Cauvery row: Bengaluru police use social media to answer citizens' queries
For scores of Bengalureans confined to their homes due to the Cauvery unrest, @BlrCityPolice Twitter handle became the most reliable source of information.
Data scientist Karthik Murali, too, reached out to the police on the microblogging site to know if it was safe for a single lady from Banashankari to head to the city railway Station. "Safe," came the response.
For scores of Bengalureans confined to their homes due to the Cauvery unrest and battered by rumours, the @BlrCityPolice Twitter handle became the most reliable source of information to gauge the degree of violence and safety on the ground. That the handle got 62,700 new followers just in the past couple days (including about 15,000 since Monday) bears testimony to the fact.
With 2.98 lakh followers, @BlrCityPolice commands a per-tweet viewership of 8.62 million.
"We have put out at least 700 tweets, excluding retweets, since 2 pm on Monday," says constable Lokesh HM, a former call centre employee, as he quickly shifts from the @BlrCityPolice account to another window to check on tweets made to City Police Commissioner NS Megharikh's account (@CPBlr).
Five constables, with a laptop each, make up the Bengaluru Police social media control room. This pioneering move inspired police forces in Navi Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana to launch their own social media accounts.
Since Monday morning, when violence struck the city, the social media presence of the city police has gone up across platforms. The number of its patrons on Facebook is up from 4 lakh to 4.22 lakh.
"We have a team of 14 who handle our Twitter and Facebook accounts and our WhatsApp number," Deputy Commissioner of Police (Command Control) MG Nagendra Kumar.
The team works in three shifts to ensure quick response for tweets by citizens. In March this year, Twitter India created a dashboard for the city police to effectively handle complaints.
"The dashboard is purely for complaints. Right now, citizens are not posting complaints but want to know if they are safe. That's why we are now handling individual accounts," Lokesh says.
For queries on safe travel, which have been the most frequent, the team relies on information from the master control room (100) and the several WhatsApp groups in which police inspectors post regular updates regarding the ground situation.
Bengaluru-based social media expert Tinu Cherian Abraham points out that the police showed maximum restraint in its social media communication, given that the environment was volatile.
"It cleared up a lot of confusion. We see that in the past two days, tweets by the chief minister and the police were widely shared," he said.