Lucknow: WhatsApp is fast emerging as a tool to check crime in Uttar Pradesh with the police receiving a slew of complaints, including traffic violations and corruption, through the hugely popular social networking app.
In the past one month, over four key departments have taken to WhatsApp to either act as a crime stopper or as a tool to gather feedback on services that the government offers to its citizens.
The Lucknow police, a while back, launched the WhatsApp complaint tool to gather complaints against four-wheelers with tinted and black glasses. It also extended the ambit of WhatsApp use to report traffic offences like not stopping at the red light, rash driving and driving without helmet on two-wheelers.
Lucknow's Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Navneit Sikera, the officer who initiated the WhatsApp-as-crime stopper move, says he is very happy at the outcome.
"The response has been tremendous and within a few weeks we have been able to pinpoint those who break traffic rules and act against them," Sikera told IANS.
In the last few weeks alone, more than 3,363 challans have been issued based on WhatsApp pictures and videos that people sent to the police.
Buoyed by the response, the police extended the WhatsApp complaint mechanism to include molestation cases and stunts on motorcycles.
"We will now also use the application to check eve teasing and the WhatsApp mobile number will be connected to the highly successful women's power line 1090," said Sikera.
As many as 43 police station in-charges in the state capital have been asked to publicize it so that the police could have more complaints to act upon, the official added.
The government railway police (GRP) too has found WhatsApp useful. It is now using it to nab railways staff - ticket collectors, coach attendants and vendors selling food products who fleece passengers aboard trains.
"We have been flooded with complaints that TTEs (Travelling Ticket Examiners) seek bribes to confirm tickets and also adjust illegal passengers on board trains and sometimes even GRP constables are said to be indulging in extortion. WhatsApp has emerged as a major crime stopper for us," says a senior GRP official.
Not just that.
WhatsApp is also being used by the UP State Roadways Transport Corporation (UPSRTC), which has publicized a WhatsApp number for people using the state buses.
Mukesh Meshram, UPSRTC managing director, said that passengers have been asked to click pictures or shoot videos of garbage dumping at bus stations, lack of drinking water, filthy toilets and other problems like torn seats and dirty buses and send it to them through WhatsApp.
He assured that they will act on them promptly.
"Maintenance of buses has emerged as a major problem for passengers and ...we are trying to set it right," he added.
The move behind the WhatsApp mechanism with the state roadways is also to deter employees from "taking passengers for granted" as was the case in the past.
"People are very tech-savvy these days," the official says.
Sources say the state government now plans to replicate it in other departments.
An official at the chief minister's office said: "The chief minister has given us clear instructions to assimilate new age technology for better governance."
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav himself is a "phone buff" and interacts with close aides and friends through BBM (blackberry messenger) and WhatsApp.
"...He uses it as an effective tool of feedback and complaint redressal," a close aide of the chief minister told IANS.