Whether through personal experience, word of mouth or movies and books, there exist certain ideas and misconceptions about police personnel.
Since law enforcement is their primary job, they have always been looked upon as strict personalities who should be feared. Add to that the fact that several rural areas in Maharashtra are devoid of police stations, crime reporting and law enforcement has taken a serious hit.
To tackle this situation and bridge the gap between ordinary citizens and the police, IPS officer, Vinita S has started a unique and effective initiative in the Bhandara district of Maharashtra.
“In this fast moving world when everything is being delivered at our doorstep and services are provided instantaneously, we the police, being the foremost law and order, safety, and security organisation have to be equally prompt and swift to serve the community,” the IPS officer said in a social audit report.
The challenge was to encourage people to approach police stations without the fear that their complaints will go unheard or that they will have to suffer for a crime they did not commit.
However, instead of just launching awareness programmes, Vinita, who is the Superintendent of police in Bhandara, brought police stations right to the doorsteps of the citizens.
Speaking to The Better India, Professor Ankita Bohare, a social activist who aided IPS Vinita in the project said, “The concept was inspired from two fundamentals those are predominantly being catered in the contemporary service sector. The first is the effortless facilitation—called the door-to-door service— and the second is ‘Mutual Trust Building’ between the service provider and patron.”
The concept is very simple—these “mobile” police stations will be temporary outposts in the rural areas of Maharashtra where villagers can express their grievances or even file complaints.
Each station has one officer and two police personnel in addition to a lady constable. To ensure that the villagers are comfortable, buildings like schools or gram panchayats have been converted into police stations. In cases where this was not possible, temporary tents were set up.
What started as a mobile police station, slowly evolved into street plays, digital stations equipped with projectors and apps etc. These helped the people understand the cause and connect with the police. As the police personnel were consistent with their work, the villagers too showed a positive response. Gradually, crimes due to superstitions and cyber crimes declined, proving that the initiative by the IPS officer was on the correct path.
Since their launch on 28 January 2017, the mobile police stations are operated across 17 locations in and around Bhandara, every Saturday. According to the report submitted by Vinita, the camps have benefitted over 1.5 lakh people. She explains that the entire procedure of the camps is documented in their respective registers and the cases are followed up by the subdivision office where she is posted.
The team firmly believes that communication is the key to helping the community become comfortable with the police and also help the law enforcers to understand what ails and aides ordinary people.
“Critical opinion and censure of the community towards the police have various reasons, ranging from personal to generalised experiences,”
Bohare informed TBI in an email interview. She added that “The police force is synonymous to security, but somehow it has also become a tantamount of fear and mistrust. The reasons for this vary from circumstances to situations, conditions and personal experiences. But it cannot be denied that the lack of proper, right and timely communications has left enough scope for misunderstanding and improper propaganda.”
However, the mobile police stations seem to be taking the stigma away and bridging the gaps between the cops and the citizens.
“Furthermore, because the locals have offered such unprecedented support, various illicit activities and crimes have either been averted or largely being controlled. And looking at the huge response representatives of other departments and local bodies have also started attending it, making it a single platform for community grievances redressal,” said Bohare.
Whether it is an initiative to bring police stations to the doorsteps of villagers or ensuring that they have proper, constructive communication with the police personnel while expressing their grievances, IPS officer Vinita is showing the way forward and demonstrating how civil servants can come forward in helping communities.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)