New Delhi:

The Delhi government has stepped up a crackdown on violations of proper Covid behavior amid the city’s fifth wave of infections, with 466 teams collecting overs 1 crore in 11 districts on Saturday alone, data accessed by HT showed.

Each team is made up of an executive magistrate and four civil protection volunteers, and is divided between fixed and mobile units.

Only around 150 law enforcement teams were deployed across the city before the Omicron-fueled surge hit Delhi in mid-December last year.

On Saturday, these teams imposed fines of more than 1.02 crore, after issuing 5,210 challans for violations of Covid-appropriate behavior (including failure to meet mask standards, spitting in public, among others).

Most of these fines were imposed in the Eastern District ( 14.4 lakh), followed by the South Eastern District ( 13.4 lakh), North ( 12.9 lakh), and Central District ( 12.3 million).

According to a government document seen by HT, there were 396 such teams in the city on December 15, 10 days after the capital reported its first confirmed case of Omicron. That day, the 11 districts together issued around 3,500 challans for violating mandatory Covid mitigation standards.

The number of enforcement teams rose to 425 by January 1, when cases were rising rapidly. This number further increased to 466 as of January 14 and the number of daily challans increased to 5,769.

A revenue department official said district magistrates are empowered to designate any public servant, including teachers, as an executive magistrate. “Many teachers, tehsildars and other tax officials have been appointed as executive magistrates,” said the official, who requested anonymity.

Mobile teams deploy to a neighborhood, focusing on areas prone to overcrowding, such as interstate bus terminals, markets and train stations.

Stationary teams, meanwhile, are deployed in crowd-friendly locations, such as some of the city’s popular markets.

“The need for more teams was needed in the days leading up to the New Year when the markets began to swell with crowds and it became difficult to maintain distancing and mask discipline,” a district official said. , who also asked not to be named.

Another district official said regular meetings were held with all stakeholders, including the police, civic bodies, market groups and resident welfare associations, among others.

“The focus is on enforcing Covid-appropriate behavior in public places, especially during peak hours. In addition, awareness materials have been placed near the pickets of law enforcement teams and prominently displayed at places of mass gatherings,” a district official said.

However, law enforcement officials on the ground said people were often uncooperative.

A member of a law enforcement team recently deployed to Lajpat Nagar market said the unit was facing several challenges in enforcing standards and was rebuffed when it tried to issue fines to people .

“Sometimes people refuse to pay on the spot, saying they don’t have cash. Sometimes defaulters become aggressive if we try to penalize them and give us excuses for not following protocols. Some people also refuse to provide ID,” the official said, adding that they often need police personnel to help them.

Experts have said people shouldn’t discontinue Covid-appropriate behavior, even when the case curve flattens.

“The number of cases has fallen over the past three days… The peak of the curve has already been reached and further restrictions may not be beneficial. The government is now expected to start lifting restrictions on business activities and the movement of individuals after observing the trend for a few more days. People, however, should be encouraged to continue practicing appropriate behavior, such as wearing masks in public places and maintaining social distancing. The authorities must continue to ensure that people do not violate these standards,” said Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department of community medicine at Safdarjung Hospital.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said on Sunday that the state’s enforcement standards have proven beneficial. “People should continue to follow all Covid protocols and take necessary precautions like wearing masks for safety and to maintain social distancing when entering public places,” he said during a briefing.