City to have three-tier security this puja
Plagued by shortage of personnel since inception, this year too, extra companies of Assam Police Battalion (AP Bn.) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) will be brought in to man the streets. But this year, the number of personnel is higher, for the implementation of the three-tier security system.
“For Durga Puja, there will be a three-tier security system around every pandal. We are stressing on security around the mandaps. Every puja committee has been asked to make arrangements for adequate lighting and the installation CCTVs. There will also be separate security arrangements for Vijaya Dashami in areas other than the pandals. The police will be particularly alert for the security of senior citizens and women,” Hiren Chandra Nath, Guwahati Police commissioner said.
“The three tier security will consist of constant CCTV monitoring, police officers posted at a high vantage point will have a bird’s eye view of the entire venue and security personnel manning the on ground venue area will add to the security measures this year,” Nath explained.
“To fill the requirements, we have brought in extra personnel from AP Bn and CRPF and now there is enough force to cover the city. Also, there will be both personnel in civilian clothes and in their uniforms. People tend to panic when they see too many security personnel (in uniform). We now have adequate number of personnel deployed. However, the exact number of companies cannot be revealed for security purposes,” Nath added.
A source in the police said that the number of personnel brought in is highest this year. “It is higher than the previous years. Although there is no security threat by extremists, we are still keeping tab on their movements. Most of the extra forces will stay in civilian clothes,” the source added.
Police Commissioner Nath added that as of yet, there have been no specific intelligence reports about a possible threat to the city during the Puja or for the two mega sporting events that will be hosted by Guwahati.
The FIFA U-17 World Cup will commence from October 6 and end on October 28. The T20 match between India and Australia will be held on October 10.
The police said 470 big committees and 500 small pandals have been given permission for the Puja. Last year, there were around 300 Puja pandals in the city.
The Director-General of Fire and Emergency Services, A.P. Raut, said nearly 27,000 Civil Defence volunteers would be deployed for the Pujas. Raut also directed all Puja committees to follow safety norms to tackle any kind of disaster and train all volunteers on how to use fire extinguishers and other equipments.
Drone, a new entrant in the security set up
Going hi-tech this Puja, the city police will use drones to keep an eye on the trouble-mongers from Saptami onwards on Wednesday.
“We will use drones in the busiest areas of the city during the Pujas. The main areas are Fancy Bazaar, Maligaon, Ganeshguri, Paltanbazar, Athgaon and GS Road. We now have one drone camera, which can keep vigil on nearly 2kms of land,” Guwahati police commissioner Hiren Chandra Nath told G Plus.
A source in the police said, the drone will go a long way in curbing petty crimes during the Puja such as eve teasing, chain snatching, pick pocketing etc.
“High resolution cameras are attached with the drone and it will record all that it sees. It will be connected with the Assam Police server and there will be officials monitoring it constantly. Even after that, if some crime was committed during the same, the time stamp on the footage will help us improve our search, identify the culprit and bring him to justice,” the source said.
“Also a drone hovering in the sky will send a message to the criminals that they are being watched,” the source said
The police have also directed all Puja committees to deploy adequate volunteers at night and to arrange for proper lighting in and around the pandals to maintain visibility. “Operating a drone will be hard at night if there is no proper lighting in the pandals. So, the police has directed the pandals to maintain visibility there,” police said.
Police Comissionerate reposes faith in numbers
After the last Bihu fiasco in which several cases of theft and robbery were reported in the city during the three days of festivity – April 16 to 18, 2017 – the Durga Puja might turn out to be a litmus test for Guwahati Police Commissionerate.
The lack of staff is not a new thing for the commissionerate currently manages 20 police stations and 17 outposts. When the Guwahati Police commissionerate was formed in 2015, it had a 25 per cent shortage in manpower.
In a previous interview, Nath admitted, “We lack one-fourth of the staff. During mega events and special occasions, we get forces from the Directorate-General of Police and battalions, including the CRPF. This lack (of manpower) is from inspector level to constables.”
He said that there are 300 traffic police personnel and 1,400 home guards under the commissionerate. “The government is taking steps to recruit new personnel. We hope the force shortage will be resolved very soon,” he added.
The police stations too function with half the required workforce. In the Chandmari police station, only 16 constables are deployed and according to station officials, 70 constables are required. The police station has only two Assistant Sub-Inspectors and eight Sub-Inspectors.
Azara police station, which has the jurisdiction of the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, has 12 constables, which is only one-third the total requirement. Station officials said that they need more than 50 constables. Paltan Bazaar police station, which handles the security of a major commercial hub of the city, needs 20 constables and has only 14.
Panbazar police station, which is one of the busiest in the city, has 24 constables against its requirement of about 60. This police station also needs six Assistant Sub-Inspectors against the current three. Station officials also said that they need four vehicles for patrolling, while they have only two.
This had led to a rise in cases of theft, robbery and antisocial activities, particularly during festivals like Bihu and Durga Puja, when the police force is mostly deployed at celebration sites.
This year, however, with a tighter and well planned security system, the police force is hoping to maintain law and order at residential places too.
Police sources said, “There will be regular patrolling of interceptors and other police vehicles in residential areas and near popular restaurants and bars.”
“We hope that the police ensure security in localities. Otherwise, we all have to go out during pujas with a fear of seeing our houses robbed when we return,” Manabendra sarma, a resident of Lachit Nagar said.
Three-tier security this puja