Following the Centre’s directive of having a single emergency number for residents, the government has recently sanctioned Rs 429.06 crore towards setting up an integrated distress management system. Of this, Rs 44.54 crore has been allocated for setting up a Central Traffic Management Centre at Worli in south-central Mumbai. Earlier this year, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had approved the provision of a single number for various emergency services on the lines of USA’s ‘911’ — an all-in-one helpline. Currently, distressed residents, or those involved in accidents, have to dial different numbers in times of an emergency — police (100), fire brigade (101), ambulance (102) and emergency disaster management (108). However, one cannot reach these services through SMS, email or app-based messenger services.
A senior official from the office of the Director General of Police said, “A substantial chunk of the funds allocated will be spent towards modernisation of the control rooms. Once operational, the single emergency number will replace the different emergency numbers residents have to dial while contacting the police, ambulance or fire services. Not only will it integrate with the existing emergency numbers, they can also be reached through email, app-based messengers or SMS.” “Even SIM cards and landlines whose outgoing services have been suspended or stopped would have access to this emergency helpline,” the official added.
The money allocated will be spent towards upgrading control rooms across the state, which will soon adopt a digitised wireless application protocol (WAP) system. The state police will also purchase around 3,000 two-and-four wheelers, which will be mounted with Vehicle Tracking Systems (VTSs) and would be GPS and Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) enabled. An MDT is a computerised device used in emergency vehicles, like police cars, to communicate with a centralised system. This will effectively help the state police to reduce its response time, which currently is between 12 and 20 minutes. “Many of the police control rooms of various districts and commissionerates are not enabled with caller-identification, which makes it difficult to track a caller. A comprehensive database of callers, especially pertaining to prank and hoax calls, is absent,” added the official.
Speaking on the use of vehicles enabled with GPS and VTS and the use of MDT, the official said, “Many times, we are unable to locate the nearest vehicle, which could have been dispatched to attend a distress call. With GPS, VTS and MDT-enabled vehicles, we would be able to locate the nearest vehicle and divert it to help the victim,” he added. “We don’t have data that throws light on the complaint redressal mechanism of the control room while reacting to a distress call. With this modernisation exercise, we will be able to analyse our responses and ensure that we don’t repeat mistakes. It would be a constant exercise, with the ultimate aim to bring down our response time,” he said.
The ‘modernisation exercise’ will be carried out by a Project Implementation Committee (PIC), headed by the Director General of Police. A Government Resolution (GR), issued by the state, directs the PIC to convene meetings, call for bids, scrutinise the bidder on technical and financial aspects and submit their recommendations to the High-Powered Committee. Based on the recommendations of the PIC, the High-Powered Committee will appoint a contractor. The DGP, or an additional director general of police-rank officer, who will be appointed by the DGP, will then sign a contract with the company. Subsequently, a letter of intent and work order will be issued to the said company.
The official added, “The High-Powered Committee will take the final decision on the contractor after going through the recommendations made by the PIC.”