Prank callers give Himachal’s ‘108 Emergency’ a headache

During the last ten months, the 108 Emergency Free Ambulance Services control in Himachal Pradesh has received more than 1.3 lakh "prank and abusive" calls. However, most prank callers — one of whom have made 12,541 calls from his cellphone number 8679465209 since January — have been been let off after counseling and only with a warning by the police. Now, many such callers, whose location and whereabouts are unknown, have switched off their cellphones.

Another caller, who made 8,218 calls from cell number 9069269048, is also out of reach or has stopped using the number. So are several other numbers, which are either switched off or does not exist, according to the figures released by GVK EMRI — the company manning the operation of 108 ambulances in the state.

"We have faced a situation where 65 to 70 calls came from inconspicuous numbers to the 108 emergency service. These calls were either useless or abusive. Out of 2.7 lakh calls received by the 108 services in Himachal in the last 10 months, at least 1.3 lakh were prank and abusive calls. We have approached the police to take action against such callers," GVK EMRI state head Mehul Sukumaran said.

"As many as 99 per cent of the calls are answered in less than three seconds of the call being made. The staff working at the call response centre have been adequately trained. But the increasing number of prank calls is a hindrance, as time is a key factor when it comes to saving someone's life," he added.

While terming it as a "serious matter", Himachal DGP I D Bhandari blamed GVK EMRI for not taking it up effectively with the police. "Except what I had come to know from the media, the company did not approach the district SPs or other seniors officers for so long. I will pass strict orders to all SPs and IGs of the three ranges to identify all such callers and take them to task. A strong message needs to be sent out to nuisance markers," he said. Amandeep Garg, Mission Director of NRHM, also expressed surprise over the matter. "I am asking GVK EMRI to send details of all such bogus callers so that the matter could be taken up with the police," he said.

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