Meet the woman who makes drug jokes with the Commissioner of Police
Sunchika Pandey, AKA Twitter Madam, is pretty dope
Jokes about marijuana, puns and Game of Thrones references— not what you’d expect from the police. Especially in India, where the word conjures up visuals of dingy rooms of dread and endless circles of red tape.
If the fearsome IRL Mumbai Police has the personality of a meme god online, it’s thanks to Sunchika Pandey, better known as ‘Twitter Madam’ for her starring role in dragging law enforcement into the age of social media.
Pandey’s Twitter game has humanised the men and women in uniform, though she insists some of the best jokes come from the cops themselves: “I still remember getting an SMS at around 11 PM at night which said, ‘If you roll, we will weed you out.’ It was from the Commissioner and I immediately replied to him saying ‘Sir, you’re hired’.”
Another example of humour in uniform comes from a discussion her team was having with some of the officers. “We were discussing the content and the police officers were taking digs at these young boys, like ‘tum logon ko bahut pata hai drugs ke baare mein, huh? Kaise jaante ho itna drugs ke baare mein?” Twitter Madam recalls about the anti-drug initiative for social media, which eventually became the popular HoshMeinAao campaign. “They’d panic ‘no sir, no sir, all only for content’. This just goes to show the police’s sense of humour and playfulness.”
The Mumbai Police’s Twitter account is Pandey’s baby. She laid the groundwork and created a working model that she’s carried on to replicate in other government institutions and state departments. Years of working as a crime reporter, followed by doing field research for Aamir Khan’s TV show Satyamev Jayate, had helped her build relationships with law enforcement.
When she approached the department with her idea of opening them up to social media, she learnt they had already been laying the groundwork and doing their research. “We spent months preparing for the Twitter launch. Apart from the content, we had to ensure that on-ground personnel were acting on people’s queries and reports. We had one motto – no complaint goes unattended,” says Pandey, who genuinely believes that social media can be used for good.
To that effect, they use wit to educate people, offering correct information about laws and regulations in language that is easy to consume. A team of officers monitor the platform making sure that people are directed to the right departments, misinformation is corrected and online incident reports get coordinated with an appropriate police response.
“Twitter seems frivolous to some people but I can see the positive impact it has had,” Twitter Madam insists. “People are engaging, communicating and there’s a conversation that grows. The news reporting and newspapers of our childhood were one-way statements. You were presented with something and you just took it. What else could we do? Write a letter to the Editor?”
While Pandey has to keep herself updated with pop culture and jokes — “My team has a lot of young people who keep me updated on everything that’s trending. I felt like one old woman” her khaki-clad colleagues are one step ahead. “The most amazing thing was when the police officers would turn around and say ‘excuse me, you think we don’t know these already?'”
— Mumbai Police (@MumbaiPolice) March 5, 2019