Birbhum/Kolkata: With Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s orders that the lockdown in Bengal will be strict but humane, the state’s police force has the task of not only enforcing the law but also educating the public on the importance of social distancing and preventing the spread of the corona virus.
Keeping this in mind Birbhum Police has taken some unique measures to make people understand the seriousness of the corona virus and following the rules of the lockdown.
Earlier, Kolkata Police formed a musical group and performed at major city intersections as part of an awareness drive. Traffic cops in Hyderabad and Chennai Police wore Corona virus shaped helmets to send their message across.
Birbhum Police have gone a step further. They are not only helming street art, they are also taking the help of Bauls to hammer the message across. And if this is not enough, they are also using theatre artists who wear Corona costumes on the streets of villages and towns and tell the public about the dangers of the deadly virus.
In the initial days the cops began with a poster campaign and making people understand through the public address system. Then came street plays which also involved children explaining the importance of personal hygiene. Campaigns on social media followed where folk songs in Baul and Tusu were played. Constantly evolving newer ways to teach people, cops also sang songs about the dos and don’ts of the Corona virus.
Watch Bengal police’s work in a minute
A local police officer, who is in the thick of things said: “We realized that just stopping people on the streets and sending them back home is not effective. They again come out once the cops are gone. Also our Baul and Tusu songs were a hit with the villagers. We involved local artists to draw on the streets the dangers of COVID-19 virus attack. Many village elders too joined us in drawing their own things on the streets. People are still not serious about the issue and so we have to maintain our guard”.
On the various measures Birbhum SP Shyam Singh said: “We have undertaken lots of programmes. We have seen globally how not being serious about the virus has cost lives. Even though people were not very serious on following the lockdown rules initially, they are now. We are under the process of implementing new initiatives and we will keep you posted.”
Art as a tool against Corona
Goutam Das Baul, who has been performing at many of the town vantage points said: “I have been singing songs on Coronavirus. People are stopping and listening to what I sing. So that way the response has been good.” Songs like ‘Kotoi virus dekhibhai re, keutholi hate hairojbajare jai re’ (This is an unusual virus and people should refrain from going to the market daily) are proving effective”.
Theatre artist Abhishek Dutta who dons a Corona costume and covers 2-3 spots daily in and around Santiniketan is also working in tandem with the Santiniketan OC on the theme.
“We have four Corona costumes with us. I’m the only one who is donning it currently. If we have four people at four different spots it will be better. People are scared. Many in the villages think that if one has fever it must be Corona and that they should not approach the doctor fearing social boycott. We are educating people on this.We also tell them not to fear the police but fear the virus”.
Kingshuk Sarkar, who is drawing Corona themes on the streets as wide as 50-70 ft feels street art is proving effective with the local population. “Till now, I along with my wife Roshni Bagchi Sarkar have covered 8 places. A few of the Kala Bhavan students are also assisting us. We are mostly moving in villages which are vulnerable. We have also done artworks within Visva-Bharati campus and at Shyambati Bazar in Bolpur town,” he said.