Mizoram govt, Assam Rifles spar over Covid spread by security personnel

Aizawl, 20 August, 2020 (PTI): Assam Rifles has accused the Mizoram government of violating the directions of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) by “restricting” the “operational movement” of its personnel, the central paramilitary force has said in a statement.

The allegation came days after media reports said 15 personnel of the Assam Rifles forced their way through a check gate at Vairengte on the Mizoram-Assam border in defiance of the entry and screening protocol put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19.

“The government of Mizoram denying entry has clearly violated the directions of MHA which has serious implications for national security and is a cause of grave concern,” a statement by the paramilitary said on Wednesday.

The guidelines issued by the MHA have clearly made exceptions in respect of defence and central armed police forces (CAPF), it said.

The Mizoram government shot back, saying the act of “wilful disregard” of safety protocol on the part of Assam Rifles had “seriously compromised” the safety of the people and negated the sincere efforts of the state government to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The statement by the paramilitary force said, “The restrictions imposed by the state government on the operational movement of Assam Rifles is seriously hampering the smooth functioning of the force impacting the primary task of guarding the border.” The Assam Rifles has not caused any community spread of Covid-19 in the state and has been managing its coronavirus patients at its own quarantine centre at Zokhawsang near Aizawl, it said.

The statement noted the state government had been approached several times and requested to pass suitable instructions to its officials at Vairangte entry gate and all other entry points to allow “unobstructed movement” of personnel of the force.

Claiming that the personnel of the paramilitary force were not asked to undergo any medical test at Vairengte on August 18, the statement said, “Assam Rifles has always assured the state government that all its personnel entering the state will be put through the mandatory Covid-19 quarantine protocols and has never denied to undergo any medical test by state medical authorities.” Meanwhile, the state’s home department, in a letter to Brigadier Vinod S, the DIG of sector 23 of Assam Rifles, claimed on Wednesday that its troops crossed the border into the state without complying with the norms for medical screening at the check gate.

It urged the Assam Rifles authorities to ensure that such acts were not repeated.

The letter alleged, on Tuesday, at least 15 Assam Rifles personnel from 46 Battalion forced their way through the border gate after refusing to comply with the entry and medical screening protocol put in place by the state government.

“Despite various regulations, orders, guidelines and instructions issued by the state government and repeated appeals to curtail avoidable inter-state movement of troops, the Assam Rifles has been less cooperative,” the letter said.

The entry of as many as 1,124 Assam Rifles personnel was allowed from May to August 10, and 10 per cent of them tested positive for Covid-19, the letter said.

Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga had earlier appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to temporarily stop inter-state movement of all paramilitary personnel in August to contain the further spread of Covid-19 after many of them were found to be infected with the virus.

According to the state’s health department, at least 339 security personnel have tested positive for Covid-19 so far, accounting for 38.83 per cent of the total 873 cases.

Of the 339 security personnel, 101 were from Assam Rifles, 230 from BSF and four each from the CRPF and the Army, it said.
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