Hailing from rural areas of the state, the men and women handling the interactive social media set-up of the Ghaziabad police are now the driving force behind the department’s active, round-the-clock presence on Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools.
The social media handling team consists of constables who work in a 24x7 environment akin to a call centre or a BPO unit. One of them, Kuldeep Kumar, 29, is the son of a retired teacher from Aligarh and came to know of social media only after joining the police department in 2011. The constable completed his schooling from Bisara Inter College in Aligarh and graduation from Rajkiya Mahavidyalaya at Kahir, Aligarh.
“These (social media) tools are now a part of people’s routine life, especially in NCR. We are striving to be service providers. Traffic is a big issue in the city and we have to regularly update users with inputs taken from field staff,” he said.
Constable Savita Rani, another social media handler, is from Kail Shikarpur village in Shamli district. She completed her Class 12 from Lala Lajpat Rai inter college at Thana Bhawan in the same district and pursued her graduation through an open university.
“I come from a background where till a couple of years ago, youngsters, especially girls, were not familiar with social media, its power and usage. This is my first social media interaction and I am now comfortable with handling the tools after initial training. Unlike personal usage, the tools are handled differently for the police,” she said.
“We handle almost 150-200 different messages and even incoming emergency calls. Our work involves providing information to PCR vans and leopard bike groups, apart from the numbers added to various public groups. Messages are also received from the public on the Dial100 emergency number 9643322916 to which citizens also send messages for help or problem resolution,” she said.
Rani added that she often comes across derogatory posts and communal messages on groups to which her standard response is, “the group is not meant for such posts. Please refrain from posting such comments. Thank you.” (sic) Whenever she finds messages tough to read in English, she makes use of the translation tools.
She was posted at the police lines in Khurja and later came to Ghaziabad where she was posted on office duties at Kavi Nagar and Sihani Gate police stations before being given social media responsibilities at the police control room.
Officials said that the social media platforms for Dial100 police control room in Ghaziabad, a part of UP StateWide Dial100 network, was opened just over a month ago.
Rani’s counterparts handling social media for Ghaziabad traffic police are a team of eight personnel working in three different shifts. They generally receive almost 400-500 messages about traffic jams, on-street parking, diversions, allegations of corruption, breakdown of vehicles, etc.
“The idea is to reply politely to a post and decide whether or not to reply to certain posts. We cannot be casual during public interactions,” said constable Sanyogita Singh of Burhaka village in Kahir tehsil of Aligarh.
“Actionable messages are immediately confirmed with ground-level staff and response conveyed to the sender. Every call over social media for the traffic helpline number 9643322904 is registered and even recorded. So people stay away from making unwanted calls,” she added.
Singh studied at Sarvodaya inter college at Vaina village in Khair tehsil of Aligarh before completing her graduation from Chaudhary Harchand Degree College at Khurja. The 26-year-old learnt to handle social media during her first posting at Bulandhshr police control room in 2013.
“During my posting in Bulandshahr, I got familiar with social media by practising through interactions with friends on my personal mobile phone. At the control room, apart from regular calls we often get emergency messages too. Around a month ago, a woman posted a message on the traffic police’s Whatsapp number that she was depressed about the death of her friend and would commit suicide. The message alarmed us and we immediately responded by calling her back. She was consoled and even senior officials counselled her to bring her to normal,” she added.
Senior control room officials said the team is coping well with pressure and their interactions with citizens.
“Most constables are from rural backgrounds. The teams are briefed regularly and told to refrain from responses that could create trouble for the department. They are regularly trained to tolerate criticism and also to adopt a service approach as social media platforms involve two-way interactions. Apart from social media platform usage, they are also engaged in media monitoring through televisions and immediately respond to concerned staff in case of a news break,” said Anil Kumar Pandey, superintendent of police (dial100 control room).
“Next, we are trying to familiarise them with gauging the prevailing environment in the state and country. We will also train them in scanning social media accounts and trending tweets to gauge situations. Their work becomes vital now as most of the district police setups in the state are turning to social media,” he added.