Secret service agent James Bond may prefer his martini ‘shaken not stirred’. But in Tamil Nadu, citizens in distress, perhaps in hot pursuit by criminals, can shake their mobile phones and stir up the control room for a knight in khakhi from the nearest police station to show up on the spot. Hopefully, faster than the average 5-minute response time for a direct call to 100. On pressing the emergency button, the caller’s live location can be identified and a short surrounding video of up to 15 seconds will be shared with the control room via the background camera. These are some of the sixty odd features of a new Police Assistance App ‘Kaaval Uthavi’ that can be downloaded free of cost from google playstore.
The brainchild of Director General of Police – Cyber Crime Amaraesh Pujari, the app, arguably the first of its kind in India, was recently launched by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K.Stalin.
A 1991 batch IPS officer, Pujari has held several sensitive posts from Inspector General of Police – Intelligence, Commissioner of Police, Coimbatore City, Chief Immigration Officer, South, Additional Director General of Police – Crime Branch CID and head of the Tamil Nadu Police Academy. In addition to his B.Sc. & MBA degrees, domain knowledge and expertise through a diploma in Cyber Crime & Information Security came in handy when he started the project during his stint in the Technical Services Wing of the Tamil Nadu Police. “It was very kind of the Head of Police Force Dr.Sylendra Babu, IPS, to allow me to continue the development of the app even after I moved to the Cyber Wing.”
With his ear to the ground, the former intelligence boss, would often wonder that “from grocery to flight tickets to hotel bookings to banking services, everything has moved to mobile platforms. Then, why not Police service delivery?”
Practical to the core, the app addresses a few crucial pain points in dealing with the cops. For starters, how many of us remember the slew of helpline numbers? No more catch 22 situations with helplines galore, as this app has integrated 22 different emergency numbers. Quite akin to the 911 SOS number in the West. Visits to police stations can now be rationed or even avoided altogether for reporting of chain snatching, minor thefts, tenant verification, employee screening, traffic challan payment, non-traceable certificates for lost documents, or obtaining traffic violation history while buying a second-hand vehicle.
Whistle-blowers can report crimes like sale of drugs or prostitution without revealing their identity. Unlike many other apps, storage is not a challenge here as images and videos up to 30MB can be shared. For emergency services, internet is not required.
When most folks download many social media apps and those of other private service providers like dunzo or swiggy without batting an eyelid, privacy concerns and the hesitation over according permission to view files and photos on the phone for this app for personal safety, that seeks minimal information, come across as misplaced.
The cyber-crime chief advises users to “get acclimatised to the features in advance so that navigation will be seamless in an emergency.” Pepper spray canisters just got a new hi-tech companion.
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, an Arbitrator, Columnist, Author & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)