The helplines are flooded with around 3,000 to 4,000 calls regularly, with most of the callers seeking help to send them to their hometowns while others are informing about the acute shortage of staple food items like rice, flour and pulses.
Maximum callers are migrant workers who are stranded in various states due to the 21-day lockdown imposed by the government to break the chain of coronavirus transmission.
With the number of cases growing by the day and some states like Uttar Pradesh and Delhi sealing several areas identified as hotspots for the dreaded virus, many of the poor families are seeking help from the MHA control room after being in hit hard by the lack of money to meet the needs of their family members.
Over 80 lines linked to the helpline numbers 1930 (an all India toll-free number) and 1944 (dedicated to the Northeast) are being run in four separate rooms of the Ministry of Home Affairs office round-the-clock to address the queries of people.
Talking to IANS, an operator at 1930 said that he receives maximum calls related to ration.
“Most of the callers inform that they have ration that will last only for a few days and ask what will they do after that,” said the operator, requesting anonymity.
He said that many of the callers seek help to reach their hometowns.
Similar calls are received on 1944 from across the country and these are transferred by the operators to the concerned lines which are dedicated to solve issues related to some particular states and Union Territories.
“Some people seek information about the phone numbers of nearby ration shops, medicine stores and hospitals. We try to address all their problems,” he said.
“We provide the number of government ration shops in the nearby areas of the caller. We also provide them with helpline numbers of the concerned states and the areas from where they call. We note down the name, address and number of the callers and also make follow-up calls to find out if they have received helped or not,” he added.
Another helpline operator said that he tries to persuade people seeking help to go to their hometowns.
“I tell them that they can go to their villages or hometowns after the lockdown is eased. I tell them that the restrictions are for their own safety in order to break the chain of transmission,” he said.
Maintaining social distancing, the MHA control room operators from Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been providing their service ever since the two helplines were set up on April 3.
In its persistent effort to help the needy amid the Covid-19 crisis, the two helplines addressed over 300 queries on Wednesday.
Besides 1930 and 1944, seven other helplines are already active in the Home Ministry control room to respond to other Covid-19 related issues and they deal with the concerned departments involved in the fight against Covid-19, which has claimed 199 lives besides infecting over 6,000 people across the country.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)