Lucknow, Oct 2 For the beleaguered Uttar Pradesh Police, often at the receiving end of public criticism for its tardy responses and inept handling of cases, micro-blogging site Twitter is emerging a big-ticket PR booster - it already has over 54,000 followers, and the number is growing by the day.
Thanks to Twitter, the largest police force in the world has not only been able to work out many crimes and prevent others from taking place, but has also earned bouquets for its prompt intervention.
Almost three weeks after it launched the Twitter Seva grievance redressal service, a first by any state police force in the country, the bulk of the problems posted have been disposed off and the remaining ones are in process.
Of the over 10,000 tweets that were received on the @Uppolice Twitter handle, around 70 per cent were found to have been "actionable" and were sorted out within hours, a police officer told IANS on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media on the issue.
The Twitter handle is being monitored 24x7 by a team of well-trained police personnel at the DGP HQ, which has since become the "repository of all tweets".
Other than the prompt action that is being taken on the complaints of the people, the Twitter Seva seems to have brought out the humane face of the men in khakhi, something which many valiant efforts in the past had failed to achieve.
Other than settling issues like domestic strife within a family between the mother-in-law and her foreign daughter-in-law in Agra to helping people caught in long traffic snarls to thrashing out the problem of an NRI when his father was being intimidated by someone in Noida to preventing a suicide, the UP Police seems to be on a roll of late.
Public Relations Officer (PRO) to the DGP UP, Rahul Srivastav, who also heads the nodal team overseeing Twitter Seva, says the service has "become a great game changer".
Explaining how the goodwill of the police was shoring up with prompt follow-up on the tweets that can be acted upon, Srivastav said most pertained to non-registration of FIRs, slow progress in investigations, lack of patrolling in localities, police misbehaviour and traffic gridlocks.
In one case, an officer said, a woman quietly recorded the misbehaviour of a police SHO on her cell phone and posted it on the micro-blogging site.
The SHO in Gorakhpur was suspended within minutes and similar action was taken in Faizabad when a sub-inspector misbehaved with a complainant.
"The beauty of the system is that the handle of the UP Police and of the other 75 districts are alive and synced, reviewed real time by senior officer," a senior officer said -- leaving no room for slow or no action on the complaints received.
An ADG-rank officer pointed out that in the run-up to the service being launched, there was a "mouthful of cynicism" when many on the force said the "establishment was unleashing a Frankenstein" which will put more pressure on, and bring under scrutiny, the entire system.
This, they feared, would render a further bodyblow to the police, "largely owing to its internal shortcomings like low staff, poor weaponry and communication systems".
The feedback so far has been in stark contrast and the complainants are, by and large, satisfied with the response and action taken, Srivastav said.
The service was launched by DGP Javeed Ahmad, Twitter Vice President Rishi Jaitley and CEO Rahil Khurshid earlier this month.
Gorakhpur zone has 50 social media-savvy police personnel, followed by Meerut (48), Varanasi (46), Kanpur (43), Lucknow (41), Bareilly (37) and Allahabad (32). At DGP HQ, policemen manning the social media cell, be it Ankit (an MCA), Kuldeep or Satyendra Pandey, all are "super-excited" about the work they are doing.
"It's a great feeling to not only be part of such an effective system but the feeling of being part of a system that is delivering succour at lightning speed," Pandey told IANS. Sanjay Singhal, an assistant to the DGP who oversees the whole system, is equally happy.
"The service has opened new vistas for people to reach out to us and has given us a tool to react in time and respond with alacrity," Singhal said.
And so, as the micro-blogging service is emerging as a buddy for the oft-harangued UP Police, even the countryside is feeling the tremors of change.
A user from Kanpur rural, who got his complaint resolved in no time, told IANS that when he went to the concerned policeman, the first thing he told him was: "Tweet na kar dena yaar (For heaven's sake, do not Tweet)."