Kolkata: With several incidents of murder of senior citizens reported in the city in recent times, the Kolkata Police aims to broadbase the 'Project Pranam' initiative to bring more elderly people under its safety cover.
"We have taken several steps to ensure the safety and security of senior citizens in the city. In all the police stations we have taken extra measures to ensure their security," a senior Kolkata police official told a news agency.
"Every police station has a designated officer with constables under him to keep in touch with elderly citizens in the police station," Additional Police Commissioner (II) Jayanta Basu told a news agency.
The officer said 'Project Pranam' had been started by the Kolkata Police in 2009 to provide safety, security and medical assistance to senior citizens living alone. "The project has been successful in these years but it is evolving every day with new experiences to ensure better services for the elderly," he said.
Nearly 30 percent of the city's senior citizens stay by themselves with large section of this population facing serious concerns related to safety, security, health problems, according to reports available with the project authorities.
Project Coordinator Shukla Tarafdar said after the project took off in 2009 around 12,500 elderly citizens have become members of Pranam.
When asked why only 12,500 elders have registered under the project, when the number of such elderly couples is quite high, Tarafdar, a retired police official herself said,
"Pranam has received good response. Yet, there are many lonely elders who find it difficult to reach police stations or our camps when they are held."
"So we have already decided that those who can't approach us physically can just call up and drop their address. Our officers will visit them," she said. She said once an elderly couple is registered under the project, officials from local police stations pay them a weekly visit and the couple regularly gets calls from the Pranam helpline.
While noting the challenges that Pranam faces, Tarafdar refers to instances when the elderly couple, who stay with their domestic help, do not clearly spell out their problems.
"As the persons we deal with are very old and physically weak, most of the times they don't disclose if they are having a problem. If someone doesn't open up about the problem then how will we tackle it. Later on when we come to know, they say they were tensed," she said.
Another problem, counted by officials of Kolkata police as roadblock in ensuring foolproof security is lack of initiative on the part of the elderly to submit full details about the domestic aid.
"Those who are members of Pranam, we have the entire data of their domestic help. But there are many unregistered elderly who are yet to share the data and information about their domestic help. They also don't crosscheck before keeping a help," said an official.
The police apart from ensuring security to elderly citizens are also taking care that these people are not depressed.
"Due to loneliness and health problems most of the lonely elderly couples or those who stay alone suffer from depression, which further pushes them to suicides at times. So to help them fight mental depression, we arrange various camps, get together and sports activities," the official said.
At least nine incidents of brutal murder of elderly persons were reported in past two years with the last being the horrific killings of two senior citizens in Paikpara area in northern part of the city.