As thunder roars in the background, the number of calls received on six telephones in the Public Works Department’s (PWD) 12th floor control room steadily increase. Fearing an impending accident, a resident sends a photo at 2.14 pm of a tree near JNU Campus, bent after heavy rain. Within two hours, another person WhatsApps the department a picture of a pit in Sangam Vihar, formed due to waterlogging. Many others call to inform officials about waterlogging in their localities.
“The PWD control room has been receiving approximately 17 complaints a day regarding waterlogging since June 15. Of these, around half pertain to PWD roads, which are wider than 60 feet, while the rest come under other departments such as MCDs and DDA,” said a PWD official. The complaints are then forwarded to the department concerned.
The PWD control room works round the year, but from 9 am to 9 pm. Since complaints are almost double during the monsoon, the control room is functional round the clock. Three officials — two operators and a multi-tasking staff — work at any given point of the day.
The six landlines on the two desks are extensions of the two PWD complaint numbers (1800110093 and 23490323). Several tabs are open on the operators’ computer screens. One responds to complaints received on the PWD WhatsApp complaint number while also reverting to tweets. The other operator handles calls and responds to complaints made on the PWD website. One of the complaints on the WhatsApp number was of a fallen tree, which was sent to the MCD concerned.
Coloured post-its with phone numbers of various departments are stuck on the computer screens. “We are required to know which engineer is stationed at which spot. Only if we know the directory in and out can we redirect the complaint to the correct person,” said one of the operators.
PWD claims to have completed desilting exercises on roads under its jurisdiction by June 15. But waterlogging continues to be a headache, with officials saying the biggest culprit is plastic. Once a complaint is received, the operator feeds data into their internal software and the executive engineer of the area concerned is notified. The officer concerned then visits the spot and ensures that necessary steps are taken — either pumping or removal of plastic waste from drains.
While several complaints are received through call and on WhatsApp, the number of complaints on Twitter have increased in the last year, said officials.
Most complaints are about waterlogging or uncovered drains. Officials have also started maintaining an excel sheet of all complaints received via social media.
Most complaints are resolved in a few hours, and the complainant receives a message regarding the action taken.