The police aid post in the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border deep inside the forest on the Nadukani Ghat road, connecting Malappuram district in Kerala with Gudalur town in Tamil Nadu, is considered as one of the most dangerous Covid-19 duties carried out by the Kerala Police. The police team deployed here have to face two ‘invisible’ enemies, one in the form of a virus and other a deadly insurgent group—the Maoist.
The aid post, situated deep inside the dense forests of the Western Ghats, is housed in a temporary tent. There are four armed men from the Kerala Anti-Terrorist Squad (KATS) to guard the police personnel on duty as per the Covid-19 protocol. The force has arranged temporary sandbags and metal containers to guard the aid-post from both sides of the interstate highway. It would be the only mission under the state-run Covid-19 prevention programme with the protection of Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) rifles.
The major duty here for the police personnel is to collect the data of ‘goods vehicles’ plying on the route. They note down the address, phone number, and the destination of each driver. Private vehicles are not permitted on this route and the state has not yet permitted the Keralites working in other states to enter through this checkpost. An average of 350 vehicles pass through the route up and down every day, most of them in the night. The home department has arranged the aid post deep inside the forest to avoid any kind of trespass through the dangerous routes inside the forest.
“If we set up the aid post at the beginning of the Ghat road outside the forest, the public will try to enter Kerala through illegal forest routes. So, we do not have any other option other than arranging the aid post with minimal facility inside the forest. We have made temporary arrangements for wireless facility and electricity within the tent”, said a police officer on duty seeking anonymity.
The place is also known for elephant-crossing and landslide. The area witnessed several landslides during the last flood and recently was witness to one. The heavy rain in the region has posed the risk of landslides too. The monkeys roaming fearlessly in the region is another headache for the police team deployed here. They have to guard their kitchen utensils, their belongings, etc from them even as they do their onerous duty. Monkey Fever, another deadly disease, is another health hazard the personnel face on duty apart from the possible Covid-19 carriers coming from Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
However, the health department has given the personnel on duty vaccination to prevent the disease. But the risk of Covid-19 is still there. The report about two police personnel deployed on duty at the Wayanad-Tamil Nadu border getting infected by Covid-19 created panic among the family members of the police team here. However, they have taken precautions and marked the area and keep the drivers at a distance while collecting data.
KATS also conducts joint combing operations with the Tamil Nadu police to curb the Maoist activities in the region. The sighting of Maoists was reported from Kannur, Wayanad, Malappuram and Palakkad districts during the lockdown period. Though they have declared a ceasefire in Telangana, the Kerala police have not taken it into account here.
“The Maoists have collected food supplements from the Ambayathodu colony in Kannur district. They are also propagating their ideas among the tribes during the lockdown period. The intel inputs also point out the possibility of a retaliation from their side to avenge the deaths of their members in Malappuram and Palakkad,” said a police personnel engaged in the anti-Maoist operation.
The senior officials in the Anti-Naxal squad also confirm, on the condition of anonymity, the active spotting of Maoist members in the Kerala Forest. The KATS was forced to continue its cumbersome combing duty inside the dense forests even during the Covid times.
The police here work on a 12-hour shift. Heavy rain and cold weather in the night troubles the personnel on duty here. The government has moved the health workers to a comfortable place in the starting stretch of the Ghat road as it was difficult for them to do their duty in this challenging spot.
The community kitchen in the nearby panchayat is providing food for the police personnel deployed here. They supply all the meals but the police prepare evening tea and snacks themselves on a gas stove.
However, there are some exhilarating moments too on the perilous duty. The state bird, the Great Hornbill, has a nest close to the tent and the police personnel on duty can sight the bird during the day. Although the monkeys are mostly a nuisance, they also create moments of entertainment for the police officials.