Kolkata: Police in the West Bengal capital are not just making sure the coronavirus lockdown is not violated, they are doing all they can to help the city’s aged get by with minimal difficulty.
From delivering essentials to accompanying them on dialysis appointments, the Kolkata Police is on its toes trying to ease the distress of the elderly who live alone.
Elderly residents of the city, or their worried children living outside Kolkata, can just leave a message on the police helpline under Pranam — an exclusive Kolkata Police initiative for the assistance of senior citizens — or social media, and help will arrive.
“I am a happy man today to see that my force has become an expert at multitasking… We have set up a special call centre and have a special number to cater to the needs of senior citizens,” Kolkata Police Commissioner Anuj Sharma said.
“Apart from the 25,000 members registered with the Pranam initiative, we are serving all the unregistered people too. One just needs to reach us through a phone call or social media message,” he added. “People from the respective police station will be there to help them.”
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According to a 2015 report based on Census 2011 figures, Kolkata has a higher share of over-60-year-olds than any other metropolitan city. With many youngsters leaving the city to look for jobs elsewhere in India or abroad, a vast chunk of this population is believed to be living alone.
The national lockdown that kicked in 25 March to check the spread of coronavirus has left few shops open, taken public transport off the roads, and restricted the movement of domestic helps, causing all manner of problems for the elderly.
“We are completely alone. There is no one to take care of us. We are helpless amid the lockdown,” said Ranadhir Majumdar, a 78-year-old resident of south Kolkata who lives with his wife, 70. The couple’s two sons work in Mumbai.
“We used to have an aaya (assistant) and a domestic help. However, since the lockdown was announced, neither of them is coming,” he added. “We have become our own help and cook. My wife cooks and I wash the utensils. We both wash our clothes together… At this age, it is difficult for us to live like this, but there is no option left,” he said.
While the other struggles remain, the couple is grateful to have the assistance of Kolkata Police, whose personnel fetch them groceries, medicines and vegetables.
Talking to ThePrint, Majumdar said they called police when they realised they might run out of medicines they need to eat daily.
“We called up the helpline number of Kolkata Police and requested the supplies. We had nothing left, we also needed our medicines… and we take those daily,” he added. “Since then, the personnel at Gariahat police station deliver everything we need. They regularly check on us too,” he said.
Malati Dey, a 75-year-old who lives alone near Park Street in central Kolkata, said she contacted police when she ran out of all food items — groceries and vegetables.
After her distress call, a team of two police personnel spoke to her and delivered the items she required.
Police commissioner Sharma described the initiative as the “biggest success we have achieved”, saying police personnel’s participation in the exercise was voluntary and not by force.
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