We are in the midst of the mayhem going around a single emergency or helpline number. TRAI is talking about drafting a proposal and we guess it will be a couple of years before we see the light of this number in India. But, why? Don’t we need a good easy to remember single universal number for our country?
Different countries around the world have single digit helpline & emergency numbers like 911 in the USA, 999 in the UK and 000 in Australia. A secondary emergency response number also exists in some countries e.g. 112 in the UK (in addition to 999), 112 in Australia (in addition to 000). Calls from this number are again routed to primary response numbers in these countries. In India currently we have more than 10 emergency numbers for various reasons. Given below is the guide to all the emergency numbers:
|108||Emergency Disaster Management|
|181||Women in Distress helpline number (Delhi)|
|1094||Missing Children and Women (Delhi)|
|1096||Crime Against Women (Delhi)|
|1090||Police Headquarter Helpline (UP)|
|1099||Central Accident and Trauma Services|
|1056||Emergency medical service in local area|
|1057XX||Ambulance services (Private hospitals)|
|106X||State of art hospitals and medical institutions e.g. 1060 -AIIMS|
|107X||Emergency Information services – e.g. 1071 is for Air Accident info|
Shortcomings of our current helpline system:
Currently when a call is made to an emergency number the location information is always taken from the caller and the emergency helping unit rely heavily on this information. In this situation, if the caller fails to convey his location or location conveyed by him is vague or erroneous then this request may be forwarded to a unit which is not in the vicinity, and as a result, crucial time is lost.
The second major issue here is of jurisdiction which occurs due to lack of location of the caller. Many calls land on Police Control that may not have jurisdiction at the location of the caller. For instance, if a distress call is made at the border of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, when the caller is entering Madhya Pradesh, it is likely that the call lands at the control room located in the a town in Maharashtra, while the nearest help can be provided from a town located in Madhya Pradesh and if the control rooms do not have back-end facility to pass calls and information gathered, the response to the caller will be delayed.
Third issue here is to remember a laundry list of these numbers mentioned above. Also in some distress situation when multiple agencies are required to act. Each one of them has to be called individually and you end up explaining the situation to all of them which leads to loss of time where instant response is required.
How do we solve these problems? Or what is stopping us from solving these problems?
Operators and Governance are the major hurdles to implementing this.
- In order for the Operators to implement this, they will need to invest in some infrastructure (for location-based services). All these operators are already incurring losses because of the license fee and competition. They have no incentive to upgrade their infrastructure. Also co-ordinating with over 10 operators is going to take some time.
- Another challenge would be how to enable calling Emergency number from an inactive or suspended sim card.
- Each operator needs to maintain and share the database of its subscribers with location and when an emergency call is originated they need to pinpoint this location and share it with the operator who manages the emergency number which is MTNL/BSNL in India. Operators will have to maintain a database of the current location of every connection they sell.
- The government internally does not have proper co-ordination between all the emergency agencies. Now if they are planning to merge them they need to coordinate with all the agencies like police, fire, ambulance and have a dedicated trained staff to have knowledge about all these services.
- The government needs to decide what services to include and what not to include. Also the scale at which they want to do this. Do we have the infrastructure to support such a service even in the remote corner of this country? I hope yes, else implementing this will take even longer
- Which department will be in charge and who will drive this initiative? Who will bear the cost? Central or State governments.
All above questions need to be answered. So I don’t know when we will have this service but I wish it is sometime in the near future.
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