IAS officer traumatised after Aarey green activists makes her number public

Updated: 24 January, 2018 11:22 IST | Suraj Ojha | Mumbai

Getting hundreds of harassing calls after Aarey activists made her number public, IASofficer Ashwini Bhide has filed a police complaint

Ashwini Bhide, managing director of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC)
Ashwini Bhide, managing director of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC)

Metro rail chief Ashwini Bhide has suffered a nasty 'jhatka' for the past fortnight, after her phone got flooded with calls from citizens protesting against Metro III. It was non-profit organisation Jhatka.org that allegedly provided the phone number and appealed to the protesters to call Bhide to express their objections. The IAS official claimed she received hundreds of calls, leaving her unable to use her phone or focus on work.

Aarey Colony is an ecologically sensitive area that is home to diverse wildlife, including leopards. File pic
Aarey Colony is an ecologically sensitive area that is home to diverse wildlife, including leopards. File pic

Ashwini Bhide, managing director of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), claimed that since January 12, she got hundreds of calls from strangers, criticising the authorities' decision to build the Metro shed in Aarey. Fed up, she has now registered a complaint with the Mumbai police.

Sources revealed that when she started getting the calls, it was from one particular number, which she subsequently blocked. But soon after she started receiving calls from another number. Bhide blocked that number too, as well as a third number from which the calls started yet again. Bhide then tried switching off her cell phone, after which her office landline started ringing. Eventually, Sanjay Dani, a a retired ACP and MMRC's security consultant, approached Bandra Kurla Complex police station to lodged a complaint on behalf of Bhide.

Modus operandi
mid-day had earlier reported on the call campaign, which is being led by Jhatka.org. The organisation has been hired by the citizens' forum Aarey Conservation Group (ACG). According to the police, the campaigners circulated a message appealing to people to call on a particular number to mount pressure on Bhide over the Aarey issue. If the caller is unable to talk with Bhide, they get a message of protest that they can then forward to her cell phone.

The police said that this kind of operation is called a Denial-of-service (DoS) attack. A DoS attack typically floods servers, systems or networks with traffic in order to overwhelm the victim's resources and make it difficult or impossible to use them.

Confirming the development, Kalpana Gadekar, senior inspector at BKC police station, said, "We have registered an FIR against unidentified persons under Sections 186 of the IPC and 43 and 66 of the Information Technology Act. It is a sort of DoS attack, and we are investigating further." Despite repeated attempts to contact Bhide, she remained unavailable for comment.

The other side
Yash Marwah, a volunteer from ACG, said, "We launched two campaigns with the help of Jhatka.org; one was a missed call campaign, and the second was a targeted call campaign. In the second campaign, we targeted the Chief Minister, Suburban Collector and MMRC's Managing Director.

Of the three, the call would be redirected to whoever's phone was not busy. This call campaign was only for two days — on January 18 and 19. If indeed people have been calling even before that, then maybe the authorities should have a public debate with citizens about Aarey."

Avijit Michael, a trustee from jhatkaa.org, said, "We started this campaign around two-and-a-half weeks ago. The public are voicing their opinion, as there has been no public consultation on the matter, which the authorities are legally bound to do. During this campaign, Bhide may received around 200 calls. The campaign is still on."

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First Published: 24 January, 2018 11:18 IST

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