Sromona Bhattacharyya Bhattacharyya
Hailing from Kolkata and now a resident of Bengaluru, Sromona is a multimedia journalist who has a knack for digging stories that truly deserve attention.
It’s as if the police officers working behind UP Police’s Twitter handle–@Uppolice do not even get a split second to breathe. A quick look at their ‘tweets & replies’ will be enough for anyone to comprehend the brevity with which people’s queries are being addressed. However, the handle that we see today is nothing short of the outcome of a social media revolution of sorts. What started out as a public relations platform with a mere 5000 followers has now become a powerful public grievance redressal tool for the people of Uttar Pradesh, all thanks to the efforts of a police officer and his team of police personnel. Between 2016 and 2018, UP Police Twitter Seva has received over 6 lakh complaints out of which 1,52, 537 have been resolved.
The page today has over 4,44,000 followers and counting. It has come about as a result of collective efforts of Rahul Srivastav, additional superintendent of police (Addl. S.P) and public relations officer (PRO) to the director general of police (DGP) and other officers who chose to harness the power of the microblogging website. Addl. SP Srivastav was previously working on the field and quickly came to be known as an encounter specialist for which he was even awarded the President’s medal for gallantry in 2015.
The Logical Indian spoke to Addl SP Rahul Srivastav over the phone to better understand his idea of utilising the power of social media for the benefit of the citizens. Srivastav understood there is an inherent gap between the citizens and the police. His answer to bridging that gap was found in social media, more specifically, Twitter, which in his words is a medium that is “celebrity-driven” and is characterised by its “brevity of expression.”
In March 2016, Srivastav took up the mammoth task of institutionalising the usage of Twitter for redressing public grievances like registering a First Information Report (FIR). However, shortly after he launched the service on Twitter, Srivastav fell critically ill where he had to be admitted to the ICU. Even then, he said, the replies to people’s grievances did not stop. Srivastav, recounting his experiences from two years ago said, “For the longest time, it was just two other officers and me who used to reply to people’s queries and grievances on Twitter.”
From then onwards, not only has the whole idea been institutionalised to a point where it has a social media wing but has also been successful in bridging the gap to an extent. Citing examples, he said that in a number of cases that were reported on Twitter, the real-time services were rendered by the UP Police which restored people’s faith as well. Even though his ideas were met with apprehensions and criticisms in the beginning, but Srivastav is immensely thankful to his DGPs and other officers for making his vision a success.
Use of Twitter by UP police is enhanced by ‘Twitter Seva’ which is a platform/dashboard developed by Twitter India, especially for UP Police to monitor, record and follow up on tweets tagged with UP police’s official twitter handle.
UP Police’s Twitter Seva receives over 2000 complaints on a daily basis, out of which about 600 to 700 are actionable, said Srivastav. Similar services are being used by the external affairs ministry, ministry of railways, the ministry of corporate affairs, the telecom industry and even Bengaluru City police, but the scale and reach that UP Police have been able to achieve is what sets it apart. UP Police Twitter Seva’s verified Twitter handles include the office of DGP Headquarters, every district, range, zone office of UP police, Directorate of traffic police Lucknow, and separate handles of SPs (traffic) of 16 critical districts in the state. With 125 verifiable handles, citizens have been empowered to lodge any sort of complaints ranging from police misbehaviour, stalking, harassment and more.
According to Livemint, Tweeted complaints are recorded on a centralized dashboard and a docket number is allotted to each complaint in order to keep a tab on the status of the complaint. These are then forwarded to the concerned district police for the purpose of resolution. The Twitter Seva, for its exemplary performance, has been the recipient of awards like FICCI Award for Best Services in SMART Policing, 2017 and Police Excellence Award.
Srivastav and the rest of the social media team understand that internet penetration and use of Twitter is not widespread in Uttar Pradesh. To help reach citizens in every corner of the state, the police has been in touch with Facebook to get its 75 district police pages officially verified. Not only that, but earlier in July, UP Police launched a Digital Volunteer Service on Whatsapp where over 3 lakh people from various strata of the society will be formed into Whatsapp groups. These groups are set in place to keep a check on social media rumours. Srivastav said that it was because of present DGP O P Singh that this initiative became a reality.
With the three mediums of Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp in place, Srivastav and the social media wing believes that they will be able to reach out to more people and address their problems in as little time as possible.
UP Police’s achievements are not just restricted among the thousands of happy citizens whose complaints were addressed, but it has been setting global examples as well. This new system of mechanism which seeks to revolutionise the way policing works is being used as a case study by Twitter India, abroad, said Srivastav.
Uttar Pradesh has over 20 crore people, and it is ASP Rahul Srivastav’s dream to reach all of them. At a time when people seem to be losing faith in policing, initiatives like these which show their effectiveness in the face of problems is commendable. The Logical Indian appreciates the Uttar Pradesh Police and ASP Srivastav’s efforts in bringing such a change.
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