KOLKATA: They have been deputed to protect Kashmir, a terrain that’s arguably the most difficult in India, but CRPF personnel here to conduct the final phase of the election say managing polls in Kolkata is a completely different challenge. Posted in Jhargram district for the sixth phase of elections, which witnessed sporadic violence, the personnel are now camped inside numerous government establishments, like schools, colleges and community centres across Kolkata. 

“Apart from the heat, what makes the job challenging is the fact that we cannot always act on our own to tackle law-and-order issues. We need to be tactful here as no one here is really an enemy,” said an officer.

“We are aware of the political situation in Kolkata. But not every duty calls for the use of guns and sticks. Sometimes merely the way you present before a voter works. Be kind to someone who respects you, but do not allow anyone to take advantage of you — that is our motto,” said Sunil Mishra, a CRPF official who has been patrolling Entally to get a feel of the place.

The central forces that have come under continued criticism from the ruling party for their “excesses” have upon them the responsibility of providing optimum support and security in the crucial last phase of the polls.

“The elections in Jammu and Kashmir were less challenging than in Midnapore, where we were previously deployed. In Kolkata, the scorching heat for the past few weeks has made our route marches tougher. However, we are prepared for these situations and it has not made any significant difference in security procedures altogether, said K G Thakachan, CRPF Duty Officer at Rajendralal School near Tollygunge police station.

The personnel carry ration so they don’t face shortage, but acclimatisation is the biggest challenge since they are constantly on the move. “There is little to complain about here except the dining space. However, we are satisfied with all the other support provided by both the state and central administrations,” said Thakachan.

On the ground, things have to be dealt with at a micro level. Every booth is a unique challenge requiring “anywhere between five to 100 men to secure them”. “A mapping of all violence at booths has been carried out, along with a study of what solutions worked. The deployment has been done based on this and preventive measures have been taken,” said an officer.