Status of Policing in India Report 2020-21 (Volume 2): Policing in the Covid-19 Pandemic


This report was released on August 16, 2021, by Common Cause, which works on governance reforms, and Lokniti, a research programme at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies – both based in Delhi. It is the third Status of Policing in India Report; the first was released in 2018. Volume I of the 2020-21 report contains information on policing in India’s conflict-affected regions, whereas Volume II focuses on the Covid-19 pandemic.

This second volume contains the results of a survey of 3,607 people – 1,198 police personnel and 2,409 civilians – conducted in 19 cities across 10 states: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The report studies the challenges faced by the police in discharging their duties during the nationwide lockdown. It also documents the interactions between civilians and the police under the unusual circumstances created by the pandemic.

The report states that majority of civilian respondents (58 per cent) had observed police personnel mistreat or use excessive force against people. This made them fear similar treatment, although many (56 per cent) reported witnessing them help civilians as well. The lockdown put immense pressure on the poor and those without reserves like savings, salaries, pensions and housing. They were forced to flout lockdown regulations to find work – causing more clashes with the authorities.

The 171-page publication has eight chapters: Enforcing the Covid-19 Lockdown: Effects and Experiences (Chapter 1); Citizen-Police Interactions during the Pandemic (Chapter 2); Emerging Issues and Challenges: Crime, Surveillance, and Law & Order (Chapter 3); Changing Roles & Working Conditions of the Police (Chapter 4); Communications & Capabilities: People’s Appraisals of Police Performance (Chapter 5); Through the Lens of the Media: Policing in Extraordinary Circumstances (Chapter 6); What the Migrants and Relief Workers Say: Summary of a Separate, Rapid Survey (Chapter 7); and Policing during the Pandemic: Areas of concern and the ways ahead (Chapter 8).


  1. The 2,409 civilian respondents were classified as ‘poor’, ‘lower class’, ‘middle class’ and ‘rich’, based on their neighbourhoods and housing. The report says that 20 per cent of the samples were categorised as poor, 40 per cent as lower class, 30 per cent as middle class and 10 per cent as rich. These respondents were surveyed in October and November 2020.

  2. Individuals from poorer sections were much more likely than others to face difficulties in accessing essentials such as food and medicines. About 70 per cent of the poor and lower class respondents found it difficult to obtain essentials, while only 47 per cent of wealthier respondents faced similar difficulties.

  3. During the lockdown, 58 per cent of the poor respondents were compelled to go to work due to economic constraints, while only 28 per cent of rich respondents faced such compulsions.

  4. The report highlights the forceful eviction of tenants due to lapse or delay in rent payments during the lockdown. About 12 per cent of the poor, 11 per cent of the Muslim, 10 per cent of the Dalit, and 29 per cent of the Adivasi respondents reported forceful evictions to be common. (The civilian sample comprised of 11 per cent Muslim, 21 per cent Dalit, and three per cent Adivasi respondents.)

  5. About 53 per cent of the police personnel interviewed feared being infected by Covid-19. About two-thirds of them returned to their families every day after work. This increased the chances of their families contracting the virus, especially when they lacked the necessary resources to practice social-distancing.

  6. According to the survey, 59 per cent of personnel reported finding it hard to enforce the lockdown when it was suddenly announced. Two out of five police personnel said that the pandemic took a toll on their mental health.

  7. Roughly 36 per cent of the civilians stated having witnessed the police use force against the public. Reports of such cases were highest in Bihar (63 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (45 per cent). The states of Kerala (10 per cent), Maharashtra (20 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (16 per cent) reported the lowest proportions of such cases.

  8. Nearly nine of ten police personnel stated that the ‘nature of policing’ during the lockdown was different from before. There was an increase in surveillance, higher police presence in localities, as well as an urgent need to enforce the lockdown and safety measures – among other tasks. Over half of the police personnel reported having received some form of training to manage their Covid-19-related duties.

  9. About 79 per cent of police personnel reported a drop in the overall crime rate since the pandemic began, especially in crimes such as theft, robbery, kidnapping and murder. But more than four out of five said there was a sharp increase in crimes committed in ‘private settings’. Cases of domestic violence against women increased by 27 per cent, while cybercrime shot up by 30 per cent.

  10. Articles reviewed from two Hindi newspapers (Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar), and two English ones (the Indian Express and Times of India), in April and June 2020, found at least 448 stories on the excess use of force and negligence by the police.

  11. When the government of India announced the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, it left migrants across the country scrambling for food, shelter, and transport to get home. Over half (52 per cent) of the 100 migrant workers who were interviewed in Delhi, Gujarat and Rajasthan, went back to their villages; two per cent said they tried to return but failed. Nine of ten migrant workers mentioned loss of income as the main reason for wanting to return.

  12. According to the survey, four out of five migrant workers – and an equal proportion of aid workers – were of the opinion that this crisis could have been averted if the lockdown announcement had not been so sudden.

  13. About 57 per cent of migrants and 80 per cent of aid workers reported that the police frequently used force against the public.

    Focus and Factoids by Kislay Pradhan.

    PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.


Common Cause, New Delhi; Lokniti, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi


Common Cause, New Delhi; Lokniti, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi


16 Aug, 2021