A call to duty, a call for service
Tucked miles away from their homes are our policemen, civic volunteers, hospital staff, firefighters and members of the emergency services who are especially dedicated to their call of duty during Durga Puja. These “men in uniform” make the mega festival more exciting, enjoyable and most importantly safer, for us. Pritesh Basu writes about how these bravehearts carry on with their duties, unperturbed
The wait is almost over. The city with a soul, reflecting its many hues of warmth, excitement and nostalgia, is set to reach its peak of magnificence – all because it's Durga Puja.
Bound by that insurmountable pull to connect to one's roots, the memory juggernaut rolls on and the drag is just overwhelming. From far and wide, depicting a myriad of emotions revolving around coming back home from a foreign land, people set sail to be with their friends and family.
But there are some for whom family is secondary during these four days. When the whole city is decked in shimmering lights, these men in uniform are out on the roads so that Kolkatans can enjoy their favourite festival to the fullest.
Hundreds of policemen, firefighters, civic volunteers and health staff, who derive great satisfaction by serving the community during these days of Durga Puja, render selfless service with unflinching determination. They dedicate themselves in performing their duties when others enjoy with their near and dear ones, upholding Swami Vivekananda's famous saying: "You cannot help anyone. You can only serve them. Serve the children of the God; serve the God himself if you have the privilege."
Last year, during the Puja, a woman had set out to visit pandals with her daughter, who was a student of a college in Kolkata. The woman, all of a sudden, fell ill after visiting two Puja pandals in South Kolkata. The girl was extremely helpless as she did not know whom to call for assistance. Though some locals came forward to help, she preferred to dial 100. Interestingly, before she could dial the number, two policemen reached the spot after receiving information and provided all the necessary support. She was able to take her mother back home safely.
This was just one among the innumerable cases that project the extreme dedication and commitment towards one's duties. There are several other such examples in which our "men in uniform" work relentlessly for the common people all year round, especially during festivities like Durga Puja. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has always congratulated the police, firefighters, civic volunteers, health staff, civic authorities and disaster management groups for sacrificing their own happiness to serve the people of their land.
For Kolkatans, the preparation starts early, almost two or three months ahead of the Puja. They even plan which Puja pandals to visit on what days. People, who have a preference for theme-based Pujas, prefer to visit south Kolkata first and then they move on to the northern fringes of the city to admire the traditional idols. Similarly, the police, the state Fire and Emergency Services Department and officials of power utilities too chalk out plans to ensure the safety and security of the commoners so that there is no inconvenience and a smooth flow of traffic is maintained.
In the past few years, the responsibility of the rank and file of both the West Bengal Police and the Kolkata Police has gone up. The reason – for the past few years, the traffic and crowd management was needed for six to seven days starting from Chaturthi to Dashami, as now, people do not wait for Saptami to start visiting the Puja mandaps. Soon after the Chief Minister inaugurates the Puja, people throng the pandals in huge numbers.
Even a few years ago, deployment of additional police force used to take place from Shasthi. But the trend of visiting pandals from Chaturthi onwards was noticed by the police from 2013-14. It made the task more challenging as most offices remain open till Shasthi, while on the other hand, a large section of people, mainly youngsters, set out for pandal hopping as well. But with proper and prior planning, the police handle both the crowd of office-goers and pandal-hoppers simultaneously and have been successful in ensuring a smooth flow of traffic during the Puja.
The rank and file of Kolkata Police and West Bengal Police including that of all the Police Commissionerates perform their duties with due diligence and ensure a "happy Durga Puja" in Bengal that has a rich heritage of harmony and peace. Like Kolkata, in the districts too, the police maintain strict vigil and make all the necessary arrangements well in advance, to avoid any untoward incident. Home Guards and civic volunteers also play a vital role in assisting the police in crowd and traffic management.
The Red Road Carnival has been one of the major attractions of Durga Puja since 2016. People from all over the world gather at Red Road to watch the gala procession with idols of Goddess Durga and her entourage passing one after the other amid beats of dhaks. The dhunuchi naach by organisers of Durga Pujas in front of the well-decorated tableaus carrying idols of Goddess Durga attracts thousands of people. The police and the state Fire and Emergency Services Department play a crucial role in maintaining peace and order.
Starting from the days when idols are taken to Puja pandals till immersion in River Hooghly, all the agencies including the police, fire department and civic bodies keep working relentlessly so that the biggest festival in the state passes peacefully.
Anuj Sharma, ADG (Law and Order), said: "Policemen have to balance their personal life with their call of duty. During Durga Puja, when lakhs of people come out of their houses to enjoy the festivities, the call of duty for a policeman is greater than their personal need and they go all out, toiling round-the-clock. The reward is the appreciation received from members of the public for a job well done and the feeling of pride amongst family members of the policemen who are also showered with heaps of praise."
Besides crowd and traffic management, crime prevention is another important task for the police when thousands of people pour into the streets of the city from different parts of the country and world.
Officers from Kolkata Police's Detective Department basically start taking additional measures from almost a month ahead of the Pujas. This is because they need to maintain more vigil at marketplaces where people gather to buy new clothes during the pre-Puja season to avoid incidents of pickpocketing and snatching. Again, both the city police and the Criminal Investigating Agency take measures to check the spread of rumours. Keeping a watch on social media that acts as a key medium of spreading rumours is also an important task that the police need to do all along.
Praveen Tripathi, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) of Kolkata Police, said: "Actually we don't sacrifice our happiness. As far as our job is concerned, we derive happiness by serving the people. We work around the year for the masses only. But Durga Puja gives us another big opportunity to serve them in a better way."
During Durga Puja, Diwali and other big festivals, phones keep ringing constantly at control rooms. The officers are dedicated to answering all the calls. While doing so, they often miss phone calls of their near and dear ones, who just want to talk to them once, when they are performing their duty far from home.
Firefighters play a crucial role during Durga Puja and Diwali. They need to remain alert so that they can rush, in case there is an emergency. They need to risk their lives to douse the flames if there is any incident of fire and they consider it to be their achievement as there could not be any better work than saving lives of people or saving property from getting gutted.
Jag Mohan, Director General (Fire Services), said: "We are happy to serve the community. We are working on an important cause. We believe that this is an important duty and we feel proud in doing so. We are committed to performing our duties. Our family members also appreciate us for doing such an important job."
Health staff including doctors, nurses and attendants in hospitals are also busy serving people when thousands are busy spending their Durga Puja with family members, relatives and friends. They hardly care about pandals, lighting arrangements and decorations. Instead, they remain devoted to serving the people considering it to be the best way "of offering their puja to Ma Durga".