Kerala police spread awareness on COVID-19 online through funny, thoughtful content

Film clips, songs, and even animal videos, along with powerful messages are used by the Kerala police online team and media centre to reach out to people.
Kerala police Covid awareness campaign
Kerala police Covid awareness campaign
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You don’t see the vehicle but only what is in front of it – an empty road with police officials standing every few metres with a message on a placard. The placards read, one after the other: “Where are you going? Why are you going? Think again if you have to go;  there are more than 40,000 cases of COVID-19 every day, more than 5,000 deaths so far. Think again. Go back. There are people waiting for you at home.”

At the end of the last message, everything turns black and white and the vehicle appears to go in reverse all the way back home.

The State Police Media Centre of Kerala released this short video against a soundtrack of melodious music – flute cover of ‘Poomuthupole’ from the film Joseph – on the first morning of a nine-day lockdown in the state. The lockdown was announced after recommendations from doctors, as cases per day increased by tens of thousands during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is, as the video says, more than 40,000 cases a day now.

The state police, known for their online presence, has been releasing videos to spread COVID-19 awareness in humorous and thoughtful ways.

“The idea is that these messages should reach the maximum number of people. Sometimes we get criticised, and some people ask if the police have no other work. But these online posts and videos help take messages of safety to a large number of people,” says Arun BT, who is part of the media cell, handling social media for the Kerala Police. He is the person behind the concepts of most of the videos made by the media cell.

There are now seven police officers in the team including Arun. The others are Kamalanadh KR (ASI), Bimal VS, Santhosh PS (SCPOs), Santhosh K, Akhil P, Nidheesh C (CPOs). Guiding them is social media nodal officer Manoj Abraham, IPS.

The Facebook page of the Kerala Police had become so popular that at one point it was chosen as a subject of study by Microsoft – when it crossed the New York Police Department’s Facebook page in terms of number of followers. However, it was only recently that the Twitter page too began getting attention.

“We use Twitter to reach out to people in places outside Kerala. Once we used a video by [Telugu film star] Allu Arjun for a promo of police app Pol-App. And it had gone viral among the people of Andhra. We realised the power of star reach. Next time we used a video of Rajanikanth to spread a message on following COVID-19 protocol. That worked too,” says Arun.

In another short video, they used animation to show the coronavirus – walking like a human – during the earlier lockdown, away from the city into the darkness. But once the cases came down and people began getting careless about following protocol, the coronavirus returned from the darkness, bigger and stronger. “I am back,” says the caption under it.

A more serious video shows a man breathing his last as a message scrolls by: "a mask is better than a ventilator". More such messages are in the video, “home is better than the ICU”, and of course, “prevention is better than cure”.

The Pathanamthitta police went a step further and created a song to spread awareness of the pandemic.

Film clips frequently get used to spread fun-filled awareness messages. One of the most popular comedies in Malayalam cinema – Nadodikattu – gets pulled into such humorous videos and memes. A recent one has the film’s actors Mohanlal and Sreenivasan looking worriedly at the coronavirus coming from one end (in the film, it is a scary looking policeman), and then they see a mask and sanitiser at the other end and cheer up (in the film, it is a picture of Mahatma Gandhi).

A new movie used by the police in their awareness messages is Joji. A scene between brothers arguing in a hospital is used to convey the message to stop blaming each other and follow the protocol. The film, made during the pandemic, has its characters wearing masks, but two of them have pulled it down to the chin and that’s what the meme is about.

Yet another video is a mix of movie clips where a parody of the popular ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ song is used to convey the message of following COVID-19 protocol, with appropriate film scenes.

A really adorable video uploaded recently is of a man stepping out of the house – you only see his legs, and a puppy following him and persistently pulling at his pants to stop him from going. On cue, the police put out the message to stay indoors during the pandemic.

Where there are dogs, cats can’t be far behind. A picture of cats on a roadside, resting, with at least two meters between them, is used to tell you they are following physical distancing. So, why don’t you?

Talking about animals, one video that has gone really viral is of a police officer who stops his vehicle every day on the way back from work, to feed two skinny street dogs. He tells another policeman in the video how it broke his heart to see them looking like skeletons one night and he began taking food for them every day since then. They come running as soon as they see his vehicle. His name is Subrahmanian Potti, the Sub Inspector of Police at the Nemom station.

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