By Kalyan Das, Hindustan Times
The Uttarakhand Police on Saturday caught ten foreigners flouting lockdown norms and loitering near the Ganga River in Rishikesh, and handed out a novel punishment to make them toe the line. They told the ten foreigners to write “I didn’t follow lockdown. I am sorry” at least 500 times on a piece of paper and hand it over to them.
These foreigners hail from Israel, Australia, Mexico and some other European countries, the police said.
The incident happened in Tapovan area, one of the most popular tourist spots in Rishikesh, which falls under Muni ki Reti police station in Tehri Garhwal district, on Saturday afternoon.
Vinod Kumar, in-charge of the Tapovan police check post said, “The police had been getting reports that some foreigners were defying the lockdown and coming to the Ganga stretch from Neem Beach till Sai Ghat in Tapovan to chill.”
“Based on the inputs, on Saturday, I along with some other personnel of my check post decided to patrol that stretch during which we found 10 foreigners strolling there,” Kumar said.
The police officer said when they were asked to explain why they were strolling without any reason during the lockdown; the foreigners said they thought “they can do so from 7 am till 1 pm when the lockdown is relaxed”.
“I told them that the relaxation is meant for people to buy essential items and not for venturing out without any reason to which they said they weren’t aware of that. I then asked one of my men to bring 50-60 blank pages from our check-post and gave five pages each to the 10 foreigners asking them to write ‘I did not follow the lockdown. I am sorry’ 500 times as punishment,” Kumar said.
“After punishing them, I told them that it is a light one and if they refuse to do so then they will be blacklisted which will bar them from entering India again. They then agreed to the punishment and wrote the apology out 500 times at the spot. They were then let off with a stern warning and told not to venture out without any reason,” the police official said.
Tapovan is a very popular spot among foreigners visiting Rishikesh because of the Ganga River and greenery all around. Foreigners usually gather there to spend some leisure.
On the number of foreigners still present in the area Kumar said, “At present, despite the lockdown, there are at least 650 foreigners in the area but during the normal tourist season the number goes up to 2,000-3,000.”
According to officials from Uttarakhand Tourism and the Covid-19 control room, around 1500 foreign tourists were stranded across the state due to the lockdown. They said over 700 tourists have been sent back to their countries with help from respective embassies in the last 15 days or so. A few days ago, 96 Americans were also flown out from Dehradun to Delhi in a special Air India flight.