Calcutta police, for the first time in many years, face the challenge of conducting an election with minimal central forces.
The metro cops are banking on aerial surveillance with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and intensive mobile policing to see them through the challenging task.
During the civic elections in the city in 2010, 71 companies of central forces had been deployed. This year, despite the addition of three wards, the city police have been left to fulfil a comparatively greater responsibility alone.
"It's a prestige fight. Even the smallest mistake will put us under the scanner. We have tried to make up for the lack of central forces with our own personnel," said a senior officer at Lalbazar.
The last civic polls were conducted with 16,000 city cops and 71 companies of central forces on duty. This year, the city police alone have deployed 32,000 personnel.
"Unlike the last time when the polling stations were manned by central forces and the city police were left to manage the queues outside, this year our officers would take care of everything," the officer added.
The three companies of central forces have been divided into 48 cluster mobile patrols that would fan across the eight divisions - six in each - to maintain law and order.
With 541 hypercritical polling premises, Calcutta police will post 280 pickets and deploy 459 mobile patrols across the city, making at least seven mobile patrols available at the disposal of each police station. Senior cops at Lalbazar said with such intensive police presence, the reaction time to any situation is expected to be not more than two minutes.
Premises with one or two booths have traditionally been under the supervision of an assistant sub-inspector. But on Saturday, all premises would have an officer of the rank of a sub-inspector or more.
"This is to ensure lesser dependence on superiors. An officer of SI rank has greater control on juniors than an ASI," said a top cop at Lalbazar.
Calcutta police will, for the first time, engage the UAV - Durdanto - to keep watch on the city. The state election commission, according to sources, is likely to use two more drones. Images captured by Durdanto will be monitored from Lalbazar while the drones floated by the poll panel are expected to send live footage to the election commission control room.
Political parties have alleged that Calcutta police were sitting on 30-odd applications seeking security for candidates till Friday night. Only one-third of the applications had been responded to on poll eve.
Top cop's message
City police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha urged voters to go out and vote. "We have made ample arrangements. We would need your cooperation to make this election successful," he said.