| An unmanned ‘May I help you’ kiosk at Kargil Chowk in Patna on Wednesday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
Help is hardly at hand for residents with the “May I help you” kiosks in the city sitting unattended for close to a fortnight.
Around Durga Puja last year, police had set up several “May I help you” kiosks in the city. The purpose was to allow residents have fun in a protected environment and letting them know help was at hand whenever they were in need.
Over the past fortnight, though, these kiosks have been empty with no police officer on duty. Usually, at least one policeman is supposed to be present at a kiosk round-the-clock to assist any person in need.
Even worse, several kiosks, including one near hotel Maurya, opposite the district magistrate’s residence and on Bhootnath Road in Kankerbagh, spotted by The Telegraph have broken or no windowpanes at all.
Shivani Singh, a Rajendra Nagar resident, said: “I was happy to see the ‘May I help you’ kiosks at several places in the Rajendra Nagar area. The presence of the kiosks during Durga Puja in October last year encouraged to us to have fun. The kiosks were meant to prevent eve-teasing and we knew we could seek help of the personnel in case there was a problem. After the festival, too, the kiosks worked. But these days, there are no policemen to be seen at the kiosks. This would again lead to rise in crime.”
Senior superintendent of police Manu Maharaaj said: “The ‘May I Help You’ kiosks were set up in various places in the city to prevent eve-teasing cases. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras were also installed at different places. The kiosks had been empty because of dearth of manpower — many policemen were on election duty. They would be back soon and again deployed at the kiosks. So far as the broken windowpanes are concerned, maintenance work would be taken up too. The windowpanes shattered in storms. Meanwhile, the CCTV cameras installed in different places are working to prevent crime in the city.”
One of the first “May I help you” kiosks in the city had been set up outside Patna Junction in December 2010 when Maharaaj was the city superintendent of police. A woman, reaching Patna by train, was gangraped in an autorickshaw after arrival.
After returning to Patna as senior superintendent of police last March, Maharaaj ensured more such kiosks were opened in the city for the people’s security.
Madhu Saran, a resident of Bank Road near Gandhi Maidan, said: “The sudden disappearance of personnel from the ‘May I help you’ kiosks shows the police’s carelessness. We feel unsafe to be out now, especially late in the evening. I mostly travel in autorickshaws, which is not always safe. Police presence in the kiosks would have discouraged criminals from striking, but that is not the case now.”