In Greater Noida, police revive bygone era, rope in chowkidars for policing
As the city is short of police personnel due to ongoing elections in the state, the police have roped in chowkidars from 168 villages to assist them with policing the district. Of the 1,500 personnel in the district, only 500 are available for maintaining law and order in Gautam Budh Nagar.Updated: Feb 28, 2017, 21:13 IST
Short of manpower to man the vast expanse of Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh police has turned to 168 village chowkidars to secure the growing residential hub.
The move comes at a time when the district is reeling under acute shortage of personnel to maintain law and order as two-thirds of the police force is out on election duty.
Of the nearly 1,500 police personnel in Gautam Budh Nagar, only 500 are on law and order duty in the district while the others have been sent to various parts of the state on election duty. They will return to the barracks only after the assembly polls are over.
The fact that only a skeletal force is available to maintain law and order is making senior officers uneasy as it will be difficult to check criminal elements and unlawful activities.
Sources in the force said the 500 police personnel are currently juggling the duty at police stations, night patrolling and keeping the official work going. A few have been deployed to regulate traffic, an officer said.
Earlier this month, eight burglaries were reported in two weeks from Beta-1 Sector in Greater Noida. The residents had said their complaints were not being acted on by the police.
It is in this scenario that the police have turned to the village chowkidars who take a remuneration of Rs 1,500 per month from the government for carrying out registry of births and deaths in villages.
With the new role comes new responsibilities and also a new look. Wearing reflector jackets and red turbans, the chowkidars reach the police stations at 8pm. From there, they go on to perform policing duties till 8am and are dropped at their homes in a police vehicle.
“Almost everyone in the village has heard of chowkidars. Last week, I saw them for the first time performing policing duties and passing through the narrow village alleys in a group. Little has changed over time. Earlier, they made their presence felt with the ‘jaagte raho’ cry, now it’s a reflector jacket,” said Jagat Singh, a villager and property dealer in Dankaur.
A chart prepared at the police station assigns duties to each of them. While some go on night patrolling, others roam around in control room vans along with police personnel.
The history of chowkidars can be traced back to the British era when they were employed as watchmen. Over the decades, their roles have transformed and, today, they are counted among the most “respectable citizens” in a village. It holds true for an expanding Greater Noida as well, where the 168 chowkidars are held in high respect by the villagers.
Forty-eight-year-old Satish Singh, a chowkidar for the last 16 years in Mangroli village of Jewar, said he feels privileged to work with the police.
But he doesn’t agree that his ilk is held in high respect any more. “Gone are the days when a chowkidar had a repute of high stature in his village. We used to be among the decision makers. Over the decades, I feel we have been confined to doing only the registration of deaths and births. I am happy that our existence is being recognised again,” he said.
Sujata Singh, superintendent of police (rural), Gautam Budh Nagar, said, “The chowkidars are socially active and have great respect among villagers. They keep patrolling villages so that no untoward incident takes place. Moreover, they also look into the nature of disputes that usually take place in villages. This is, in essence, community policing.”
Greater Noida has 46 PCR vans and every van has two chowkidars on night patrol. Equipped with flashlights and batons, these chowkidars assist the police with valour.
“In urban villages, there are private security guards who keep watch at night. However, the villages have no such system and are dependent on the police for their security,” the SP said.
After the elections, the chowkidars will be felicitated by district administration and the police for their services.