In an interesting initiative, the Sewri police in the Port zone have come up with a new concept named 'corner meetings'.
Conducted at the corners of the roads, this is almost similar to Mumbai Police's initiative on 'good touch and bad touch' which is a bid to curb sexual offences against minors. However, in the Sewri jurisdiction, there are no schools, colleges or education institutes. The ‘good touch and bad touch’ programme is specially designed for schools and colleges but in Sewri’s case, it is being implemented at every nook and corner of the area.
"Corner meetings are conducted frequently and as per the crowd we find during patrolling." | FPJ
The ones who have the responsibilities of the corner meetings are the Nirbhaya Squad of the Sewri police station. Assistant Police Inspector Swapnali Jaybhay leads the team along with two police constables, one being a woman police constable.
What are 'corner meetings'
"Corner meetings are conducted frequently and as per the crowd we find during patrolling. We ask them to gather around for a few minutes, without forcing them. Most of the time, especially during the day hours, women and children and men tend to go to work," explained Jaybhay, who says they function under the guidance of the station’s senior police officer Balurao Ghagare.
Sewri’s population largely consists of wage workers and labourers, she said, adding, "To women we explain them good touch and bad touch, and to children we ask or explain about any incidents of sexual exploitation or domestic abuse that they know of, or experienced. We want to make them aware of their rights, and the procedural aspects of what is to be done when in danger or witness any danger/crime."
The menace of drugs
Another tipping problem is drugs at Sewri. Young boys and men tend to consume drugs and alcohol which lead to several crimes in the area. Awareness about drinking habits, their effects and consequences too are shared with the masses by the corner meeting squad.
Sewri’s population largely consists of wage workers and labourers | FPJ
"In case of any suspicious activity, or if a suspicious person lingering around catch people's attention– we have provided people with direct contact numbers to our police station. Instead of dialling the control room who would then tip us the information, we encourage them to contact us directly," added Jaybhay.
The major chunk of the corner meetings, apart from sexual offences, is cyber-crime. "People have less knowledge of possible cyber-crimes, that includes sextortion, voice phishing, bogus bank calls – which we impart to them. We explain to them with examples, how things may go wrong if you click on unknown links, or talk over the phone to anybody who claims to be a bank officer. People here try to make a living on an everyday basis with small-time work, we don’t want them to lose their precious savings. At times, we even arrange meetings at our police hall by inviting all the citizens and guiding them and also answering their queries," said a senior police officer.
The concept of corner meetings was initiated last year, 2023 and they have been running it successfully to date. Citizens also tend to suggest their problems to the cops, who try their best to resolve it.