Even as the Uttar Pradesh Police gears up to launch a new helpline for women four days from now, 20 of the 43 police stations in the state capital have non-functional telephones, disconnected over non-payment of bills.
Sources in the district police confirmed to IANS that these police stations fail to reach crime scenes promptly as most people try to contact them on their "dead phones". The numbers are displayed in bold letters across the city.
While most Station House Officers (SHO) have close user group (CUG) mobile phones, they are rarely answered.
Anju Jain, a resident of Gomtinagar, who faced continuous harassment by local goons, told IANS that while CUG numbers of officials are displayed everywhere, they rarely answer. If they do, they ask the caller to call the police station.
"How does one call a police station when their phones are disconnected?" Jain asked.
According to the police department, telephones in important police stations like Alambagh, Aliganj, Aashiana, Banthara, Bakshi Ka Talaab, Cantonment, Chinhat, Itaunja, Gudamba, Krishnanagar, Manaknagar, Malihabad, Nigohan, Talkatora, Thakurganj, Gosainganj, Mohanlalganj, Nagram and Vibhuti Khand in Gomtinagar are non-functional due to non-payment of bills.
The 20 police stations cover about half the population of the state capital and some parts of the old city, a communally sensitive area.
Even the Mahila Thana's (women's police station) telephone has been disconnected over non-payments of bills. The number 2261000, similar helpline to 1090 -- the women's cell telephone number -- launched a few months ago has been non-functional following the transfer of Senior Superintendent of Police Ashutosh Pandey.
Officials said that Lucknow Police has been sanctioned Rs.8.30 lakh for the current financial year for landline telephone bills. Out of this, Rs.5.07 lakh has already been spent.
BSNL officials said while Rs.11 lakh was due against landline telephones used by police in the city, they "given a long rope" and "grace periods" to them, to no avail.
"What do we do with unpaid bills running into lakhs of rupees and no sign of their payments anytime soon?" said a BSNL fficial.
While admitting that telephones were disconnected, Senior Superintendent of Police Lucknow R.K. Chaturevdi said that data of usage and billing amounts was being collected to facilitate payments. "We are trying to ensure that all data comes to us soon and that we clear the dues soon and get the lines restored," he added.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at email@example.com)