You are driving back from work late at night, and you need a shot of tea or a quick cigarette to keep you going – who do you turn to? Those eternal saviours of the night, the mobile tea-wallahs on their cycles or bikes.
Well-stocked with tea and coffee, sometimes even sukku coffee, they are an important reason why the ‘working night-life’ of cities like Chennai or Bengaluru continues to survive. Thanks to several MNCs with late working hours in these cities, especially on the outskirts, several tea-sellers are seen setting up shop temporarily at road corners, serving tea, biscuits and sometimes cigarettes.
However, these vendors have always been at the receiving end of police trouble. They don’t have any licenses, and they attract crowds that make policemen patrolling the night extremely uncomfortable.
As the police have realised, though, they’re here to stay. And so, the Chennai police is turning around its strategy towards them. Instead of discouraging these bike-riding, tea-selling night owls, the police has decided that it should be adopting them – making them its agents in maintaining law and order.
On Sunday morning, Adyar DCP V Balakrishnan put up a Facebook post stating that the police will now work with mobile tea sellers.
“The mobile tea sellers are unavoidable players of night in Chennai. They can be spotted everywhere in cycles with few tea and coffee flasks and variety of snack pockets. They do an important service to keep the night workers agile. We wanted to take advantage of their presence in the night instead of trying the futile exercise of discouraging them,” he said in his post.
So, the police are now making these tea sellers a part of their policing efforts. “We have begun a process in which the beat officers have started contacting them and the phone numbers of beat officers are being shared with them to collect info about the suspects they come across while serving the caffeine drinks,” Balky wrote.
Speaking to The News Minute, DCP Balakrishnan said that it was only on Saturday night that he came upon the idea and immediately implemented it.
"I contacted all the beat officers on the radio and told them that they need to develop these tea sellers as contacts. I have also announced a reward for the best officers who do a good job,” he said.
Explaining how the tea sellers can help, he said, "They are just like beat officers. For instance if they are operating in the Mylapore area, they will be stopping for business at least at 15-20 places, covering the entire area."
"They can help us in three ways. If they happen to listen to any talk on illegal activity, they can tell us. They can also inform us if they see any suspicious persons moving around. Also, they can keep a watch in vulnerable locations like banks, to see if anything illegal is happening," Balakrishnan says.
Balakrishnan adds that the process has only just been initiated, and all the protocols will have to be further fine-tuned over time.