With an aim to improve security of women, the Centre will not allow import of mobile phones without panic button or emergency calling feature after February 28, 2017.
What this means is that mobile importers will have no choice but to ask for delivery of only such phones that have this feature.
In April 2016, the government decided on this move and made compulsory an in-built panic button and global positioning system (GPS) from January 1, 2017, and January 1, 2018, respectively. The alerts will not only go out to police but also to notified persons.
To cover both smartphones and feature phones
As per the order, pressing panic button will make a call to single emergency number 112.
On feature phones, the facility of the panic button can be availed by pressing numeric key — 5 or numeric key 9.
On smartphones, a customer should be able to make an emergency call by pressing either a panic button for a long time, or use the existing power button to do the same by pressing it thrice in quick succession.
Videocon was one of the first phone companies to implement the panic button across its entire smartphone range in India. The panic button feature has been implemented as an application, with a map view that displays nearby hospitals and police stations.
However, experts say it is unlikely that most smartphone manufacturers will add a new button for just one country. Imagine an iPhone with a panic button just for India. Moreover, making the power button dialing the emergency helpline number will need tweaks on the software front, which again will be cumbersome for every manufacturer.
At the moment, top-end smartphones do offer the option of dialing an emergency number on locked screen. Though a large number of middle class and upper-middle class women can afford to buy such higher-end smarrphones, a large number of women in India, especially in tier-2 or tier 3 towns or rural areas, can’t afford the same.
The idea of a device with panic button feature was floated after brutal gangrape of a paramedical student in Delhi.
Trial run of 112
The trial run for the ambitious all-in-one emergency helpline 112, has been halted owing to the numerous blank calls that were being received on the number. The government had also approved single emergency number ‘112’ which was also proposed to be operational throughout India from January 1, 2017 to help people reach services of police, ambulance and fire department easily in emergency. However, the number is yet to become active.