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Great divide top cop spotted

Calcutta, Aug. 30: Calcutta’s police commissioner today spotted a divide between personnel from old Calcutta and new.

The trigger was a curious seating arrangement at Rabindra Sadan, where officers from all police stations and traffic guards in Calcutta had assembled for a meeting with Durga Puja organisers.

Seated on the ground floor were officers from police stations in proper Calcutta. On the faraway balcony were those from what has come to be known in police parlance as “added areas” — the 21 police stations in areas on the city’s fringes, such as Kasba, Garia, Jadavpur, Sarsuna and Behala. These 21 police stations were brought under Calcutta police’s jurisdiction in August 2011

“I can see that the representatives of all Puja committees and even police officers from the added areas are all sitting upstairs (balcony). I think this shouldn’t be done from next year and the sitting arrangement should be mixed,” commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha said.

“People should sit together, upstairs and downstairs. I think those who are not from the added areas will take this (suggestion) sportingly because the entire place is Calcutta,” Purkayastha added.

To those who know how Calcutta police work, the difference in the seating arrangement was only a reflection of the gap that Lalbazar has allegedly failed to bridge in the past three years.

“There is a mindset problem in the force…. It may be because of the distance from the heart of the city or the heterogeneous population in the fringe areas that are not acquainted with the ways of Calcutta police,” a senior officer in Lalbazar said.

However, a section of officers posted in the “added areas” blamed the police brass in the heart of Calcutta for the “biased” approach.

“Whenever we need reinforcements from Lalbazar to tackle a major law-and-order problem, the personnel have to cover a long distance and by the time they reach, the issue is almost resolved. The problem can be solved by keeping a reserve force near the fringe areas so that they can be called in during emergencies. But no one seems to care,” said an officer posted in one of the 21 new police stations.

Allotment of fuel, according to some police officers, is another issue that needs immediate attention for effective policing in the “added areas”, where stations have jurisdiction over much larger areas than those in proper Calcutta.

“The fact that the smallest police station in Calcutta — Posta — and the largest — Haridevpur — are both allotted the same amount of fuel is indicative of how serious our superior officers are about effective policing in the fringe areas,” the officer added.

The jurisdiction of Posta police station, which is in proper Calcutta, covers about 1sqkm while that of Haridevpur police station, part of the added areas, it is 21.98sqkm. Four-wheelers in both the police stations are entitled to seven litres of fuel a day.

Lalbazar sources said there was a perception that the detective department gave “priority to crimes in city areas”.

Asked about the seating arrangement at today’s programme, a senior Lalbazar officer said: “It was not intentional.”

Joint commissioner (headquarters) Rajeev Mishra said the entire Calcutta police force was “working as a unit”.