Metro reported on September 13 how much Jhantu Ram Das (right) was loved by the elderly
Bappa Sardar has big boots to fill and shoulder the legacy of a favourite son.
With a pleasant smile glued to his face, the 26-year-old home guard had cycled from door to door in the sultry September weather to introduce himself to the elderly in the Lake area. He is the successor of Jhantu Ram Das — the man they called their “son”.
Senior police officers had a simple tip for Bappa, inducted recently into the Pronam wing of Lake police station: keep up Jhantu’s good work.
Pronam — a joint initiative of Calcutta police and The Bengal, an NGO run by Sundeep Bhutoria — was set up in 2009 to provide assistance to senior citizens living alone.
Jhantu had set the benchmark for everybody engaged in such initiatives. He became the single-point contact for help during any emergency for hundreds of elderly people living alone.
Such was their love and faith in Jhantu that they forced the police brass to revoke his transfer to Jadavpur police station in 2011.
After the 32-year-old home guard died of a cardiac arrest on August 23, a group of senior citizens collected Rs 65,000 for his widow Susmita and four-year-old son Riktam who suffers from speech and hearing impairment.
Bappa is trying to keep Jhantu’s legacy alive.
“I told him that Jhantu had won many hearts by going beyond the call of duty and treating the elderly as he would his parents. Bappa is very promising and will do well too,” said Atanu Tarafdar, the officer-in-charge of Lake police station.
Calcutta has about 14,000 Pronam members under 65 police stations, which amounts to an average of about 215 per police station.
Lake police station alone accounts for 800 members, the highest by a long margin.
Senior officers at the station attributed the high membership count to Jhantu’s singular dedication in serving the elderly and bringing them within the ambit of Pronam.
“I knew Jhantuda when he was around but came to know the impact of his work only after his death,” said Bappa while preparing a chart in a logbook of Pronam members.
Seated in the chair that Jhantu had occupied in a corner room of the police station, Bappa has been spending the past few days diligently calling up the elderly members and seeking appointments.
His first task was to hand the Durga Puja passes to Pronam members. The passes allowed the elderly special access to the 67 Puja pandals under the police station’s jurisdiction. “I will try my best to match Jhantuda’s dedication,” said Bappa, a resident of Mukundapur.
Bappa’s work profile varies from arranging an ambulance during an emergency to simply lending a patient ear to a lonely elderly person at times.
For the elderly who had spent four years with Jhantu, Bappa showed “a similar sincerity” during his introductory visit.
“He seems a good-natured young boy. He is soft-spoken and has a smile on his face just like his predecessor. He has displayed the same earnestness that had endeared us to Jhantu,” said Subhadro Bonnerjea, 63, of Selimpur. He and Amit Banerjee, 65, had spearheaded the campaign to raise money for Jhantu’s family.
Officers at Lake police station said Bappa, a bachelor who lives with his parents, was the ideal successor because his youthful vigour would help him meet and interact with the Pronam members regularly. He had spent nine months at the police station before being given charge of the Pronam wing on September 1.