Clamping down on the country
When the COVID-19 pandemic sent Nepal into a nation-wide lockdown, Nepali Police found itself in the difficult position of enforcing it.
How to enforce discipline and stop people from moving around? Also, how to apprehend offenders while maintaining physical distance?
As the lockdown began, Inspector General of Police Thakur Prasad Gyawali, and Chief of Valley Police Bishwaraj Pokhrel, scratched their heads for crowd control devices on their arsenal.
After the first day of the lockdown, complaints began pouring from law enforcers on the streets that they were facing difficulties carrying out the order without physically touching people violating the lockdown orders.
“The security of our policemen came first, but we had never faced a situation like this,” recalls DIG Pokhrel, “and that is when someone remembered that we had a piece of equipment that would be the perfect solution of apprehending people without physical contact”.
Known by its unwieldy acronym MFRAD (Multi-functional Rescue and Arrest Device) 16 units of the device was finally located in a store at Bhrikuti Mandap.
Often, and more appropriately, referred to as ‘social distancing pliers’, the mechanism began gaining attention from the media after videos of Police using them to snare people on the streets made the rounds on Facebook and YouTube.
The device, along with its lock system, makes it possible for the policemen to trap and detain pedestrians while maintaining a three-meter distance. This helps ensure the safety of the men and women on duty, while effectively demobilising the people targetted.
The device had been purchased by now retired AIG Rajendra Singh Bhandari, who was in search of nonviolent crowd-control devices when he happened to find them on a trip to China.
At that time Nepal Police had earned a reputation for being trigger-happy, and Bhandari felt the Chinese-made MFRAD were ideal. The irony is that the devices were never used, until now to control the spread of a virus that originated also in China.