They don’t mind manning their posts for hours outside Puja pandals managing the endless stream of human traffic and ensuring the safety of revellers out on the streets to soak up the festive air. While their friends are bonding over good food between sleepless hours of pandal-hopping, these young volunteers keep the city safe during Bengal’s biggest festival.
Apart from the police and security guards sourced from private agencies, this army of volunteers, mostly boys and aged not more than 20, fan out across the streets to ensure effective crowd management during the festive days.
This year too, an army of young volunteers from the National Cadet Corps (NCC) has been assigned the onerous task of keeping the streets safe and ensuring a smooth flow of human traffic from one gilded pandal to another.
At least 4,300 young NCC cadets have been selected to help the state police and traffic cops keep the revellers out of harm’s way this Puja.
“The group mostly comprises boys from in and around Kolkata. They’d be deployed as volunteers to keep the streets safe from Chaturthi to Nabami,” Captain Brij Bhushan Singh, public relations officer of the NCC’s chapter for Bengal and Sikkim, said.
The cadets, mostly students, will be deployed at all important intersections of the city and will also keep vigil in and around Puja pandals. The cadets are currently being trained to assist the cops in crowd and traffic management while the city immerses in festive spirit.
A detailed plan to ensure seamless and unrestricted flow of human traffic has already been drawn up. The cadets will also be asked to keep an eye out for potential trouble-makers.
“Kolkata Police has requested NCC Directorate, West Bengal & Sikkim Training to deploy 4,500 NCC Cadets in three shifts — morning, evening and night. The cadets will be deployed from Chaturthi (October 5) to Nabami (October 10). They will help the Kolkata Police in traffic management during the morning and afternoon shifts. While the morning shift will start from 8am and end at 4pm, the evening shift will be from 2pm to 10pm,” Captain Singh said.
“Their job will be to manage the crowd of revellers, provide water and rush help in the event of a medical emergency and prevent eve-teasing and other untoward incidents,” Singh said.
Asked how it feels to be on duty while his friends are out having fun on the streets, 21-year-old Dharmendra Chowdhury from Kidderpore who has been part of the city’s volunteer force during the Pujas, said, “It feels great to be in this job. I feel proud to be doing something worthwhile while having fun at the same time. The satisfaction one gets helping people can’t be described in words.”
“Since we work in shifts, we have enough time to catch up on some fun later. In fact, we don’t mind going overtime and watching the streets all night,” said 21-year-old Chandan Shaw.
“Our job is to serve the people. That’s the oath we take at the NCC. And, if that means losing out on fun with friends and family, we’ll willingly do so,” said 21-year-old Deepak Kumar Mishra, a first year student from Phoolbagan.
Col Rajesh Singh, joint director, NCC Directorate, West Bengal & Sikkim Training, said, “In view of the Muharram coinciding with Durga Puja this year, special effort is being made by the NCC and Kolkata Police to ensure peace during the festive days.”