Dyutiman Bhattacharya, DC Headquarters, Howrah City Police, talks about how his colleagues handled the pandemic in the district, the growing importance of community policing and social media outreach
We were never prepared to face a disaster of this magnitude. I believe my colleagues in the police force will agree to the fact that the pandemic has changed the entire perspective of policing. The whole team of Howrah City Police worked closely with the state administration and with the citizens. We created specific plans to enforce lockdown and at the same time, also sensitised citizens about the deadly virus. As the frontline support team, we acted under huge life risk, though with a splendid team effort we successfully cruised out of the most critical period when the entire district was battling the virus.
Communication is the key-
The use of social media helped us to enhance our outreach during the lockdown period. We used different social media platforms meticulously to send out the right message. Our highly specialised social media team kept a strong vigil on sources that could generate ‘fake news’. The Howrah Traffic police used social media handles to inform and educate masses in general. The police stations under the Howrah City police’s jurisdiction also connected with the locals digitally. Teams of officers from police stations visited senior citizens, local associations, bazar committees and sensitised them on the impact of Corona. The National Policy on Disaster Management (NPDM) 2009 describes the police as the “first and key responders” in a disaster. A pandemic was not “a notified disaster” before Covid-19 happened. Still, our men and women in uniform have been fighting this war bravely with complete honesty and dedication.
Enforce, aware and serve:
The adversities inflicted by the pandemic have not been able to deter our determination and spirit. We worked hard towards the set goal and achieved it. When we were struck by catastrophe, we stressed on multiple verticals of policing. We enforced stricter laws in crowded places such as local marketplaces, worked with local clubs to carry out awareness campaigns and the like. We also created home delivery services and police personnel even delivered essentials at the doorsteps of citizens to keep them and the twin city of Howrah safe.
The pandemic united people from all forums together under one shed, breaking the barriers of religion, culture or creed. Community policing, a term that has developed over the past few years where society actively takes part alongside the police to assist them in various possible ways, gained a new boost. Community policing initiatives have helped us to reach far and wide. We have received overwhelming support from the general public. I have seen the positive impact of community policing from close quarters and realised how it can spearhead a change.
The social responsibility has grown ever since there has been widespread awareness of community policing everywhere. During the pandemic, many small business heads, small and medium-sized organisations and individuals came forward and worked along with the police to offer help and distribute essential items to the needy and the poor. This is a pattern of work seen almost everywhere around the country. It is actually great to see how the general consciousness of people regarding society has altered. As much as the power of social media is undoubtedly important, similarly, community policing is gradually gaining prominence.
The Unlock phase has been one of sheer anarchy and inconvenience for people across the country. With difficulty in crowd management and opening trains in suburban areas, crowds from these areas have swelled up and it has been a tough job for the police and the government to keep a thorough check. But amidst all this, the Howrah Traffic Police have been on high alert always and stringent action has been taken whenever there has been a critical situation. Simultaneously, the Howrah City Police are always requesting everyone to maintain protocols, including physical distancing and wearing face masks. Everything is being organised and executed in a strategic manner so that confusion can be avoided. One major issue that the police force faces is during an encounter with a criminal. Often when a person is arrested, proper steps are taken to ensure that they are carefully handled because of the current prevailing situation.
Die as an explorer:
Often the duty of a police officer involves tiring work schedules and tedious working hours. But after retirement, I have other plans. Being a trekker and travel lover, I would like to visit the mountains and tick off places from my very own bucket list of “100 places to visit before I die”. I am a lover of sci-fi fiction books and films have a different appeal.