Amid anxiety Goa Police Twitter chirping its way up the popularity charts
From zero tweets in more than three years, to emerging as the lynchpin in the state government's social media outreach in the COVID-19 fight back, the Goa Police's official Twitter handle DGP_Goa is chirping its way up the popularity charts.
Contrasted against a ramshackle and increasingly politicised administration, which appears benumbed in the face of the viral pandemic crisis with ruling politicians squabbling over mileage and cornering relief and supplies for petty end, the DGP_Goa on Twitter now seems to be the go-to handle for curfew-stricken Goans, labourers, foreigners and expats in duress.
Speaking to IANS, Inspector General of Police Jaspal Singh, the state's acting top cop, who is anchoring the Goa Police social media outreach, said that popular response to the effort is "phenomenal".
"Especially in these difficult times we have tried to ascertain the needs of the public and cater to it. People have been very kind to us, very forthright in telling us their problems and we have done all we could to help them out," Singh said.
After being out of action from October 14, 2016 to March 28 this year, Singh said the ongoing "unprecedented health emergency" was perhaps the best time to revive the outreach.
"Due to lockdown a large number of people are affected. Social media handles have wide reach. So we thought this is the most appropriate time to revive it to reach to people in distress," he said.
The tweets are a sum result of co-ordinated effort by a seven-member social media team of the state police led by Superintendent of Police (Special Branch), which works under Singh's supervision.
"We have a social media team with seven persons under direct supervision of SP (SB). They closely coordinate with me and we give out messages as per requirement," the top official said.
Over the last few days, SOS messages addressed to the DGP_Goa handle have yielded quick results.
Whether it was 70 odd Odia workers stuck without supplies in South Goa or stranded foreigners or Indian tourists short on both cash and hope or even expats concerned about the fate of elderly parents stuck in homes, the handle has been at hand to mediate assistance, offer guidance or at least a virtual ear to hear their grievance.
"We tackle all queries right from giving out contact numbers to helping people in medical crises. There is nothing trivial, every person's need is paramount for him and we don't distinguish either," Singh said.
The handle has also served as a much-needed platform for the Goa Police, which has for several years been in the news for the wrong reasons, ranging from excesses, gross dereliction of duties, involvement of its personnel in drug cartels.
So when police inspector Sachin Gawas designed a COVID-19 resistant hands-free wash basin -- operated by foot -- for police personnel at the India Reserve Battalion barracks, he got a pat on the back from the DGP_Goa handle.
So did police inspector Tushar Vernekar for regularly helping out a stranded British national and arranging his daily necessities.
Singh said, that the department encourages supervisory officers to take to social media to "get a feel of public sentiment".
"But to avoid redundancy, it is appropriate that field operatives remain in the field and the supervisory officers are on social media to direct things and give instructions as per people's needs," he said.
Asked if this sudden spurt of social media engagement is a beginning of the Goa Police's efforts to increase its virtual footprint, Singh said: "Yes, it is a start and not the end. We have revived Twitter, started an account on Instagram. We expect to join other platforms soon. We want to be available at a click and that's our long term objective".
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