It is 9 am on a sunny October morning. The phone rings in the 400-square-foot control room of the Mumbai police’s ElderLine.
“Hello, I am Mukta Patel,” the caller says. “I am 73 years old. My son has become an alcoholic and has stopped taking care of me. My servant is very irregular. He did not come today and the house is in a mess. The milkman does not deliver daily. Today, again he did not come…”
The police constable attending to the call notes down a few phone numbers and hangs up. The constable then makes three calls—one to Patel’s son to fix up a date for his counselling and one each to the milkman and the servant to reprimand them and instruct them to be regular.
Located in a corner of the Crawford Market office of the commissioner of police, the ElderLine control room is the second busiest place in the building after the police control room.
The senior citizens’ helpline, 1090, gets at least 90 calls a day and 500 calls a week. Out of the 178 calls received in three days, 99 people called only to chat with the constables.
People call for varied reasons — from wanting to report a crime to complain about erratic servants and apathetic children. Eight police constables tackle these calls.
The helpline also aims to give senior citizens timely access to the police when they feel unsafe or are attacked.
Had 72-year-old Kuldip Bhatia (72), a Malabar Hill resident and member of the ElderLine contacted the helpline immediately after she was robbed on October 4 instead of calling a day later, the accused could have been caught.
“Being registered with the helpline helps reduce the police’s response time if ElderLine is contacted immediately,” said Sub-Inspector Firoz Patel, in charge of ElderLine.
Patel says it takes the police seven minutes to help a victim. “A gang of robbers was caught red-handed from a house in Vikhroli in September after we received a call from a senior citizen there,” said Patel.