As many as 71 paramilitary personnel on election duty in Bengal have tested positive for the coronavirus. Officials said none of the ailing personnel is in critical condition. Of the 71 infected jawans, maximum are from CISF — 39, 12 from the BSF, 10 SSB, four from CRPF, three each from ITBP and state armed police personnel.
However, the force is not alarmed over the infections. “More than 1 lakh personnel are deployed on election duty in West Bengal. Hence, a figure of 71 out of that one lakh is not really alarming,” a CRPF officer told News18. An ITBP officer said, “Last year, we were testing 100 to 200 people positive for COVID every day in battalion headquarters, at training centres. Comparatively, the numbers are manageable this time.”
The CISF, which has the maximum number of cases, is in charge of double duty — election deployment and VIP protection. “There are 80 VIP protectees in Bengal under security of CISF. Hence, X, Y, Z and Z+ category combined would mean about 150-200 personnel in close proximity of VIPs who are moving around in rallies and in crowds. Also, there are 12,000 personnel on booth and other election duties,” an officer said, adding none of the infected personnel have needed critical care. “Some are asymptomatic, others are mildly symptomatic,” he said.
The pandemic situation has been at the centre of the political battle in Bengal in the last few days with Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee accusing the BJP, Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of bringing in outsiders, who could have been carriers of the virus, to the state. At a rally in Nadia on Sunday, Banerjee said people from states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and paramilitary forces were responsible for the rising COVID graph in Bengal.
Modi has recently revised his election schedule in the state, while Banerjee has scaled down her public interactions. Congress MP Rahul Gandhi was the first political leader to have cancelled all his poll rallies in Bengal amid the rising coronavirus cases.