim government from leaving Sikkim in the early days of the lockdown.
Bhutia expressed that the objective of the national lockdown is to stop inter-State migration of people for a period of 21 days as a preventive measure to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. All States have enforced similar steps to keep people staying where they are at the present and are not permitting any cross-border movement barring transport of essential commodities.
In the initial days, focus was on having strong vigil at the Rangpo and Melli checkposts, the two major entry-exit points of Sikkim. Before the lockdown began, the Sikkim government had already closed down other less frequented checkposts in south, east and west districts for public movement.
It later emerged that the porous stretches of the inter-State borders, especially the riverine belts, offered opportunities for people to enter or exit Sikkim on foot. The vulnerable areas were those close to Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts like Reshi, Rorathang, Melli, Jorethang and Nayabazaar.
This was addressed by the police by having constant patrolling along these stretches and also installing concertina wires at the porous points like the Hatichere point under Rhenock constituency and adjacent to Kalimpong district. Similar concertina wires are being placed in other identified locations like Rangpo river belt where people can cross through.
“The objective is good both ways as people will not go out and will not come in also. It is not that we are securing ourselves only but it also secures the other side like Darjeeling and Kalimpong because nobody from here goes there,” said Bhutia adding that there should be no misconceptions among people of both the neighbouring States.
To a question, the DIG (Range) said there were instances of cross-border movement earlier. Yes, we had such instances which is why we have taken such steps, he said adding police have also registered cases against the lockdown violators.
Asked whether the strong deterrents in place along the borders came after the recent coronavirus positive case in Kalimpong, Bhutia mentioned that police forces in every State intensified the lockdown enforcement after the Nizamuddin Markaz Jaamat emerged as a COVID-19 hotspot and rate of infections shot up in the country.
“It was a coincidence that the COVID-19 positive case came up in Kalimpong at that time but mainly, the stringent measures to stop inter-State movement came up when the rate of coronavirus infections shot up after the Nizamuddin Markaz event which is there for everyone to see. The level of threat actually went up after that and police all over the country became more conscious after that and we had to take these measures,” said the DIG (Range).
Has the cross-border movement completely halted?
Absolutely, replied the DIG (Range) adding that social policing is augmenting the efforts of Sikkim Police.
“There is lot of social policing in the present situation. Public have risen up to do social policing. Anyone coming new in their locality is being questioned regarding their travel history and similar is shared with the police. Police is also informed when a new person is brought to the hospital and we immediately enquire from that person regarding his travel history,” said Bhutia.
The DIG (Range) shared that there were some cases wherein public played a vital role to identify a person who had either faked his travel history or returned home in a suspicious manner. “We have been regularly appealing the public to alert us about new arrivals in their villages or neighbourhoods. Sometimes it escapes the notice of the police but the public will know and if such persons are caught hiding, they will be taken to task,” he said.
Asked about the challenges to maintain law and order while police are more engaged in enforcing the lockdown and social distancing, Bhutia said there has been no law and order situation in Sikkim barring a couple of occasions at the pharma companies here which were also quickly resolved.
The DIG (Range) also mentioned that crime rate has come down drastically in Sikkim as happening similarly in other parts of the country. He pointed to the reports in TV news channels of crime rate dropping down by 30% in the country. Here also, the crime rate has come down drastically, he said adding that there were some instances of attempts being made to sneak in contraband drug substances during the lockdown period.
One instance was wherein some persons in South Sikkim who took out a travel pass from the concerned authorities for some purported emergency. They tried to use the same pass the next time also and it was found that they were consumers and were trying to abuse the pass. They got caught and a case has been registered against them.
Few truckers were also arrested while trying to smuggle contraband drug substances into Sikkim during the lockdown period.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi