A skating rink in Odisha’s backward and remote Nuapada district, which lacks even a decent community park, appears incongruous — a facility out of sync with its bucolic setting.
But for the State police, the modern recreational facility set up on the campus of a police station is a means to glide straight into the hearts of the people in a region affected by left wing extremism via the steady stream of children who visit the rink everyday.
The rink at the police station at Odisha’s Dharambandha, a tiny panchyat bordering Chhattisgarh, has been receiving batches of children every day. And they are not afraid of interacting with the police.
The idea of having a banked skating rink in Dharambandha, a tiny panchayat bordering Chhattisgarh, unavailable even in many of the State’s urban centres, took shape when Smit Parmar, a young IPS officer, assumed charge as the Superintendent of Police of Nuapada. Mr. Parmar was recently transferred out as the SP of Mayurbhanj district.
“We wanted a structure that could bring the police and the people closer. There was a vacant place on the Dharambandha police station campus. We decided to lay a skating track where children could play in close proximity to the police establishment and grow up without harbouring a fear of security forces,” said Mr. Parmar.
The outlawed CPI (Maoist) considers Dharambandha part of its Mainpur division. A few years ago, security personnel were afraid to move alone in the area and a sub-inspector of police was killed by the ultras. A company of the India Reserve Battalion is now stationed in the region for area domination.
Security forces find it difficult to challenge Maoists without cooperation from the people. The extremists often cross over to Dharambandha for refuge after incidents in neighbouring Chhattisgarh.
“Local children unfailingly come to the rink for a round on the skating board. When these children grow up, we are confident that they will be friends of the police as they are watching us from close quarters,” said the IPS officer.
Dharambandha sarpanch (headman) Om Prakash Kalar is effusive in his praise for the public skating rink. “It is unfortunate that children grow up with the mindset that police officers are to be feared. A small step like this will definitely bridge the gap between them,” he said.
Given the remote location, the children learn skating by a process of trial and error in the absence of trainers and coaches.
“Sometime, we help them by giving clues we have picked up from the internet. The children are no longer reluctant to ask us questions,” said Dillip Lakra, police officer in-charge of Dharambandha police station.