On December 16,Jairam Thakur,the state Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj,found that someone had hacked into his Facebook account. Not wasting a moment,he sent an SMS to 9459100100a dedicated,24×7 SMS gateway service of the Himachal Pradesh police. Somebody has hacked my Facebook account. Pls take legal action, wrote Thakur. Within a few hours,the police were on the job and his complaint was lodged at the police station.
Thakur is just one of those thousands of mobile-phone users in the state,including tourists,whose SMSes have prompted instant action and even resulted in lodging of FIRs.
The biggest advantage of the SMS service is that a mobile phone user,whether a tourist or a local,doesnt have to go to the thana. The SMS is received at the control room set up at Shimla,where a policeman forwards the information to the police station concerned,the SHO and the SP of the district. The action begins instantly as all 100 police stations in Himachal Pradesh are online,and the staff is equipped with mobile phones,landline phones and also the wireless, says Diljeet Singh,the states Director General of Police.
Till date,the police have registered 59 FIRs on the basis of SMSes in cases of threats,robbery,accidents caused by rash driving,obscene calls,etc. In fact,for complaints against crime against women,the police have found the service very useful as the identity of the complainant can be easily kept secret.
Senior officers,headed by the DGP and the additional DGP (law and Order),are monitoring the SMSes and action taken reports on daily basis.The officers are required to send the feed-back within 24 hours to the control room. The SMS facility supplements already offered services such as online FIRs and phone number 100 for police assistance. The SMS service is found particularly useful in offences that require swift action. High tele-density in Himachal Pradesh is another reason for the success of this service.
The elderly and women have turned out to be the biggest beneficiaries. The police get 14 to 20 messages every day,even in the night.
The service has become so popular that people are sending SMS complaints against overloading in buses,reckless driving,use of mobile phone by bus drivers,shortage of ration at PDS outlets in far-flung villages and snow-covered areas,encroachment on government land,drug abuse among children,traffic jams and even misbehaviour of policemen.
The service helps us monitor the working of our own force. We get complaints about policemen smoking at public places,misbehaving or harassing the public,or not helping people, says the DGP.
A girl from Killar in Pangi valley of Chamba district SMSed about an alleged rape attempt and the local police not lodging her complaint. Soon,a case was registered against the accused.