The strident ring of civic utility helplines often signals emergencies. But, in some cases it leaves the staff who attend the call helpless themselves. Last month, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) helpline received a call late at night from an elderly woman. Her complaint was about the dogs in her neighbourhood. “I was worried thinking the lady wanted to complain about a dog bite. After 15 minutes of narration, she said the dogs were barking too loudly and contributing to the noise pollution in her neighbourhood. It took me a few moments to explain to her that we could not intervene.”
Helplines in the city, including those of the police and civic agencies, receive calls that range from prank calls to complaints about the neighbour’s mixie or pressure cooker being too loud, come in.
For example, the police control room received a call three months ago from a teenager who wanted to complain about his girlfriend befriending another boy. When the helpline officials said they could not help him, he told them that it was a kidnap case. Police personnel swung into action, only to realise that the girl was out on her own will.
Some prank calls too have caused anxious moments. Last month, a person called the BBMP helpline and claimed that the Nayandahalli flyover had collapsed. The helpline staff alerted the jurisdictional officials and asked them to rush to the spot, but later realised that it had been a prank call. The police helpline also often gets prank calls about bombs.
During the Deepavali season, the BBMP helpline was flooded with calls urging the civic body to send officials to ask the residents of various neighbourhoods to stop bursting firecrackers.
The BBMP helpline also receives complaints about matters not under its purview, such as fluctuations in power supply and water overflowing from manholes.
To tackle this, the BBMP, which receives an average of 200 calls a day, now asks the complainant to first convey their mobile number. It has also begun recording all calls.
K. Ajay Kumar, in-charge Deputy Commissioner of Police (city control room), said such calls increase in frequency late at night. “People who are drunk make calls and say they are lonely. They ask our staff to come and meet them. Some try to settle scores with people they are having a dispute with and say that they are peddling drugs or are involved in a kidnap case. Our staff visit the location and find the claims are baseless,” he said.
However, at the police helpline, which receives 8,000 calls daily, no call can be ignored.