An analysis of the calls received at the Pune City Police control room over the last few months shows that since the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic began, the proportion of incident-related calls and inquiry calls have switched places, with 90 per cent of inquiry calls pertaining to issues about the spread of Covid-19.
The police control room – accessed by dialling 100 — mainly receives two types of calls.The first are local residents alerting police about incidents that disrupt law and order, and the second type of calls are from residents seeking information of various kinds. The Pune police control room has received nearly 2,000 calls on an average over the last couple of weeks, lower than the 2,500 average calls it used to get before the pandemic hit. The highest number of calls – 3,500 on an average – was received in the initial phases of the lockdown, when lakhs of migrant workers were in distress and trying to find their way home.
But, of a significant number of calls that are received in the control room every day, many are blank calls or invalid calls, mostly because of people dialing by mistake. For example, an official explained, Pune City Control room received over 1,800 calls on Monday, of which 800 were blank calls. Of the 1,000 valid calls, 350 were incident calls and 650 were inquiry calls.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Headquarters) Virendra Mishra said, “Among the valid calls, if we compare the number of incident calls to the inquiry calls with those during pre-Covid days, the numbers have been swapped. Earlier, incident calls used to be almost twice that of inquiry calls, but it’s the opposite now. Close to 90 per cent of the inquiry calls are about coronavirus and related issues. Because of the lockdown, the incident calls have reduced significantly while concerns and queries of people about Covid-19 have increased.”
DCP Mishra further said that Covid-related calls were often about a range of topics.
“Largest number is about travel permits, their requirements, the status of applications of the travel passes etc. Another category is people seeking information about Covid care centres, and what to do in case someone shows symptoms. Our control room staff is regularly briefed and trained for the responses to these calls. We also have a system of taking feedback when we call back the caller at a later time, asking whether their problems have been solved. During the time when large number of stranded persons were anxious to head home, we saw a significant rise in the number of calls,” he said.
“The calls seeking help and information range from people telling us about the financial crunch, and about many of them not getting food or items for basic needs. Each one of these calls were responded to by the local police station. A large number of the calls at the time were inquiries about availability of trains, buses, modes of transport, and information about government shelters. There are people informing us about new people coming to live in their locality, people not following safety norms etc. The inquiry calls about Covid-related issues reflect concerns of the people, which we try our best to answer and direct them to appropriate authorities,” added DCP Mishra.
‘When will Corona end?’
The control room has received multiple calls in the recent past where exasperated callers have asked ‘When will the pandemic end?’ Referring to the calls, Pune Police Commissioner K Venkatesham stated in a tweet, “We are often asked ‘When will corona end?’ While we cannot give an exact answer to this, we can certainly tell you one thing – when we all start following the rules, then only corona will end.”