Pronam, the support system for elderly people living alone in the city, has resumed taking members after Calcutta police proposed an internal resource mobilisation plan to overcome the manpower crunch that had closed the door on new applicants.
The freeze on membership has been lifted within days of Metro highlighting the problems that had forced Pronam to stop taking members.
Calcutta police, which had launched Pronam in association with The Bengal in 2009, will nominate group leaders from among the existing members to make up for the shortage of staff. These group leaders will be required to co-ordinate between those in need of assistance and the police.
“We had been flooded with phone calls after deciding to stop taking members. Some of the existing members were afraid that the project would be scrapped. The truth is, we want to extend our services to as many people as possible,” a senior police officer said.
Pronam stopped taking new members two-and-a-half months ago after the police and The Bengal jointly decided that it would be difficult to sustain the project if more people were allowed in. The programme already has almost 10,000 members.
The police hope the new model will make the initiative sustainable. “Members will be divided into small clusters and group leaders will be chosen from them. In an emergency, the members will communicate with us through their group leaders, who will be required to liase with the local police stations. The idea is to make them inter-dependent rather than being completely dependent on the police,” Debasish Roy, the additional commissioner of police (III), said.
The original criteria for membership was 60-plus and living alone, but many people living with families or caregivers have become members of Pronam. The police have now decided to officially open the door to this category of applicants. “Living with a family doesn’t mean they are not lonely. We have decided not to screen elderly people on that basis,” additional commissioner Roy said.
A 68-year-old resident of Jadavpur who had been denied membership a fortnight ago got a pleasantly different response when he called the Pronam helpline a second time. “The person who took the call asked me to collect forms for myself and my wife from the local police station and submit those along with two copies of photographs,” he said.
While the process of registration remains unchanged, the police hope to make it smoother and faster with two more offices in Tollygunge and Phoolbagan. Pronam presently has one office at Ballygunge police station.
“The police have promised to hand us two rooms at Phoolbagan and Tollygunge police stations for new branch offices. We plan to divide the city into zones for better management and more space will allow us to recruit more. We might also increase our helplines,” Sundeep Bhutoria of The Bengal said.