A traffic officer stands beside a coronavirus-themed globe at a traffic junction as he checks commuters travelling during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Hyderabad, on April 18, 2020.(Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s not yet dawn. A helpline set up after the coronavirus outbreak crackles into life.

There are panic calls for essentials like medicines but some callers demand rasogullas, samosas, and even pan and gutka, admit officials.

The chief minister’s helpline number 1076 gets a frantic call from Ram Ratan Pal, who suffers from high blood pressure, that his stock of medicines is exhausted.

Officials manning the control room swing into action, arranging their delivery in Lucknow.

In Gautam Buddh Nagar district, Shankar Singh dials the number for food essentials. The ration is delivered at his doorstep, officials say.

Ram Ratan and Shankar are among the 100,000 beneficiaries so far of the CM’s helpline.

Uttar Pradesh’s police helpline recently got a strange call when an elderly person made an “urgent request” for rasogullas.

The cop who answered the phone thought it was a prank. But when a volunteer delivered the sweets in Lucknow’s Hazratganj, it was found that the man in his 80s really needed them.

He is diabetic and his blood sugar level had dipped sharply.

But reports suggest that many demands may not be that urgent. Those answering the police helpline 112 have been baffled by requests for betel leaf, gutka and hot samosas (with chutney).

The samosas were indeed delivered. But the man who made the call had to pay the price – he was asked to clean out a drain.

Police were also not amused by a demand for pizza in Rampur, where district authorities are punishing those making such calls, reports say. Some callers have even asked for liquor.

There have also been reports of house-bound children pleading with the invisible “police uncle” at the other end for chips, cakes, ice cream and pizza.

Trained to enforce law and order, personnel deputed with police response vehicles (PRVs) are now also performing a new role during the nationwide lockdown.

Thousands of them are engaged in providing emergency services sought through the 112 helpline, an official said.

They fulfil demands for food and medicines and look into complaints about shopkeepers overcharging for essential commodities.

There are 35,000 PRVs across the state.

“Since the lockdown started, the PRV jawans have been working round the clock to meet the demands of people calling on the helpline number,” Additional Director General of Police Asim Arun, who is in charge of police emergency services, told PTI.

Around 1,100 police personnel man the helpline phones.

“There have also been calls for shifting pregnant women for delivery, and the aged and sick to hospitals. Policemen working with PRVs have helped them by arranging ambulances,” Arun says.

The department has set up the infrastructure for women personnel on helpline duty to take the calls at their homes, the ADG says.

The 112 helpline is also linked to fire and ambulance services and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).