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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Even though Odisha heaves a sigh of relief with daily COVID cases registering gradual decline, the staff working at the State COVID Helpline (104) continue to be rattled by fake callers posing as COVID patients.

The extent of the harassment can be gauged from the fact that the third-party service provider, Ziquitza Healthcare, had to register an FIR with the Saheed Nagar Police Station on Wednesday as pranksters refuse to budge.

As per reports, as many as 500 calls were made from a particular number just to harass the female staff and doctors attending to the distress calls on the Helpline.

The FIR registered by the service provider reveals the murkier details of the harassment which employees have been subjected to. While 492 spam calls were received from a single phone number, more than 200 were received from another.

There are at least 30 phone numbers from which the call centre employees received at least 50 fake calls each while from another 10 numbers they received over 100 such fake calls.

A staff at the call centre said, “We have been hassled by a series of fake and crank callers with request to share our personal phone numbers. Some even do not hesitate to use cuss words and hurl abuses when we refuse to entertain them.”

The Project Head at the call centre, Sabyasachi Biswal said, “It has a de-motivating effect on our employees. Besides, the barrage of fake calls keeps the emergency helpline busy, thereby denying service to the needy.”

“We receive at least 300-350 such calls on a daily basis at the call centre,” Biswal added.

Bhubaneswar DCP, Umashankar Dash said, “It is the duty of every citizen to cooperate with the staff at the call centre who are working overtime to provide experts’ advice on COVID care from the comforts of their homes.”

He said the police has received the complaint about the mischief mongers who would be brought to justice soon. “I will make it sure that the perpetrators are nabbed and brought to justice,” Dash added.

It is pertinent to mention here that this is not the first time such an FIR has been registered. Ziquitza Health Care, which operates the call centre handling Odisha govt's toll-free 104 COVID19 helpline, had earlier filed a complaint with the Saheed Nagar Police against 38 mobile numbers from which abusive/fake calls were received in May 2020.

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