The state’s Traffic Department has had several important roles to play while dealing with Covid and the Amphan aftermath. Vivek Sahay, ADG, IGP Traffic, West Bengal Police touches upon the challenges and how his team members never let their guard down while performing their duties. Excerpts:
Imposing lockdown in rural Bengal is a different challenge. What kind of plans did the WBTP Department follow to maintain lockdown or the restricted flow of traffic in those far-flung areas of the state?
Ans: The department’s large deployment was utilised to enforce lockdown prohibitions stringently, the severity of which decreased after periodical reviews by the government. It was of great help when people complied with advisories and with large-scale closure of shops, offices and factories, vehicular movement on its own got restricted. However, right through the lockdown, care was taken to ensure that the rural supply chain and agricultural production remained unhindered so that the supply of essential commodities, including perishable items like vegetables, fish and poultry was maintained and even rabi harvest and sowing for ‘borochaash’ was facilitated. The Traffic HQ Control Room was upgraded to an Inspector led 24/7 unit to monitor all such activities.
The department also did a splendid job in supporting the migrant labourers to reach their respective destinations. Tell us the role played by your department?
Ans: The movement of migrant labourers was facilitated only after government relaxations. In the first phase, relaxation was allowed for intra-state, inter-district movement which the department assisted in coordination with the Transport Department. Inter-state movement through buses and trains was done by a set of nodal officers for each state, plans being charted out on the basis of demand reflected in a migrants’ directory compiled by the state’s Chief Nodal officer for migration, PV Selim, IAS. The traffic department assisted all road movement from railway stations to the destination districts. Besides, traffic police at Paschim Medinipur, Jhargram, Paschim Burdwan, Islampur and Alipurduar kept a strong vigil against the illegal migrant movement.
Social distancing is the new normal. How do you plan to handle this challenge along with the existing hurdles of traffic management?
Ans: We have communicated our instructions on engagement with drivers, protocols for the seizure of vehicles and documents, along with precautions at our traffic offices. They are being shortly sent in the form of a comprehensive Police Order under the signature of DG & IGP, West Bengal.
The rural and semi-urban areas still bear the wounds of Amphan. What was the department’s immediate focus after the fury?
Ans: The three Rs were our immediate focus — Rescue, Relief and Restoration, Rehabilitation. The department galvanised its extensive network to proactively rescue vulnerable populace by moving them to pre-designated shelters. Immediately after Amphan, the department joined drives on damage assessment and restoration of power and clearance of felled trees by the civil administration. Police were at the forefront in facilitating the supply of relief materials. I have seen pictures of district police teams clearing trees themselves.
Not only able leadership but strong teamwork helped the WBTP handle double challenges such as lockdown, Amphan. During these trying times, how has the department worked to keep the morale of the team high?
Ans: Police ethos of service, a hands-on and feet-on-the-ground participative leadership by district level officers along with excellent coordination with civil and police administration and frequent video conferences of district chiefs with DGP, CS and even the Chief Minister went a long way in keeping communications clear and the morale high.
Lastly, what are the necessary precautions that the WBTP have taken to keep the frontline warriors safe from infection?
Ans: Procurement of face masks, shields, sanitisers has been made by districts and also the police welfare directorate with active support from the state MSME Department. Besides, sensitisation in physical distancing is being emphasised regularly.