As devotees returned to railway and bus stations after the second shahi snan Monday evening, a young RSS worker in his traditional shakha uniform stood at Post Office Crossing in Haridwar, helping out with directions – as well as gently nudging them to wear the mask properly. These are Covid times and you should be careful with the mask, he reminded a batch of youngsters, as he gave directions to the station.
Ashish Chaudhary and another RSS worker, Tarun Sharma, both in early 20s, have been working in a 12-hour shift – 8 pm to 8 am – since April 7, assisting personnel of central forces and local police in crowd and traffic management at their assigned location.
Chaudhary and Sharma are among the 1,553 RSS volunteers who have been appointed as Special Police Officers (SPOs) by Uttarakhand Police for this year’s Kumbh festival – the first time ever. While 1,053 RSS volunteers are working in the field, the rest are back-up strength.
The police have issued them identity cards, a cap and a jacket.
Kumbh Mela Deputy SP Birendra Prasad Dabral said RSS volunteers helped out during Kumbh in the past as well but this is the first time they have been issued identity cards of SPOs. “They are doing well in traffic and crowd management,” said Dabral.
He said various other social organisations, including Congress Seva Dal, have also been roped in as SPOs for this year’s Kumbh.
RSS Uttarakhand Prant Sharirik Pramukh Sunil said the process was initiated by Kumbh Mela IG Sanjay Gunjyal. In March, Gunjyal got in touch with the RSS, asking for volunteers to work as SPOs in Kumbh Mela, said Sunil.
After this, he said, he wrote to all district RSS units to provide details of volunteers, aged between 18 and 50, who were interested to work in Kumbh. “Meetings were then held with IG Gunjyal. Later, two additional SPs in different sessions briefed our selected volunteers about their role as SPOs. There are more than 1,500 SPOs from the RSS this year,” said Sunil, adding that this was the first time RSS volunteers were working as SPOs.
He said the SPOs from the RSS will not be paid because they are doing social service.
These volunteers are working in shifts in Haridwar city, ghats, railway stations, crossing and diversion points and district borders of Rishikesh, Tehri, Pauri and UP borders. At least six RSS volunteers are working at each location.
Jitin Vedi, an RSS volunteer from Kotdwar, who is deployed at Devpura Chowk, said his role is to politely deal with devotees while managing crowds. “Police men often get aggressive when a devotee starts shouting or insists on entering a restricted area. But we as trained workers speak to these devotees politely and explain to them the route plan and purpose of diversions,” he said.
The Kumbh concludes on April 30.
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