Here’s What Happens Inside Delhi’s Police Control Room (PCR) After You Dial 100
- IWB Post
- September 4, 2019
“We hear calls in our sleep, in our dreams. Sometimes my family calls me on my mobile and I pick it up and say ‘Namashkar, PCR channel number’…and they say, ‘Have you gone mad,” says constable Anu, who works at Delhi Police’s emergency call centre.
When Live Mint took a sneak peek in the “call centre” at Delhi’s Police Control Room (PCR) 100, the first thing that they observed was that there is never a dull moment inside.
“It is the first front for all of Delhi’s violence, distress, rage, panic, and trouble. It is a call centre unlike any in the city in that it is always under siege—fielding calls by the thousands every single day,” writes Rudraneil Sengupta.
“Our job is to respond to everything, and respond in the appropriate way. Our system works on a three-level redundancy—all calls are reported to the district police administration, the local police station, and the PCR, so nothing can slip out,” shares Devender Arya, DCP, operations and communications.
No city police force in India manages the volume of calls and emergencies that floods Delhi Police’s control room on an everyday basis.
Rudraneil explains how the setup works:
“The PCR “call centre” is manned 24 hours, divided into three shifts, with 50 operators handling 50 channels on any given shift. Most of these channels are dedicated to 100; a handful are given to more specialized lines, like 1091, the women’s helpline number (two channels), 1094 for missing persons (one channel), and 1093, the special cell for northeastern states (two channels). The specialized lines get only a trickle of calls through the day, most people just dial 100.
Once a call comes into any of these channels, the operator behind the line tries to coax out basic information—the caller’s location and the nature of the complaint—which they feed into their computer. The call can be slotted into one of three categories of priority: high, medium or low. A standard protocol defines the priorities—for example, all calls from women in distress go to high, as do the usual suspects robbery, murder, dead bodies, kidnapping, rioting, armed attacks, etc. If the operator is fielding a high priority call, they will also tick the boxes on their screen that alert other emergency service providers, including the Delhi government’s CATS ambulance service, traffic police, and local police. The fire brigade and the National Disaster Relief Force can also be notified.”
For the new recruits to PCR, there are certain calls that haunt them for days. However, as they get used to the job, they start getting used to the disturbing calls.
“For Anu, it was a murder that was reported late on a night shift. The first call from the number was made by a woman screaming and crying that her husband was beating her up. A few minutes later, when the same number flashed again on her screen, it was the husband—calling to say that he had killed his wife,” Rudraneil writes.
Anu shares, “When I first came here and heard calls like these, people howling and crying, people being beaten up, it felt shocking, I felt desperate to do something. But it’s funny how quickly these things become just normal… routine. Now I am cold, I try to have no emotion towards these calls because that makes you more efficient.”
The 24-hour span inside a PCR call centre can be seen through a peculiar filter. Early mornings (4am-8am) is when dead bodies are found, and road accidents and robberies are reported. From 8am, it is time to field calls for traffic jams and road rage. From 10am till around 4pm is the best time when most people are at work, calls are fewer. From 6pm to 9pm, the traffic jam and road rage calls come flooding back. Post 11pm, it’s time for the drunkards and the “habituals” to start calling.
Two kinds of calls that remain constant for 24 hours include quarrels and domestic violence. In fact, together they amount to nearly 50% of all the calls received. “People in Delhi really like to fight. And they seem to never be able to resolve any situation themselves. Anything happens, call 100,” says an operator.
Sadly the system is incompetent and lags despite the hard work put in by the force. It struggles with the overwhelming volume of emergencies it is required to handle, its outmoded software, and its rickety infrastructure.
The police administration is well aware that the system needs a major upgrade. Last year, they began trials on a nationwide single emergency number system like 911 in the US or 999 in the UK. Perhaps, these are the final days of 100.
H/T: Live Mint