What happens when you put an ace athlete in a traffic sergeant’s uniform to man the busiest street crossings in the city?Deprived of tracks, he sprints behind snatchers and pins them down.
Meet Lake Town resident Samarjit Singh (35), a traffic sergeant in the Kolkata Police, who has a number of gold medals to his credit in sprinting and long jump.
Thirteen years into the service, Singh has earned a reputation for chasing down snatchers, be it across the most winding bylanes or jumping over the most precarious walls.
On June 6, three Manipuri women were waiting for an Ultadanga-bound auto near Arabinda Sarani, when a snatcher pushed down one of them and ran away with her moneybag. The same area witnessed another snatching just the day before, with a snatcher attacking a pedestrian on Jatindra Mohan Avenue and making off with his mobile phone.
Singh, who was posted at Sovabazar crossing on both occasions, turned out to be the knight in shining armour. In a high-voltage chase, reminiscent of any Hollywood potboiler, he chased down both snatchers sprinting across the narrow and congested by-lanes (typical of north Kolkata’s older localities), sidestepping pedestrians and swerving across thelas (hand driven carts) that came in the way.
But this was not Singh’s first tryst with snatchers and criminals. On one occasion in December 2009, when he was part of Suryakanta Mishra’s (then health minister) entourage, he was stationed opposite Music World in Park Street.“It was around 12 midnight and we (Singh and his driver) were shivering in the cold. Suddenly, I noticed a person carrying strawberries on his shoulders for sale. He was following two foreigners, both women. Initially I did not bother, as it is a common scene in the area. But suddenly I heard the foreigners shouting for help. I realised the person tried to run away with one of their mobile phones,” Singh recollected.
Singh did not stop to get on his vehicle. Ordering the driver to follow him, the sergeant ran behind the snatcher. The snatcher could evade him for quite some time and jumped over the fence of Allen Park, making his way towards the exit on the other side. Not one to back down, Singh jumped over the boundary fence of the park and zeroed in on the snatcher.
Back in 2006, while Singh was posted under Kalighat police station, he was chasing a notorious criminal Manoj on his motorcycle. As Manoj suddenly swerved at one of the bends, Singh lunged from his motorcycle and pinned him down. Though he suffered a leg fracture in the process, Singh refused to let go Manoj and ultimately handed him over to the authorities.“I always wanted to be in the army. I had even appeared for the Combined Defence Services examinations, but got rejected in the interview. Then I joined the Kolkata Police. I can no longer pursue sports now, but try to make the best use of my sprinting capabilities,” Singh smiles.