The Rampur district administration in Uttar Pradesh is facing an unusual problem amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to officials, residents are flooding the helpline for essential services with demands for pizzas, samosas and the like. District Magistrate Ajani Kumar Singh Monday ensured that a man, who called up Swar tehsil control room and demanded that “four samosas’’ be delivered to him, was fined and then punished – he was made to clean drains.
“We set up control rooms at district headquarters, tehsils and blocks before the lockdown to ensure that supply chains are not disrupted. After Janata Curfew was announced, we had anticipated a longer lockdown,’’ Singh said.
But what Singh and others did not anticipate was the flood of frivolous calls. “We do get genuine calls. A pregnant teacher was unwell. She wanted to leave the district and go home. But we advised her to stay and have been sending her food and medicines, and a doctor for check-ups. But 50 per cent of our resources and time is spent on nonsensical demands.”
The district magistrate added, “One man called up and asked for a pizza. A betel shop owner said he had run out of betel leaves and we must send him some. Many asked for cooked food, and pharmacies and grocers asked for supplies. When our volunteers reached, they said they were ‘testing the system’.’’
The administration has started levying fines for such actions and also for defying the lockdown.
Officials have pointed out that some residents had been loitering because “they couldn’t sit at home”. The administration has now started levying Rs 500 as fine for such violations. A sum of nearly Rs 2 lakh has been collected in fines over the past five days.
“We are battling a pandemic and our volunteers in control rooms are teachers and others who have put their health on the line. It is only fair that violators be made to assist us,’’ the DM said, referring to the man who was asked to clean drains.
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