“Old age is a strength and survivorship, it’s a triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illness” – as Maggie Kuhn puts it, it’s an age of wisdom and tenderness getting ripened with love and affection.
But in reality the elderly are often seen facing numerous hardships. The situation is no better in West Bengal. However, in a happy change Howrah City Police has taken a decisive step to aid and support the hapless elderly people of the city, bringing smiles to the age-worn faces.
The initiative called Shroddha launched by Howrah Police in 2017 supports elderly people, 60 years and above, living alone at home. In an interview with The Optimist News, Sub-Inspector Jayanta Mukherjee of Howrah City Police shares details of this initiative.
Currently, we have 200 members under Shroddha, who have been issued membership cards. Every year, a number of events like Brikkhoropon (planting trees) and other fun activities including pandal hopping during Durga Puja, are organised. Every police station under Howrah City Police has one nodal officer for Shroddha who calls the members up every day to ensure their safety and wellbeing,” shares SI Mukherjee.
Apart from empathy, these elderly people also need financial and medical assistance. Speaking about the facilities provided as a part of Shraddha Initiative, officer Mukherjee says, “The initiative has tie ups with two hospitals namely, ILS and Narayana Super-speciality Hospital for which the Shroddha beneficiaries are offered 5% deduction in bed charge and 10% deduction in medicines and pathological test bills.”
“To ensure safety and deal with emergencies, certain measures taken by Howrah City Police,” says Mukherjee and adds, “We have a system of alarm bell fixed at the houses of 200+ Shraddha members which and the switch to this bell is placed conveniently within easy reach of the occupants. The alarm bell once pressed creates a loud and alarming sound, thus instantly communicating the emergency situation. We also have a fully air conditioned Shraddha office-cum-library at the Howrah Maidan, which is easily accessible and serves as a recreational hub for these lonely souls.”
Beating the pandemic
“Apart from calling every day, we have arranged for medicinal help and food packets delivery to their doorstep during the pandemic. Moreover, activities like Facebook live with many eminent doctors around the city have received exciting responses from the members. We have also created a 24×7 helpline no – 9051200100, which is operational for Non-shroddha members as well. Moreover, there is a WhatsApp group of Shroddha members staying connected during the pandemic. As a part of community policing, we have made dedicated efforts, both online as well as offline, in building a community that thrives of compassion and companionship,” enthuses the frontline warrior.
Shroddha is a very endearing project for the police fraternity of Howrah, this becomes more evident when Mukherjee says, “One of the Shraddha members, Ajay Kumar Sarkar’s son suffers from Cerebral Palsy. I have given him my personal cell phone number in case of emergency, because I genuinely feel that he needs close support from the administration. Another member Anjana Mukherjee used to earn a paltry sum of Rs.1000/- a month. With help from Commissioner of Police and ADM, Mr. Jain, we arranged a monthly pension for her. On the other side, when I was Covid-affected last year, one of the Shraddha members, R.D. Sharma, called me every day not only to inquire about my health but also sing to assuage my afflictions. The deep personal bonding between us could be seen from these small gestures.”
Around four years ago, when the idea of Shraddha initiative was being conceived, the then Commissioner of Police, IPS Officer D.P. Singh told his team to build this initiative solely from humanitarian grounds rather than just a project assigned by the Human Rights Commission. True to the words Howrah City Police have successfully created an initiative that primarily upholds human values. That said Howrah Police’s endeavours like – awareness campaigns to eradicate child marriage, women trafficking and other crimes at schools and cricket, football and basketball tournaments for youngsters – have touched lives of citizens across the age spectrum