Police order is a pain: Phone booth operators

Last Updated: Wed, Dec 26, 2012 13:00 hrs

Mumbai, Dec 26 (IANS) Public telephone booth operators cried foul over a new diktat by Mumbai Police making it mandatory to keep a record of the address of people making calls and the number he or she calls.

The circular specifies that if booth operators don't supply the name and address of the caller, they will be held liable.

While police says proof of identity like college and school ID cards, driving licenses and PAN cards would suffice, operators say there are times when a caller is in a hurry and does not carry identity proof.

"This will curb the menace of prank calls, and also blackmail and extortion calls. If PCO owners have entries of persons making calls, we will readily trace persons making anti-social or hoax calls," said Deputy Commissioner of Police Nisar Tamboli.

But Achintya Mukherjee, secretary of the Bombay Telephone Users Association (BTUA), said people in a hurry may fail to to provide proof of identity.

"In this day and age, when everyone has a cell phone, a PCO will be used only in emergency. The caller might not have time to register his details before making the call," he said.

BTUA, formed in 1985, is an association that provides legal services, conducts public interest litigation, engages in advocacy, conducts legal awareness programmes, investigates violations and also publishes 'know your rights' material, besides participating in campaigns.

Mukherjee also questioned the crime detection skills of Mumbai Police, stating that a fake caller can still escape by providing a fake identity.

"What they could do is have closer coordination with service providers and concentrate on online checking of hoax calls," he added.

Mukherjee also pointed out that many booths in Mumbai are manned by disabled persons - deaf or blind people - who have been allotted a PCO by the government.

"For them, maintaining records is difficult and this presents a problem for police," he said.

Quoting MTNL statistics, Mukherjee said there were 82,403 local PCOs and 10,041 STD booths in Mumbai. Of these, 7,207 PCOs and 180 STD booths were run by physically handicapped.

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