THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Emergency numbers or helplines are supposed to be easy to remember and easy to dial as it is often required in times of distress. But in Kerala, helpline numbers are indeed creating a mess as there are over 15 emergency numbers for distress calls. Some of the numbers are not even easily accessible from mobile phones. The widely used emergency numbers like 100 of police, 101 of fire and rescue services and 108 of ambulance service are quite easy to remember. But there are a host of other emergency numbers like the Mitra women helpline - 181, Nirbhaya toll free number of 18004251400, pink patrol 1515, child line 1098, national anti-ragging helpline of 18001805522 and dial a doctor – 1056.
Though most of the numbers may sound easy to remember, psychologists point out that at times of distress, a person may not be able to recollect a number unless it is familiar like ‘100’. “It is always good that helplines for each purpose are handled by different agencies so that it will be more effective. However, in case of distress, a person may not be able to recollect the number of a service concerned. Hence it is good to have a centralised system with an easy to remember number like ‘100’ that could redirect a distress call to the agency concerned,” said noted child psychiatrist Dr. R. Jayaprakash.
Former state police chief Jacob Punnosse also said that it was high time that a single helpline number for all emergency services, like the 911 of the US, was introduced here too. He also suggested that since the police was the agency having the widest network, worked round the clock and needed to act in most emergency situations, it would be ideal that such a single window emergency service was manned by the police. “Having different emergency numbers is obviously creating confusion. With the advancement in technology, it is not difficult to set up a single emergency number for all agencies. The control room should have advanced features like global positioning system that helps to easily locate the caller and call log features that could make the official attending the call accountable for any delayed actions,” said Mr. Punnoose.
Till recently, even emergency numbers like 100 and 101 could not be accessed from mobile phones because of connectivity issues of the service provider. Though there has been change in that situation, even now it is not foolproof. “We still get many complaints regarding difficulty in getting connected to 101 from mobile phones. Even some of our officials have personally experienced this,” a Fire and Rescue Services official said.
Women safety has 4 helplines
Women safety is obviously a cause of concern. But when it comes to helplines for women, it seems to be a cause of ‘confusion’ as there are four helplines for women safety related matters. While the Pink police patrol (1515) and women police helpline (1091, 9995399953) are maintained by the police, the Mitra Women Helpline (181) and Nirbhaya (1800 425 1400) are run by the social justice department.
This creates some confusion as a woman in distress needs to identify the right one for her need. Distress calls like harassment or eve teasing are mainly handled by police helplines, while the helplines of the social justice department also offers counselling services and legal aid. The maximum numbers of calls being received by all these helplines are complaints of domestic violence.
‘112 to be made common number for police’
The state police, in association with the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, is initiating steps to set up a centralised control room for all emergency numbers. State police chief Loknath Behera said that the project structure was being given final shape. “We wish to roll out the initial phase at least by December,” he told DC.
In the initial stage, the police plans to make 112 a common emergency number for police, fire and rescue services, health services and disaster management. In due course all emergency services could be connected to the control room, Mr Behera said. The centre had announced 112 as a common emergency service number and many other states are also initiating steps to implement it. Mobile service providers would also be mandated to ensure hassle free and toll free connectivity to this number.
Unwanted calls flood ‘100’
Even as 100 is a dedicated police emergency service number, it is also widely being used by the public as an all purpose number. This was affecting the efficiency of the police emergency service. According to sources at the police control room, more than 50 percent calls being received at the control rooms were unwanted ones. It would unnecessarily keep the lines engaged and affect other genuine calls.
A fair number of unwanted calls are generated by mistake. There were even instances of emergency calls accidentally generating from mobile phones without the knowledge of the phone user, said a police official at Thiruvananthapuram city police control room.