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India gets its Emergency Number, its 112

Developed nations around the world, such as the US and the UK, have a national emergency number that callers might dial in case of any crisis, such as fire services, ambulance services, police services or disaster management services. The Government of India has also planned for its very own national emergency number, 112, along the lines of the famous 911 operated by the US and 999 by the UK. After long discussions between various government agencies, the inter-ministerial Telecom Commission has finally provided the go-ahead to the project.

Earlier, callers in India had to dial separate emergency numbers which were specific to the crisis, such as 100 for police, 101 for fire services, 102 for ambulance services and 108 for disaster management. It caused widespread confusion, as many were not aware of the numbers for specific emergencies that could occur. The initiative of having a single national emergency number would streamline the process to a large extent. 

Though the idea has been in the pipeline for a long time, the revolutionary scheme would require active participation from state governments to make it a grand success. Trai, the telecom regulatory authority, had submitted its recommendation to set 112 as the national emergency number for the government’s telecom department last year in April. When the number is operational, the long-standing specific emergency numbers could see a gradual phasing out, though they might also be operational for at least a year.

Trai had also laid down a few other suggestions, such as the services which might be included in the national emergency number; police, ambulance, fire and a dedicated helpline for women, elderly and child affairs. Other remaining services may be operational later. To create an efficient national emergency number, 112 would be required to be prioritized by mobile operators. Also, agencies would need access to location and caller information so that swift help can be provided. SMS-based services would also be allowed.

“The states will need to set up call centers, which will also cater to the local languages spoken in their respective region.”  – an official of the telecom department  (Source: Times of India)
Analysts argue that setting up of a single national emergency operator would require a widespread mobilisation of emergency services by the state governments, which would prove to be an uphill task. In Europe, 112 is the number callers dial for emergencies. Cell phones come with the facility of emergency calling, using which certain emergency numbers, such as 911 and 112 can be dialled even when the phone is locked or out of credit balance.

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