TNN, Tamaghna Banerjee| TNN | Apr 17, 2017, KOLKATA: Last week, a 16-year-old victim of auto rage at Baguiati was denied help by policemen on the road, but the boy got immediate assistance after dialing 100. According to officers of Bidhannagar City Police, more often than not, the control room number is busy with prank calls than those from people in distress.
Unhappy girlfriends call up after a fight with their men. So do mobile shop owners to show customers that the phone is working. Sometimes, drunk men or little children call up just for a laugh at night, while at times parents call cops asking them to come over and rebuke their children for not studying. This is a regular story at the Bidhannagar City Police's control room, where operators answer calls to 100 on three phones.
The primary objective of the toll-free emergency number is to be the first responder to a distress call and coordinate between different police stations to help the caller as early as possible. However, with more than 1,000 prank or fake calls a day, operators working in three shifts have a tough time as people in real distress are often put on hold.
"During holidays and after 9pm on regular weekdays, our control room gets flooded with fake calls. Since we can't filter a fake caller without attending the call, some genuine calls get missed," said an operator at the control room in Salt Lake. "The problem becomes all the more acute during a crisis situation like an accident, communal tension, a fire or during elections when we receive hundreds of genuine calls."
Officers say children and drunk men form a bulk of the prank callers. Some children disconnect the call just after saying "Hello, is it police?", while others just dial 100 and keep the receiver down without disconnecting the call.
Some just want to show to their friends that they can talk to the police or have a laugh by reporting false fires or murders. "In these situations, we call up the parents to warn them and tell them to discipline the child," said an officer.
What's also shocking is that phone salesmen and repairmen use the toll-free number to test connection. It is no wonder that operators have a bag full of stories about callers — from an unhappy girlfriend asking cops to arrest his boyfriend for cheating on him to an elderly lady who complained many times about her neighbour practising classical music very loudly since morning.
However, Dial 100 is not short of its success stories. Earlier this month, a person from Salt Lake called up the control room and informed that his car was stolen while it was parked outside his house. "The car was GPS-enabled and we tracked it down near airport. I informed the officials there but by the time they tried to stop it, it had gone past the area. Later, it was tracked near Barasat, but even there our officers missed it. I set an alert over the WhatsApp group and by night, the car was tracked at Englishbazar in Malda," another officer said.
Senior officials of Bidhannagar Commissionerate said prank callers can be booked under Section 188 of Indian Penal Code. If found guilty, the caller can face jail term of one year or a fine of Rs 1,000. Besides, warning notices are issued to people under Section 149 of Criminal Procedure Code. "An undertaking is taken from the caller that he will not commit such offence again," said a senior official of the commisionerate.
The number "100" is dialled to get police help in case of an emergency. However, the police special branch of Pune has said that of the average 10,000 calls it receives per day, about 70% are prank. Surprisingly, a majority of these calls are made by children.