Bidhan Nagar City police are in a dilemma whether to receive calls on emergency helpline number 100 or not. According to them, more often than not, the control room number is busy with prank calls. They alleged that they get so many fake calls that it makes difficult for them to help people in distress.
Unhappy girlfriends call and tell PCR to arrest their boyfriends. Mobile shop owners call 100 to show customers that the phone is working. Sometimes, little children or drunken people call up at night just for a laugh, while at times parents call cops asking them to come over and rebuke their children for not studying. Even elderly ladies sometimes calls and alleged that the neighbor is practicing classical music since morning.
Officers say children and drunken men form a bulk of the prank callers. Some children disconnect the call just after saying “Hello, is it police?”, while others just dial 100 and keep the receiver down without disconnecting the call.
Some just want to show to their friends that they can talk to the police or have a laugh by reporting false fires or murders. “In these situations, we call up the parents to warn them and tell them to discipline the child,” said an officer.
Bidhan Nagar City Police Control Room (PCR) receives over 1,000 prank calls a day. Operators, who attend the call on three phones, have a tough time deciding who are real and genuine people in distress, who need immediate police help.
“During holidays and after 9 pm on regular weekdays, our control room gets flooded with fake calls. Since we can’t filter a fake caller without attending the call, some genuine calls get missed,” said an operator at the control room in Salt Lake. “The problem becomes all the more acute during a crisis situation like an accident, communal tension, a fire or during elections when we receive hundreds of genuine calls.”
The toll-free emergency number 100 is dialed by people in distress to get immediate assistance. Last week, a 16-year-old victim of auto rage at Baguiati was denied help by policemen on the road, but the boy got immediate assistance after dialing 100.
To stop misuse of number 100, there’s a provision under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code to punish prank callers. If found guilty, the caller can face jail term of one year or a fine of Rs.1000. Besides, warning notices are issued to people under Section 149 of Criminal Procedure Code.
However, Dial 100 is not short of its success stories. Earlier this month, a person from Salt Lake called up the control room and informed that his car was stolen while it was parked outside his house. “The car was GPS-enabled and we tracked it down near the airport. I informed the officials there but by the time they tried to stop it, it had gone past the area. Later, it was tracked near Barasat, but even there our officers missed it. I set an alert over the WhatsApp group and by night, the car was tracked at Englishbazar in Malda,” another officer said.