Volunteers from a Chennai neighbourhood match steps with the law keepers

Members of Station Vigilance Committee (SVC) — Mylapore division, they would fan into various neighbourhoods, along with patrol teams from seven stations under Mylapore police jurisdiction. They assist the police personnel in workaday patrolling, which includes flipping through vehicle documents.

Shankar KS checks the SVC’s WhatsApp group to ascertain how many volunteers could be expected to hit the road today. Seven had expressed willingness to join the night patrol and therefore, they would be operating in three areas only — Mylapore (around Luz signal), Abhiramapuram and Santhome.

He reveals that SVC Mylapore division has 52 active members with the overall count somewhere around 80.

“Night patrolling work is not for everyone and the older among us might be volunteering for temple work.” SVC volunteers are acclaimed for their work during the annual Panguni festival in crowd control.

“Annually, as a group, we put in 4,000 to 5,000 man hours, with every volunteer expected to complete at least 15 hours of volunteering every month. This year we have already completed 5,000 man hours and the remaining major interventions required of us are the Christmas and New Year eve, when we would be out around midnight regulating vehicle movement.”

Usually, the New Year’s eve brings out the bonhomie the SVC volunteers share with the Mylapore police personnel. “Last year, on New Year, after finishing our work, we assembled along with the teams from 7 stations. A cake was cut in a gesture of honour that was extended to our team,” recalls Shankar, adding that SVC has earned a lot of goodwill across the neighbourhood, which is reflected in the fact that though like K Viswanathan for Mylapore Residents Welfare Association are associated with it.

The SVC convenor notes that challenges of the pandemic have caused the SVC volunteers and the police personnel to work more closely.

’In 2020, when S Nelson sir was the ACP, during the first lockdown, they wanted us to distribute groceries and vegetables. Though the funds flowed in, there was a clear dearth of people who could take the grocery and vegetable kits to beneficiaries on time — we filled that void. I selected 15 youngsters from our team for this work. My notion of youngsters includes those in their late 40s — I was 47 at that point in time,” he chuckles. “Every day, in the morning we would head to the station and on the verandah, groceries and vegetables would be laid out. On an average, we would pack 150 to 200 grocery and vegetable kits. For 28 days, we carried out this service. The area behind Citi Centre had reported the earliest Coronavirus breakouts, and we worked for a week at that place, distributing kits. None of the team members got Covid-19 during the first wave. During the second wave, some of us were infected with Covid-19, and we quarantined and recovered. Team members advised how they should take care of themselves,” says Shankar.

He remarks that SVC volunteers also did more than what was expected of them by roping in a voluntary organisation Chakra Foundation for sponsorship and also passed the hat around among friends and family towards meeting the expenses for a few days of procuring vegetables and groceries.

Shankar explains that the profile of the SVC volunteers is impressive. To give an idea, “there is a high-ranking official from the Airport Authority of India; two high-flying chartered accountants; two doctors; a couple of entrepreneurs and someone who has a doctorate in astrology; I have a doctorate in psychology.”

He states that the volunteers leave outside the gates of the police station, any professional pride they may have, and submit themselves unconditionally to the rules binding them.

Every month, we document our duty hours in digital format and a the end of the month, we take a printout of it and give it to the jurisdictional officer, having it signed and sealed. We do the same at the end of the year.

Though the volunteers are concentrated in and around the Mylapore region, the call of duty can come from anywhere and they have to respond to it enthusiastically.

“Our SVC may belong to the Mylapore division, but our work is not circumscribed by geography. We have worked in Besant Nagar, Thiruvanmiyur and other places outside the Mylapore area.. When the Marudeeswarar temple kumbabishekam happened, being the ACP covering that area, M Visveswaraya sir called, ‘Shankar, bring your team.’ We went.” A noticeable part of their volunteering has to do with the Kapalaeshwarar temple, and this includes attending to protocols relating to temple visits by VIPs.

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