A helpline number of the Mumbai Police has only rung 25 times since its launch three and a half years ago. And 19 of these emergency calls came this year alone. In 2013 and 2014, this emergency number dedicated for the port zone of the Mumbai Police never rang – not a single call was made to the helpline in those years.
In 2013, the port zone helpline – 1093 – was set up. With a dedicated landline installed at a Nagpada police control room, a single police constable mans the emergency number.
“Humara kaam hi hai intezaar karna aur phir agar phone aaye toh note karke varisht ko batana hai,” said Constable S K Tambalvakar, deputed with the helpline’s day shift since January this year.
The toll-free number was launched for registering complaints and receiving tip-offs pertaining to coastal security. It was specially meant for the fishing community and villagers residing along the coastline of Mumbai.
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“Last year, there were six calls made to 1093, most of them were important and reflected public alertness. Eight months ago in November, a woman from a fishing colony in Worli brought to our notice four young men with rucksacks who were spotted on a small boat. She said she feared a repeat of 26/11. We verified her tip-off and found the youth were only travelling and there was nothing suspicious,” said Kirankumar Chavan, then Deputy Commissioner of Police (Port Zone). Chavan said most of the times when local residents can’t reach 100, the main emergency of the Mumbai Police, they call 1093.
“The complaints are coast-related, if locals saw a large unknown ship or an unidentified trawler they would call. The benefits are dual, for coastal security and for self-help,” Chavan added.
A senior port officer recounted a distress call made by two fisherman who were sleeping in a boat that had broken off its anchor.
“The fishermen said they had drifted nearly four kilometres from where they were anchored at Bhaucha Dhaka. They reached out to us to be rescued,” said the officer.
A recurring complaint the police claim to receive are of fish being stolen by other fisherman. “Several posters have been put up at various ports and koliwadas to spread awareness about 1093. This is one of the main reasons why we have received 19 calls between January and May this year,” said Sunita Salunkhe, currently incharge of port zone.
While the Mumbai Police’s swanky new control room on DN Road receives more than a 100 calls daily, Tambalvakar says he times his trips to the bathroom and has a colleague briefly take care of the 1093 line while he is away.