The Telecom Commission approved Monday a single-number helpline "112" to avail emergency services like police, ambulance and fire department across India, PTI reported. The roll-out of the new service is expected to take place within a year, after gradually phasing out different numbers for different emergencies.
The proposal to unify all emergency point of contacts into a single number was proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as a part of its recommendations to the telecom department last April.
"It will now be drafted by the department of telecom and will require telecom minister's (Ravi Shankar Prasad) approval. It will be rolled out within months rather than a year," an official source told PTI.
According to the report, 112 would remain operational on landlines and mobile phones even if their calling services have been suspended temporarily. The service is said to be operational through SMS, where the system would detect the sender's location and redirect to the nearest help centre.
Currently, callers need to dial different numbers for various emergency services, such as 100 for police, 101 for fire department and 102 for ambulance. Some states have their own emergency helpline numbers, like Delhi has 181 for women in distress, 1094 for missing children and women, and 1096 for crime against women. But 112 emergency helpline will change that by redirecting callers to the concerned departments.
While having a single number for emergencies sounds feasible, analysts say there would be challenges setting up adequate infrastructure to respond to emergency situations quickly, the Times of India reported. All emergency calls to 112 would be redirected to a call-centre-like facility, where representatives will offer services in English, Hindi and local languages.
"In emergency situations every passing second counts, whether it is a burglary, theft, road-rage, or a fire spreading, or a citizen struggling with a heart attack â€” the first few minutes are crucial. It is likely that crucial time may be lost in figuring out what number to dial," TRAI had said, according to the Hindu.