In a gross misuse of essential resources, the numbers reserved for citizens to call on in case of disasters or accidents are being used by BMC officers and heads of department to plan meetings for their staff.

Representational pic
Representational pic

Higher-ups in the BMC apparently use the 1916 disaster management cell helpline to do so because the cell has the numbers of officials in every department so that they can be contacted in case of an emergency or to help redress a consumer’s complaint.

Since officials from various departments work in different parts of the city and usually travel to the BMC headquarters for meetings, higher-ups find it easy to co-ordinate through the disaster management cell.

Other departments also reportedly use the disaster helpline numbers to send messages to BMC officials and call corporators for functions or scheduled meetings. Frowning upon this practice, the BMC issued a circular on August 27, warning its officials not to use the helplines for such things.

The circular ( a copy of which is with mid-day) states that the disaster helplines are meant only to co- ordinate and provide help as soon as possible in case of a disaster or an accident and take citizens’ complaints and redress them, and they should not be used for any other purpose.

The circular also mentions that the use of the disaster management helplines for “ other purposes” puts an additional burden on staffers manning the helplines, affecting their routine duty, and that doing so could hamper co-ordination during emergencies.

There are more than 10 lines of the 1916 number. Apart from that, 19 hotlines to vital agencies, 3 major and 2 peripheral hospitals and 24 administrative wards are also connected to the cell. Each provides regular updates about the situation in the city. Disaster management cell chief officer Mahesh Narvekar was unavailable for comment.