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Rampur: COVID-19 helpline flooded with calls for paan, samosas, admin comes up with novel penalties

Rampur DM Ajani Kumar Singh Monday personally ensured that the man who called up the Swar tehsil control room number to demand "four samosas" be sent to him, was fined and then punished – he was made to clean all the drains in an area.

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi | Updated: March 31, 2020 12:50:22 pm
coronavirus lates updates, coronavirus lockdown, COVID-19, Rampur DM, demand for samosa on COVID-19 helpline, rampur COVID-19 helpline, indian express The Rampur DM tweeted a picture of the man who had asked for samosas, now cleaning drains, with a note on his offence. (Photo: Twitter/@DeoRampur)

Dealing with migrants walking through the district to reach their villages and ensuring that supply chains of essential goods and services remain intact during the lockdown, the Rampur administration is also facing an unusual problem.

Residents of Rampur, they say, are flooding the essential service’s helpline with demands for pizzas, samosas and other things.

Rampur DM Ajani Kumar Singh Monday personally ensured that the man who called up the Swar tehsil control room number to demand “four samosas” be sent to him, was fined and then punished – he was made to clean all the drains in an area.

“This is a huge problem we have been facing ever since we set up the control rooms. These had been ready even before the Prime Minister announced the lockdown, one in the District headquarters and in every tehsil and block,” said Singh speaking to The Indian Express.

But what neither Singh nor other members of the Rampur administration had anticipated was the flood of calls they received for trivial reasons. “There are some genuine calls. For instance, there was a pregnant teacher who was unwell. She wanted to leave the district and go back home. But we advised her to stay here and have been sending her cooked food as well as medicines and a doctor to conduct regular check-ups. But 50 per cent of our resources and time is used to handle these nonsensical demands,” said Singh.

“One man called up asking us to send him a Pizza. We got a call from a paan shop owner saying he had run out of paan (betel leaf) and that we must send him some. Many others would call and ask us to send cooked food. Pharmacies and grocers would ask us to send supplies. When our volunteers would reach, they would find that there was no actual need, that the persons concerned were simply “testing the system’’,’’adds Singh.

Not wanting to use coercive police action, the administration decided to fine such violations, including for defying the lockdown. Rampur officials have pointed out that residents would come out on to the streets and walk around because “they couldn’t sit at home any longer”.

The administration started levying a fine of Rs 500 for every such violation. Till this evening, the Rampur administration had collected close to Rs 2 lakh in fines alone — this is only in the past five days.

The administration has also started “publicly shaming” the violators by putting up their pictures and offences on social media. The Rampur DM has personally tweeted a picture of the man who had asked for samosas, now cleaning drains, with a note on his offence.

On Friday alone, the Ramour administration collected Rs 32,000 from one tehsil – Tanda – where despite a declaration from the local masjid head to read the namaaz at home, droves turned up, only to find the masjid locked. They have all been fined, says officials. Many, like the paan shop owner and the man demanding samosas, have been made to clean drains.

“We are battling a pandemic and our volunteers in these control rooms are teachers and other professionals who have put their own health and safety on the line to help us contain this. It is only fair then that the violators be made to assist us with this work,’’ added Singh.

Rampur administration has issued eight helpline numbers, two mobile phone numbers manned by two volunteers and three WhatsApp numbers as helplines.

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