Madhawa village in Manara Siswa-10 of Mahottari district lies bang on the Nepal-India border. Half the houses here are in Nepal and the other half in India. The villagers sometimes try to cross the border under the pretext of cutting grass or gathering firewood. The Armed Police Force (APF) personnel stationed at the border checkpoints during the Covid-19 epidemic keep a close watch over them. The Covid-19 infection rate in the village is low due to strict surveillance.
In addition to Madhava, dozens of villages in the eight districts of Province 2, make the 464-km open border. The province has 246 major and minor border checkpoints. AFP Border Outposts (BOPs) have been set up in 53 places to stop cross-border movement. Despite the large number of infections in India, people have been travelling to and fro, making use of the open border. To stop this, security personnel have been patrolling border areas night and day.
The deployed security personnel have not gotten proper masks and sanitizers. No other health equipment is available as well. They have been carrying out their responsibilities by wearing normal masks, goggles, and temporary gloves.
The east-west border area in Siraha, where more than 400 APF personnel are deployed, is 46.5 km-long. BOPs had been up in seven places before the pandemic broke out. During the pandemic, ‘forward observation bases’ were added in five other places. But these bases are only temporary tents without even basic amenities.
New units have been added in Abhaynagar of Bhagwanpur Municipality, Jhajhapatti of Nawarajpur Municipality, Kusandi, and Budhaura of Siraha Municipality from where the armed police patrol the border.
DSP Mohana Niraula, also the spokesperson of the APF No. 7 Battalion in Hekwa Siraha, says an additional team under the command of the APF Deputy Inspector has been deployed. “In early days, arrangements were made to sleep in tents and go to the nearby base camp for meals,” Niraula adds.
In the PCR tests on 410 armed police personnel deployed on border patrols last month, six came out positive. Niraula informs all six were discharged on August 25 after making full recovery. Out of seven BOPs, only the one in Itatar-4 has its own building. The remaining six are either rented or shared with government offices.
The APF has launched a traffic control program at the border and awareness programs in the villages. DIG Krishna Bhakta Bramhacharya of the AFP Office in Mahottari informs of the urgent need to make people aware and make them ready to fight the pandemic.
“We are trying to spread awareness about mandatory health check-ups for people who have just travelled from India or other countries and are secretly living in our villages and communities,” says DIG Brahmacharya.
The border police are also trying to identify the infected by forming a border monitoring group with the involvement of local people’s representatives.