SMS pass system for shopping gains momentum in Theni

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A SMS pass facility for movement of people for various purposes including shopping in Theni during the COVID-19 lockdown has gained momentum among the residents of the district.

Close to 12,700 residents in the district had used the newly launched SMS facility to go out for shopping or other purposes since the last three days, said Collector M. Pallavi Baldev on Wednesday.

Addressing reporters, she said that the police and the district administration had jointly launched the facility, primarily to keep a tab on the movement of people and to discourage unnecessary movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said that the operation is simple and user friendly. The residents can send SMS to 9488056600 from their mobile handsets. Instantly, the caller will get a reply SMS with a six digit number (Public Access Pass), following which he/she can move out of the house. The SMS, which has a QR code, would be valid for three hours, so that the person can return home within the stipulated hour. Residents can also give a missed call from their mobile numbers to 080-45936055 as well, the Collector said.

A traffic police in Theni Town said that initially there were doubts on how many people would listen to the police for such things. But, when explained to them about the consequences of moving out unnecessarily, things appeared to have worked out since the last two days. Usually, the bus stand area, the roads leading to NRT Nagar, Allinagaram and other locations in the vicinity used to witness more number of motorists during the day time. However, after the announcement that people cannot step out unnecessarily, they have started using their mobile phones to get the QR code. The number of people moving without any purpose may fall, he added.

In Cumbum,  the shopkeepers near the bus stand welcomed the initiative of the police. The COVID-19 has taught many new lessons. One among them is to keep ourselves clean and tidy. The system to inform the police through an SMS is also a new way of life, K Antony, who owns a foot-wear shop near here said. Similarly, a school teacher Bhagavathi said that her 19-year-old son, who used to go out on his bike, at least five six times in a day, has suddenly stopped going out unnecessarily. The SMS facility appears to have had a check on him, she said.

Superintendent of Police Sai Saran Tejaswi said that the idea evolved after a series of discussions on how to make people stay indoors for days together. While it may not be possible for everyone to remain home for long, it was also equally important to ensure that those who had to genuinely step out should be given space to move around. Using the technology, the residents would be monitored closely and random checking had already begun across the district. Those categorised under essential services such as doctors, farmers and those on COVID-19 duty would however, be permitted without any restrictions, he added.

With the governments relaxing curfew norms in a phased manner, the SMS facility may help to stagger crowding and social distancing, mandatory for COVID-19 to break, officials said.

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