The general lack of awareness about the role modern technology plays in the back office of Bangalore Metro operations seems to be the chief cause behind the Bengaluru police detaining a metro staffer on a complaint related to metro station noise, last week.

In a bizarre incident on Friday night, a police constable attached to the Hoysala patrol vehicle visited the Vijayanagar metro station, and forcibly took station controller to the station ignoring his pleas that he cannot leave the station in the absence of a replacement.

“the policeman’s actions endangered the safety of about 1000 commuters.” said a senior Bangalore Metro official

Bangalore Metro operations are driven by a modern operations control center (OCC) facility at Baiyappanahalli. Many engineers work there round-the-clock, and metro train movements happen with a great degree of precision aided by automation.

A team of engineers monitors and regulate Metro train movements and signaling. When demand peaks between any two stations on green or purple lines, they also run quick short-loop services. In short, OCC to Metro is what ATC (air traffic control) to an airport. Then there is also technology related to surveillance and power transmission.

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What caused the Vijayanagar Police to bring the Vijayanagar metro station controller to the police station at night was a telephone call from a resident to the control room complaining about the noise from announcements. The police, perhaps, thought they could solve the complaint by issuing instructions to the Metro staff in the same way as they do with any public functions on streets.

The incident exposed the general lack of awareness in the police about the back end in Metro operations. They could be under the impression that local staffers control most of it. A senior BMRCL official said the announcements and sound volume are programmed, and the station staff has no role in it. They, however, have the option to make special announcements and tweak volumes if necessary.

“I am surprised that the policemen visited the metro station, and brought an official to the police station. I have asked the Police Commissioner to do a proper inquiry and ensure such incidents don’t recur,” said Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy.

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What has made the police defense weak was the CCTV footage which shows the on-duty controller being pushed down the stairs.

The way police acted has angered the metro staffers as this is the second such incident of police interfering in their routine duty. In a recent case, a policeman beat up a metro official after he was told not to climb the elevator when it is not in motion. This led to a snap strike by metro staffers in July.

The Vijayanagar police maintained that the Hoysala attached to their police station only responded to an alert from the control room about a complaint. A few residents had complained about the noise pollution in the past, too. They let off the Metro official soon after eliciting a statement.

Bengaluru, according to a recent global study, ranks among the 25 most high-tech cities in the world, and our city is even ahead of Berlin, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen. And, the policemen in the city cannot afford to lag behind in understanding basics of technology interplay in our public utilities.

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